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Council reverses rezoning decision for 313 Ramsey St.

The property at 313 Ramsey Street was cause for considerable discussion at the Hastings City Council over recent weeks. On Monday, the council approved a request to rezone the site to RMU (residential mixed use), allowing the first floor to be used as a commercial space. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)

The Hastings City Council reversed a previous rezoning decision regarding a building at 313 Ramsey St. 

The building's owner had asked the city to rezone the property from R-2 (medium density residential) to RMU (residential mixed use). The rezoning would accommodate a local business, Adele Salon, that hoped to purchase the building and move its business to the building's main floor. Although the Hastings Planning Commission originally recommended approving the request, the council decided on Oct. 17 to deny the request, after hearing several arguments from a neighbor against the change. 

However, over the following weeks, the council rescinded that action and sent the matter to its planning committee for more discussion. On a 2-1 vote, the council committee recommended approval, and the council followed suit on Monday, Dec. 5, with a 5-2 vote to approve the rezoning request. The vote required a minimum of five votes to pass; council members Tony Alongi and Danna Elling Schultz voted against.

Council members approving the request cited the city's 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which suggests the downtown area should extend to Fourth Street. The Comprehensive Plan is the tool the council has to make sure planning decisions are consistent, said Councilmember Lori Braucks, adding that she didn't see a reason for the council to deviate.

"It seems like it's a waste when we don't adhere to what those plans call for," added Councilmember Joe Balsanek.

Mayor Paul Hicks also noted that he didn't feel that allowing the property to be zoned for commercial use would negatively impact the neighborhood, and that the Heart of Hastings plan also calls for transition areas, where zones gradually shift from commercial to residential. The site in question could serve as a transition spot, he said.

Elling Schultz and Alongi, while both supportive of Adele Salon's efforts to purchase their own building, opposed the change for policy reasons. The discussion the committee had with Adele Salon's owners showed that there were other properties available, Alongi said, but that they had degraded to a state where the prospective buyers were unable to assume the cost of repair. Alongi suggested that the city's role should be less focused on finding one business a home and more focused on making sure the appropriate infrastructure and support is available to all businesses in the downtown area. He called the request at 313 Ramsey a symptom of a larger problem, and said the council should work on fixing the problem rather than the symptom.

"We have to take a look at a larger picture," he said.

Elling Schultz also expressed concerns about the "piecemeal" handling of zoning issues, and suggested the council take a broader view of planning, not just in downtown Hastings, but throughout the city.

"It is a community-wide issue," she said.