Planning and Zoning Commission gives preliminary approval to rezoning request for former Macy's location
The site is being looked at as the potential future location for Riverside Christian School, which currently is in East Grand Forks.
GRAND FORKS – Members of the Grand Forks Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, Feb. 1, gave preliminary approval to a rezoning request for the former Macy’s location in the Columbia Mall.
The site is being considered as the potential future location for Riverside Christian School , which currently is in East Grand Forks.
The rezoning request seeks to allow a school as an allowable use on the property. Current zoning limits the allowable uses to B-2 Shopping Center District uses.
City Planner Ryan Brooks said while having a school at the mall is “unusual," there are malls across the nation being considered for redevelopment.
The current concept plan for the exterior would convert a large amount of parking to green space, including a playground and open athletic field. The plan also accounts for a drop-off area that would attach to the current road that loops around the mall.
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Some concerns commission members shared relate to pedestrian safety, with the playground and athletic field being located next to parking lots for the rest of the mall.
Commission member Alex Reichert said the commission should consider requirements within the planned unit development (also known as PUD), such as requiring barriers between the green space and the parking lots.
Other concerns relate to the traffic around the area — several restaurants are nearby.
Brooks said as of right now plans for the interior of the location are still unclear, including how to block off the school from the rest of the mall.
While commission members gave preliminary approval Wednesday, rezoning requires two actions by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council. After the preliminary approval, neighbors within 800 feet of the rezoned area will be notified of the rezoning request and upcoming public hearing at the Planning and Zoning Commission.
In other commission news, member Frank Matejcek talked about the recent news on Fufeng and specifically about the land, which was annexed into the city.
The proposed Fufeng corn mill — planned for the northern edge of Grand Forks — was declared a national security threat by the U.S. Air Force. The Tuesday news means the project likely will not go forward.
"The wishes of this commission some time ago when the annexation was started was that if Fufeng wasn't developed, that we didn't support the annexation of that area," he said. "Whether that's still the case or not I don't know, but just for everybody's information the wheels are starting to turn on a de-annexation process legally of that area so there will be more to come, I guess as they say."
Last year the Planning and Zoning Commission members added a provision to their preliminary approval of the annexation: the city make the annexation contingent on the mill’s future. If the project doesn’t “go through,” as one commissioner put it at a past meeting, then the annexation wouldn’t either.
"A lot of people were happy with our motion some time ago about not annexing if Fufeng didn't come; however, City Council over-rides us and that's fine," Matejcek said. "(I) just wanted everybody to know there's a start to that process.
When asked if there was any traction on the commission's request to be back involved with annexations, Brooks said an ordinance hasn't been put in place.
"I think our default is they'll still be on the agendas," he said. "I have not talked to them (and) we haven't put an ordinance forward as of yet to make that a permanent piece."