WILLMAR — The Willmar Planning Commission and Willmar City Council have paved the way for a possible commercial day care center to open in the Willmar Industrial Park.
“This has really developed into an issue. Daycare, which is the proposed use of the Peart property, has really grown in interest in this community. Everybody knows there is a large gap in our ability to provide for day care services,” said Willmar Planning and Development Services Director Bruce Peterson, at Monday’s city council meeting.
The council unanimously approved the rezoning of several parcels located on the east side of Industrial Drive Southwest, near the intersection of Highway 12 West, from Limited Industrial to General Business. Also included in the rezone is the Peart property located on the west side of the intersection of Industrial Drive Southwest and Trott Avenue Southwest.
“These are properties that are mix use right now,” Peterson said. “Rezoning them to commercial, it expands the options for future use.”
At the Oct. 3 Planning Commission, Mike Peart, who was representing Peart Properties, said the building in question would be better used as a commercial business instead of industrial.
“I don’t know what you could manufacture or do there,” Peart said.
The Planning Commission was first approached about rezoning just the Peart property in June, when the African Development Center asked about using the Peart building as a commercial daycare center. At the time the Planning Commission refused the request to rezone the single parcel to general business or to allow a conditional use permit, as the use was not compatible with the city’s comprehensive land use plan or with the Industrial Park.
City planner Sarah Swedberg, came up with a plan to create a commercial corridor along Industrial Drive Southwest, rezoning certain parcels whose size and location are better suited to commercial development than industrial.
“Create a transition zone,” Swedburg said during the Oct. 3 Planning Commission meeting.
At the request of two property owners who attended the Oct. 3 meeting, a few parcels were removed from the original commercial corridor plan. Swedburg said the removal of those would not have a negative impact on the overall corridor.
A large crowd of supporters of the rezoning, as well as for the potential day care center, attended Monday’s city council meeting.
“This is going to be helpful for the community. More choice for day care for our kiddies. Not only Somali kiddies, but all kiddies in Willmar,” said Abdirahin Hussan, the central Minnesota regional manager with the African Development Center.
The rezoning passed unanimously by the council, with no discussion.
“It took a lot of hard work to get this back to the table. You were creative in how you proposed doing this,” Mayor Marv Calvin said to the Planning Commision and Swedburg.
Daycare is seen as not only a family issue but also an economic development factor.
“By increasing day care services, more family members can be employed, and that has a positive net impact on the community,” Peterson said.
According to First Children’s Finance, Kandiyohi County needs 700 daycare spots, 150 needed in Willmar alone. The hope is the proposed daycare center will provide much needed services for families, perhaps even for parents who work late shifts at Willmar businesses and industries.
“The need for child care is ongoing within our community. This gives us one more opportunity to provide child care to our parents in our community, so people can continue to fill the jobs in our community that are unfilled,” Calvin said.
Original article posted by the West Central Tribune by