Rice County rezones 1,200 acres along I-35

The Rice County Board has rezoned approximately 1,200 acres along Interstate 35, south of the Big Steer Truck Stop, from agricultural to highway commercial. The vote was 4-1, with outgoing Commissioner Heather Robins in opposition, stating she believed the issue deserved more thought and debate.

The effective date of the rezoning is a year from now, December 31, 2005, giving the commissioners time to create a master plan for development in the county's new freeway commercial zone.

The issue has been on the board table for several weeks. On November 23, Commissioner Jim Brown proposed taking the initiative of rezoning the area. The Rice County Planning Commission held two public hearings on the matter, after which that group voted to recommend rezoning that area to help Rice County's tax base.

There has been some opposition to the move, but the commissioners believe there are many more people who are in favor.

Commissioner Brown said the freeway is a main artery passing through Rice County, and taking advantage of that asset should benefit all of the county.

Three motions were involved in the issue and Commissioner Robins voted against all three — the rezoning, a resolution to amend the county zoning map, and action to appoint a committee by April to start working on a plan for the area. She was of the opinion that the new commercial zone along I-35 will always be a place of competition for the cities of Rice County.

The rezoning action was taken at the last meeting of the current county board, with three commissioners leaving the governmental body. Commissioner Milt Plaisance is retiring after 22 years on the board, while Commissioners Robins and Don Olson lost their bids for re-election. Several residents in attendance at the public hearings on the issue questioned the rush to get the matter to a vote rather than leaving it for the new board.

Re-appointments announced

The Rice County Board has re-appointed incumbent members of the planning commission and board of adjustment.

Incumbents re-appointed to the planning commission are Ross Nelson, an apple grower in Webster Township, and Keith Sammon, a Faribault area farmer.

Re-appointed to the board of adjustment were Tom Sammon, a farmer from the Faribault area, and Oliver Ollie Byrum of rural Webster.

Commissioner Heather Robins had proposed having Nancy Marth of Erin Township appointed to the planning commission, but her motion died for lack of a second.

The re-appointments to the planning group and board of adjustment are for terms of three years.

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