Rockridge Elementary Up for a Change?
Posted at: 03/26/2013 9:24 PM
| Updated at: 03/26/2013 10:23 PM
By: Travis Dill
Duluth's Planning Commission voted to change the land use of Rockridge Elementary. School officials said it will help sell the unused building, but neighbors fear overdevelopment in their backyard.
Duluth's Planning Commission heard from several opposing the land use change for Rockridge Elementary Tuesday night.
Neighbor Danielle Henjum said it doesn't fit with their traditional Lakeside community.
“Under that allowance a developer could put a large apartment building, up to three stories, and cover most of the rest of the land with an expansive parking lot.,” Henjum said.
City officials said that is possible if the school is rezoned, but a flood plain on the property makes a large apartment complex unlikely there.
The Duluth School District wants Rockridge Elementary to be repurposed, not torn down. Property Manager Kerry Lieder said that likely means a conversion into apartments.
“There are many old schools that were located in neighborhoods similar to Rockridge and those schools were allowed and successfully converted into apartments,” Lieder said.
But Rockridge has been empty for nearly two years. Lieder said there is little interest in the site because of restrictive city zoning.
“The 2011 decision to change the land use to traditional neighborhood, I believe, is a significant factor in causing this property to be sitting vacant, and continuing to be a taxpayer liability,” Lieder said.
Lieder said only two apartment units can be put in the school with the current zoning rules. The district wants an Urban Residential label so Rockridge could house 20-25 units. He said that will help draw in a buyer.
For now the future use of Rockridge Elementary is still under debate, and that's likely to continue as the rezoning process moves forward.
The land use change will go to the Duluth City Council for a vote on April 22. If passed the school or a developer can request rezoning, but that would also be subject to votes by the planning commission and city council.