Planning Commission rejects DeLaSalle plan

DeLaSalle High School’s plans to construct a football field behind the school were dealt a setback at Monday night’s Planning Commission meeting.

The commission rejected permit applications to allow a field in the residential district, allow light fixtures higher than 35 feet and allow the vacation of Grove Street. The commission did approve permit applications to build within 40 feet of a steep slope in the river’s designated shoreland district, but denied the application for a site plan review.

David Motzenbecker, president of the Planning Commission, said he found arguments pertaining to the vacation of Grove Street and the area’s historic status to be most compelling.

A city staff report that offered recommendations for the commission’s vote said the athletic field in itself would not negatively impact the island.

“However, the associated parking and traffic changes to a small island are likely to significantly impact the use and enjoyment of other property in the vicinity,” the report said.

City staff estimated that at peak times, up to 250 parking spaces would be needed for the field. Staff said the vacation of Grove Street would automatically reduce circulation options on the island, and said a public path surrounding the field might not be perceived by pedestrians as public.

Grove Street has been used for more than 140 years, according to the city report. The Public Safety and Fire departments do not anticipate that a vacation would impair emergency vehicle access to the island. However, staff ultimately determined that changing the street grid would put more traffic and parking burden on adjacent streets.

“A high school football field and public soccer fields have no need for a river location, and are not necessary enough to alter historic resources called out for special protection in the Critical Area Plan,” the staff report said.

City committees have offered mixed reviews on aspects of the project thus far. The Heritage Preservation Commission decided a stadium built over Grove Street would adversely affect the historic character of Nicollet Island, while the Zoning and Planning Committee along with the City Council decided the construction would not hurt the island’s historic character.

The City Council is next in line to deliberate on the school’s plans.