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Mall site near school questioned

A commercial center planned just northwest of a year-old elementary school in south Moorhead raised some eyebrows at a Planning Commission meeting Wednesday.

A commercial center planned just northwest of a year-old elementary school in south Moorhead raised some eyebrows at a Planning Commission meeting Wednesday.

Fargo development firm KKMM and developer Kevin Christianson plan to build a retail center between 37th and 40th avenues south just east of Eighth Street South.

The 20-acre center with 220,000 square feet of retail space could include a grocery store, a strip mall, a day care and a bank, according to a memo City Planner Debra Martzahn prepared for the planning board.

But there is a snag. The area is already zoned and platted for housing, and the city's comprehensive plan doesn't allow commercial uses as intense as what the developers propose.

Even the one acre of the property zoned for businesses, on the site's southern edge, calls for retail that meshes easily with surrounding housing, such as gas stations, and puts limits on hours of operation.


Christianson has asked the city to alter its comprehensive plan and the property's zoning to permit more robust commercial activity.

Though planning commissioners didn't decide on the requests Wednesday, it appears the rezoning may face an uphill battle.

Commissioner Mike McCarthy said the board is reluctant to make such a drastic change to the city's comprehensive plan.

"As far as I'm concerned, there better be some real justification for doing that," he said.

Because the site is near S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School, a spike in traffic concerns Commissioner Liz Stabenow.

Martzahn said the affect on students will be modest because most of the traffic will come from Eighth Street, not 40th Avenue, which runs past the school.

Neither Christianson nor anyone representing the developers was at the meeting, which is why the public hearing that began Wednesday was extended to the board's October meeting.

Reached after the meeting, KKMM co-owner Kevin Kragnes said developers would work with the city to address traffic issues.


Andy Skatvold, chief executive officer of Paragon Development, said he thinks the project is not a good fit for the area.

"It was never designed to handle that kind of commercial," he said.

Paragon is developing rental townhouses north of the site and single-family homes to the east. The property to be rezoned was platted for more than 50 lots as the second addition of Paragon's Mallard Creek housing development.

Skatvold is not happy the property Paragon sold KKMM in the early summer is being eyed as the site of a retail center. He said those buying houses in the surrounding residential areas aren't too pleased, either.

"With this change, they could be looking at the back of a Wal-Mart," Skatvold said.

Nothing is set in stone yet, Kragnes said. No commercial tenants have agreed to contracts with developers yet, and the area could still be developed for housing, he said.

"We haven't really decided what we're going to do yet," he said.

Skatvold said his opposition to the rezoning doesn't reflect a desire to limit competition for Mallard Creek Commons, a strip mall Paragon plans to begin building later this year just a few blocks north of the site of the proposed retail center.


"Competition doesn't have anything to do with it," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535

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