The Northfield Planning Commission held a public hearing regarding design changes for the Fairfield Inn at The Crossing on Hwy 3 and 2nd street. During permit review of the building plans it was discovered they needed to revise the floodplain boundary and design a floodable parking structure under the building. A revised plan was brought before the Planning Commission last night after multiple, lengthy discussions with City Staff, the applicants and the DNR. The
changes require a Conditional Use Permit. Vice Chair Richard Schulte explained that to protect the garage under the Hotel, and the occupied spaces above the garage, the tops of the concrete foundation walls have been designed to be not less than two (2) feet higher than the Base Flood Elevation of a 100 year flood. These walls will embrace the parking spaces under the Hotel and the driveway leading from the south side street level down into the garage. Schulte added that the concrete foundation walls and floor of the garage have further been designed to resist water pressure, during a flood, that might otherwise drive River water in through the foundation. The access door to the garage has also been moved up. The Commission recommended approval of the CUP. It now goes before City Council April 18th. If approved by Council, the $13 mil project could break ground within a month.
Northfield holds strategic session on growth
The Council, along with the Planning Commission and the EDA held a joint strategic planning work session last night at the Northfield Police station. City Administrator Ben Martig said, “the main purpose of going through this process was really to have a candid discussion from these members about opinions, beliefs and attitudes about Northfield generally, but more importantly as it related to growth and development of the community”. There were a series of 7 questions by Moderator Craig Rapp starting with individual descriptions of Northfield to a stranger. Many of those answers centered around “quality of life”, proximity to big cities while remaining rural. Looking into the future, answers were varied with a lot of discussion surrounding agriculture, transportation and the colleges. Some broad takeaways according to Martig included doing a better job of communicating what they’re doing. Adding, “I think there is a recognition that growth and development can be a positive and healthy thing for a community if there is reasonable, incremental kind of growth”. There was a lot of discussion surrounding the “uniqueness” of Northfield and maintaining our natural resources. The challenge will be drilling down into action. Martig said they need to clarify their vision and work toward specific tasks. The Council is looking at a 3 to 5 year strategic plan, they hold a retreat in May. I’ll have more on this issue tomorrow.
School Board adopts “Second Step” in social/emotional learning
Social/emotional learning is proven to be an important component to a well-rounded, comprehensive education. In Northfield, Superintendent Dr. Matt Hillmann explained that a universal approach became part of their Strategic Plan last year after much input through the Thought Exchange. The School Board adopted the “Second Step” curriculum, an evidence-based curriculum for early learning through 8th grade. They’ll implement this step in the 2017/18 school year. They’ll adopt an approach at the High School for the 2018/19 school year. Part of the program includes teaching students empathy, problem solving and setting themselves up for academic success in terms of positive self-talk. Hillmann said they’ve secured a grant from the MN Dept of Ed for $25,000 toward the $46,000 expense.