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Gordon Heights neighbors win fight against zoning change

Douglas County Board denied the rezoning petition needed for Preferred Living to develop a mini-storage unit in a Gordon residential neighborhood.

Government Center in Superior.
Government Center Boardroom, Superior.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The residents of the Gordon Heights neighborhood in southeastern Douglas County won’t have a commercial zone amid their residential neighborhood after all.

After residents made one final plea to the Douglas County Board, the board voted Thursday, Sept. 15, to deny a rezoning petition from Preferred Living LLC to create a commercial zone in a residential neighborhood.

Preferred Living planned to develop a commercial mini-storage unit. Neighborhood residents were unanimous in their opposition, concerned about future commercial development in their residential neighborhood.

Neighbors have been fighting the zone change since May, when the county’s zoning committee initially denied the petition by Preferred Living LLC. In June, the County Board sent the petition back to the committee because the Gordon Town Board approved the zoning change.

County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said if the town board had voted against the zoning change, the matter never would have moved to the County Board.

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The zoning committee routinely denies zoning changes when they are opposed by town officials. That committee approved the zoning change in August, but six days later, the Gordon Town Board reconsidered its position after hearing from residents for the first time and voted against the zoning change.

“The ramifications of dropping a C-1 commercial zone right in the middle of our residential zoning area is huge; it just runs deep,” said Bryan Huesby, a second-generation homeowner who purchased the house where his wife, Jenny, grew up. “… We have made long-term financial decisions based on protection that our current R-1 residential zoning assures. Please do not allow the zoning to be changed. Please decide to uphold our current zoning protections.”

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Neighborhood residents filed a protest petition in August that would have forced a supermajority vote of the County Board to approve the zone change. The vote never got that far.

Supervisor Nick Baker motioned for the Preferred Living petition to be denied, which was seconded by Supervisor Jim Borgeson, who consistently opposed the zone change.

“We’re going against what the town wants,” Baker said. “I was told when I was on zoning, before I was kicked off, that basically we’re supposed to give the town what they want.”

The board voted unanimously by voice vote to deny the petition.

“We won,” said Brian Finstad, who grew up in Gordon Heights, a residential neighborhood planned by his aunt, uncle and parents.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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