ROCK FALLS – City officials are working on a map for a new mixed use area being proposed to bring more zoning uniformity and prepare for future riverfront development.
The zoning changes have been discussed in recent Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, and officials say they are a couple of months away from bringing an ordinance to the council for a vote.
The empty riverfront properties have already been designated MU-1 – a first for the city.
“This is the first time we had zoned something mixed use,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said. “Now we are adding parcels on West Second Street and the downtown.”
The goal is that all new riverfront development and existing downtown parcels be designated mixed use. Much of the riverfront is still zoned for various types of business and industrial activity.
The new map, once finalized, would open the door to more development opportunities and address some zoning inconsistencies that have been created over the years, Mayor Bill Wescott said.
“Some zoning over the years has been piecemealed, and here we are in 2014 with what we’re planning along the riverfront,” Wescott said. “The current zoning is prohibitive for us and for businesses wanting to come in.”
Some of the parcels being proposed for mixed use are near Rock River Tool & Die, 205 E. Third St. The manufacturer had been a division of RB&W Corporation and Reliant Industries. Rock River Tool & Die became an independent business in 1996, and 3 years later, built a new facility and loading dock.
“We never did anything with those other parcels next to the riverfront,” Wescott said. “They were part of the old TIF district, which left only RRT&D and Anytime Fitness in the original TIF.”
It is also proposed that the area near IFH Group be brought in for mixed use.
The proposed zoning changes would not create problems for any existing manufacturers in those areas, Blackert said.
“We can still do manufacturing; everyone there will be grandfathered in,” she said.
This is another important piece of the riverfront development plan, Wescott said.
“We want the riverfront properties to be shovel-ready,” he said. “Mixed use opens more doors, whether we’re dealing with refurbishing or new design.”
Alderman Mark Vandersnick has been working with the proposed zoning changes as a member of the Planning and Zoning Committee. He said the timing is right to make these changes.
“With a clean slate on the riverfront, we want to get everything in place and get ahead of the game,” Vandersnick said. “Then whatever comes to us, we’ll see what fits.”