Monte Club options being considered

Monticello Planning Commission and Parks Commission members met jointly last week to review recreational options being considered for Monte Club Hill.

Representatives from the two advisory bodies met March 4 with Community Development Director Angela Schumann and Parks Superintendent Tom Pawelk.

The Monticello Parks Commission is made up of six resident volunteers appointed by the Monticello mayor and city council. The commission develops and reviews plans for the acquisition and development of parks and recreational facilities, develops recreation programs, reviews parkland dedications for new subdivisions and makes recommendations that are forwarded for additional review and eventual approval by the Monticello City Council.

Late last summer, Parks Commission and Planning Commission members were directed to work together to identify recreational uses for the Monte Club Hill site, including future trail connections, hiking paths, picnic areas, disc golf, single track mountain biking, sliding hill, zip line and passive picnic trails. City staff is currently working with parks and planning commissioners to refine and identify recreational uses that are best suited to the property and the community.

Last August, City Council members and commissioners jointly participated in a walking tour of the city-owned, six-parcel, 24.36-acre Monte Club Hill site.

According to Pawelk, a number of Parks Commission meetings have been held since August to analyze the best possible uses for the park that would both benefit the city in terms of community growth and future redevelopment of the Monte Club footprint. “The Parks Commission identified a single-track mountain bike course and disc golf as two major potential uses,” Pawelk said during the March 4 meeting. “This is a pristine area, and with both of those [potential] activities, we didn’t want go in and remove mature oak trees. It would be less intrusive to have a single-track course up there,” Pawelk said, adding that Wright County and the city of Monticello have been successfully working with the MORC (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists) group on the single-track trail system at the Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park. City staff plans to meet with MORC to discuss the trail options at the Monte Club Hill site if directed by commissioners.

Local and regional trail connections on Fenning Avenue and trail connections to the Wildwood and Spirit Hills residential developments were two other feasible uses identified by city staff and parks department staff in a survey, Pawelk said. A pathway connection from the Spirit Hills Development through and skirting the old Monte Club site following into the Hillside Farms Development was identified as a “Safe Routes to School” area. This pathway would also create local and regional connections towards the Pelican Lake county trail system. A pathway connection currently stubbed at the edge of the Monte Hill site from the eastern side of Spirit Hills could follow to the southeast, meandering through and eventually connecting with the Wildwood Development, Pawelk told commissioners.

“The idea is to form a subcommittee to work with the MORC people who are working out at Bertram to define what we might be doing for construction planning and for budgetary purposes for 2015,” Pawelk added. Planning Commission Chairman Brad Fyle asked Pawelk to define the single-track mountain bike use.

“It’s an off-road mountain bike trail that’s created by hand,” Pawelk said. “It’s not created by equipment. It’s carved out by a group of people called dirt bosses, a team of people [that would be] put together by MORC with city assistance.”

Schumann also reminded commissioners that during the August 2013 meeting, consensus of the City Council and commissioners present was that redevelopment of a use other than recreation or parkland on the Monte Club Hill site should be focused in the previously disturbed area of the property – namely, the vacated footprint of the old Monte Club building and its access and parking areas.

“Until redevelopment of the footprint of the Monte Club is proposed, there is no need to amend the city comprehensive plan or rezone the property as related to development,” Schumann said, adding the groups agreed that redevelopment of the site, whatever the use, should be complementary to the site itself and should transition and blend into the recreational use of the property. The group did not firmly specify a commercial or residential land use, Schumann said, although there was some indication a commercial use development, to take advantage of the recreational nature of the larger Monte Club property, would be most desired.

“This site is guided under the city’s comprehensive plan as places for community and a site that’s zoned agricultural or residential,” Schumann said. “In order to sell it for something other than a community use or a residential use, it requires a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning. Those are council actions.”

Moving forward, the Monticello Parks Commission will develop a subcommittee to research development of park and recreational facilities at Monte Club Hill.

Schumann said Planning Commission members could take a more active role in talking about land use, “The Monticello Planning Commission and the city and council have final discretion in entertaining development proposals,” Schuman said.

Pawelk said the parks’ subcommittee would work throughout the year to review and recommend action as related to the intensive details of the park uses including planning, design, construction and costs, and would provide the Monticello council with a recommendation for development and cost estimate for inclusion in the 2015 budget.