Target has deadlines to meet! The Minnesota based Wal-Mart clone is in a BIG rush to build a store in Northfield. As one local newspaper story began: “Target’s clock is ticking” (see August 16, 1998 newsflash). Last August, the City Administrator warned local officials that if Target’s proposed 122,500 s.f. (up from 90,000 s.f. original plan) project does not get back on Target, that a neighboring town could get the “prize”. The city official told Council members that Target’s timetable was given to him verbally — that the company had not issued any written ultimatum. But the City Council got the message big time, and after November 3rd’s election, in which “Citizens for Target” promoted 2 successful candidates (see newsflash below), the Council asked the Planning Commission to make immediate changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan to allow out of scale proposals like Target. Amazingly, the Planning Commission refused to go along with “drive through” changes to the city’s critical land use document. One Commissioner compared the Comp Plan to a ball of string. “You pull on the string, and the whole thing unravels.” But the City Council’s strings were clearly being pulled by angst that the “prize” would vanish. So after the Planning Commission voted to recommend that the entire Comp Plan be updated and revised in 1999. This was definitely off-Target. The City Council took charge and voted to reject the Commission’s recommendation, and at 11:00 PM on Nov. 16th, the Council passed a resolution calling on city staff to draft changes to the Comp Plan by Friday, Nov. 20th. They quickly called a special session of the Council for Friday morning, when they may pass the Comp Plan changes and perhaps even the zoning change Target wants.
Hey, kids, what time is it? In Northfield, it’s always “Target Time!” Northfield zoning is like ordering from Taco Bell. Developers just have to pull their car up to the window, place their order, and drive away with their Comp Plan change, their rezoning, and their 122,500 s.f. store. That’s what developers call “hitting the bullseye”. Its a classic case of public process, minus the public. If officials play their cards right, once the Target is up and operating, maybe the store will sell zoning changes at wholesale prices. But if they do, they’ll have to compete with the City Council!