Zoning: Keep residential zone for Piper House property
After a developer purchased the property where the historic Daniel S. Piper House sits on Medford’s southern edge, the city council informed the developer, Brad Price of Right Size Storage, to take his plans to the city’s Planning and Zoning board.
Price’s original vision involved demolishing the historic landmark and building a set of storage units on the property, which lies adjacent to several other storage units he owns just south of Medford. In his proposal, he asked the city to annex the property from the county and rezone it from residential to commercial.
During the city’s recent Planning and Zoning meeting, Price and his representative Steve Abbott discussed this possibility with the board while the Medford Area Historic League emphasized the value of having a historic building on the town’s southern edge.
“At this point as far as we see now, we will take the house down,” Abbott told the board when asked what Price’s plans were should the city not rezone the property. “No. 1 is it’s an eyesore and No. 2 it’s a liability.”
One reason the building is difficult to preserve and restore is due to the barn, which was sinking at a rate of an inch and a half a week until being shored up, according to Abbott. “It’s just not in our wheelhouse to develop a property like that,” he said.
Price told the board that should he be allowed to build storage sheds on the property, the city would stand to gain tax revenue from the property. “It’s low density, it’s not heavy industrial, we’re talking about light commercial,” Price said. “It’s anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 a year in property taxes, which benefits the school and benefits the community.”
Before they could make their decision on the matter on what recommendations they would give to the city council, the historic league was able to give their own thoughts on the property. Former Mayor Lois Nelson spoke on the property as a representative of the historic league.
“This is the only surviving New England architecture style residence in the State of Minnesota,” said Nelson, adding that the house was put on the national registry in 1975. “It’s the last one, and it’s one of 13 sites on the national registry in Steele County.”
Nelson and the historic league urged the board to recommend the council reject Price’s proposal to rezone the property. “This is an iconic building versus what has been proposed here tonight of having more storage units on our southside entrance into the community,” she said.
“Aesthetically our entrance into the southern part of the city with an iconic historical site that still has some salvageable possibilities should be considered,” Nelson said. Nelson also said there is another interested party that would look to purchase the property and attempt to renovate it.
A possible renovation notwithstanding, a large part of the city’s conundrum facing the property is due to its dilapidated state. “If it would have been taken care of in 1975 when it was put on the national registry and if they had taken care of it then we wouldn’t be in this situation and it is to the point where it needs to be demolished,” Price said.
The board voted unanimously to recommend the city to explore residential development on the property, regardless of whether the house can be saved or not.
Price may also decide to go through the county and see if he can get the property rezoned so that he could develop the property according to his vision.
“We will present that recommendation to the city council with all of the information we have collected at this meeting,” board chair Rich Quiring said.