Brownsville residents seek regulations as city grapples with substantial growth overlooking the river

By Daniel E. McGonigle

General Manager

The Caledonia Argus

Residents and city officials in Brownsville are wrestling with how to cope as the community continues to grow.

Neighbors are balancing being a “Minnesota nice” neighbor versus building the home of one’s dream amidst Brownsville’s scenic bluffs and sweeping river views.

Julie Thompson-Hakes came before the city council at the Sept. 6 regular meeting with the request that the city review their current zoning rules and regulations and make them better reflect the rapid growth the community has experienced in recent years.

“It’s too late for my situation,” Thompson-Hakes said. “But I don’t want the next person to go through this the next time someone wants to build.”

As citizen Al Whitesitt noted, the city’s current zoning rules are outdated at best and in need of refinement.

“If you look through our current ordinance there are typos, outdated language,” Whitesitt said. “It used to be, when these were written that houses were a lot smaller. Now everyone is building bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Whitesitt sits on a committee featuring members of the city council, maintenance department staff and others, who are working on proposed updates to the ordinance.

Mayor Tim Serres said that “people have been demanding buildable lots long before I was here so it’s a double-edged sword.”

The city seeks to be accommodating while trying to be responsible to the landowners who built there years ago.

“It used to be just cabins that were being built,” said Thompson-Hakes. “We’ve got to take a look at things as these structures become larger.”

All parties were concerned of the possible impact should another flood event like the one that happened 10 years ago occur again.

“No one wants to see a repeat of 2007,” Serres said.

Thompson-Hakes wants to see more engineer input into future homes being built overlooking the Mississippi river.

“At this point there is nothing we can do,” said council member Chelsey Leis. “For the future, believe us, as a city board we want to bring some accountability to the process for residents.”