More development is on the way for Watertown after the May 11 meeting. One of the bigger discussions of the night was in regard to the Watertown Industrial Park. The owners came to the meeting with the final plat in hand, seeking approval from the council to begin the project.

Mark Kaltsas, city development consultant, presented the item to the council. This property is currently vacant, and the owners are proposing to turn it into a commercial area. As part of the city’s rules, the owners had to show them their proposed uses and what it would provide to the city.

The owners are discussing an auto-condo, or a set of garages to store vehicles. According to Kaltsas, these kinds of developments are becoming fairly popular, especially since they aren’t simply a storage space. Car enthusiasts often use these types of spaces to clean their cars, fix them, and modify them.

It would also allow people to use the space to store personal and business items since these are flexible. It’s not unusual to see these kinds of storage facilities to be used as business fronts as well, so this kind of property is very flexible in their use.

With all that in mind, the owners a proposing a multi-phase project. The first phase would contain four buildings of this type. This first phase would be the buildings facing highway 25, and the plans include parking, grading, and everything that the owners have to do according to city rules. Phase two would include improvements to phase one and an expansion, but those plans won’t be finalized until the current phase is complete.

The Planning Commission helped complete the final plat, helping the owners figure out the setbacks for the buildings and parking, as well as making revisions to the plat to fit city standards. The commission also looked at the parking lot independently. One option was the fact that these are auto garages, it would make sense to park in the garage or just outside. They also looked at where and how people using these spaces as a business space would park. The commission found that they could fit 14 parking spaces, allowing for commercial use fairly easily.

Of course, with all Industrial Park builds, drainage is important. The good news is, the owner and planning commission already have everything prepared for the plat and the commission noted there were no concerns.

As for landscaping, the owners did provide a plan for the property. According to Kaltsas, boulevard trees need to be added but that’s a fairly simple revision. The requirements are already in the report for revision purposes. Lighting also needs to be revised to provide lighting for the parking, though that’s open for discussion.

With all that out, Kaltsas turned discussion to the council. Adam Pawelk, councilmember, asked a question about illegal use, particularly if someone converted a space to a home and how it would be monitored. According to Kaltsas, the ordinance prohibits this kind of use, stating that this was a typical condition for the use. As for finding out, it would happen eventually since it’s difficult to hide someone living in this kind of space full time.

“I’ve talked to some other cities about these,” said Kaltsas. “You do end up with some people hanging out here a lot, but that’s why they’re building it.”

Mayor Steve Washburn asked how many will be filled versus empty. Kaltsas answered that some people are going to place expensive equipment while others will just place a single item, all for the same amount of rent charge. Renters will also be able to finish these spaces, including painting and customizing the space to their wants. For adding plumbing and other aspects, of course they would need approval and a permit to do so.

With all the questions answered and revisions ready, the council moved to approve. Motion was approved unanimously.

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