There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “Tschol” property. If you don’t know what or where that is, keep reading, I’ll explain. If you’re one of my further-flung readers, feel free to read up, but it’s heavily local, just an FYI.
The Tschol property is located in Upper North Mankato, right here, to be exact. If you zoom out a little bit, you’ll notice that all the land around it has been developed (mostly single family.)
A little bit of backstory. The property has been there for a long time and for a long time it, obviously, has remained undeveloped. In January 2013 Lloyd Tschol was shot and killed by police officers following a standoff. There are some questions that arose from the police use of force, but this is not the place for that discussion.
Since then the property has been looked at being saved by “The Friends of North Mankato” of which I am a part. Here’s the Bing Maps view of the property.
And here’s a view of the property in relation to the rest of the city.
There has been no real source of substantial funding that has come through for saving the property from development. Now the daughter of Lloyd Tschol has requested that the property be re-zoned form “transitional” to R-2 to accommodate a developers vision for townhomes. The planning commission has 60 days to answer the request. I suggest reading this Free Press article to get a good overview.
So, where does that leave us as citizens? Well I sent some articles around to the City Council and members of the planning commission showing them that keeping it as a green space would probably reduce (rainwater mainly) infrastructure strain in the area and raise the property values of the surrounding areas.
One of the planning commission members responded by telling me that the city would benefit from the re-zoning because “taxes on the books!” argument. I found this to be somewhat disingenuous as the PC voted in August to NOT ALLOW duplexes to be built in a sprawly subdivision. Now, to be fair, the gentleman I was in contact with did vote against that particular measure. Still, the amount of tax revenue will be a drop in the bucket. It’s a short term solution to a long term problem.
I think we’re missing the point here a little bit though. The point being, “who gives a crap about some townhomes?” If they’re going to be built like 90% of the townhomes in the area, they won’t do much of anything to enhance the public realm. However, if you measured those trees on a “give a crap” scale, it would be off the charts, even by people who don’t live here.
But way more important than any of the factual or statistical arguments is the case for “the right thing to do.” Everyone I’ve talked to would love to see the property saved and turned into a park, even city officials. The answer I usually get? But how?
What people tell me: “I would love to see it turned into a park, but there just isn’t money.”
What I hear: “yeah a park would be nice, but I just don’t really want to have to do any work to make it a park… can the magical park fairy just come and parkify it?”
The lesson: Things worth saving take work to save.
This is going to be one of those moments where we show what we’re made of as a community. Are we the kind of community who values “growth” and progress and money so much that we’re willing to destroy some great old trees? Or are we the kind of community who has the foresight to see how this property will benefit the community as it continues to mature.
There’s also an old barn on the property that could be restored as the property is actually an old farmstead. So, now we’re not just talking about trees, we’re talking about history as well. Some members of the community said that moonshine used to be sold out of the barn (unconfirmed) and that they would go to dances there as kids… and we want to tear this down, why?
Let’s recap what we know so far in terms of placemaking and see if that weighs in on this discussion.
We need a sense of Perspective: ✓ Giant Oak trees and a great opportunity for native prairies along with a reflection of an industry that help build the area.
We need a sense of Beauty: ✓ Giant Oak trees that have been long admired for there stalwart qualities and unique leaves and the ability to appreciate natural beauty.
We need a sense of History: ✓ Um, duh. Awesome old barn and 200 year-old trees that show us how short our time is on this rock?
There’s a great character in Greek mythology, Cassandra. Familiar with her story? Well the story goes (in some accounts) that, in order to seduce her, Apollo gave her the gift of prophecy. When she refused him, he then cursed her by having no one believe what she said.
Sometimes I can’t help but feel like concerned citizens are very Cassandra in nature, they can tell the future almost perfectly, but money simply drowns out the prophecy.
In 20 years, no one will look back and say “I am super happy that we decided to build those vinyl-sided townhomes” (if the townhomes make it that long.) However, you can guess what people a generation from now will say if we decide to save the property.
The planning commission meets tonight at 7 p.m. I encourage anyone that’s concerned to show up, even if you’re not from North Mankato.
Cover photo courtesy of Steve Slater on Flickr because I’m an idiot and deleted the pictures I took of the property.