Reader Response: City should stand aside on Good Counsel

Trey Mewes, The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.
·3 min read

Apr. 5—The Free Press

A majority of area respondents believe the city of Mankato shouldn't be involved more than necessary in deciding the fate of the School Sisters of Notre Dame's property on Good Counsel Hill, according to a Free Press online question.

Out of 236 total respondents, 146 voters — almost 62% — say Mankato shouldn't be actively involved in figuring out what should happen with the sisters' property. Another 90 voters thought the city should have a say.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame plan to move their 144 mostly elderly nuns from the Good Counsel Hill and sell the campus. While Loyola Catholic School is expected to remain on the campus, the rest of the picturesque property is to be sold.

Sisters have prepared to sell off the property ever since the SSND Central Pacific Province decided to sell its properties on its four campuses across the U.S. in 2018. Sisters say the decision to talk to The Free Press is indication the group is ready to seek community input on the property. The sisters want to have the property repurposed in "ways that are consistent with SSND values."

But the property has challenges, too. Almost any proposal would require city approval because the area is now zoned only for institutional uses.

Below the hill, a meadow where cattle grazed until recent decades includes nearly six acres overlooking Tourtellotte Park and homes across North Fourth Street, creating the possibility of multiple new residential lots in a neighborhood that's nearly a century old.

On the hilltop, developers would need to look at the viability of remodeling existing Good Counsel buildings into apartments or other uses, according to city officials. And proposals to add new residential units in those buildings or on vacant land would need to demonstrate that Good Counsel Drive could handle increased traffic.

The Free Press online question, sent out Saturday, asked, "Should the city of Mankato have an active role in deciding what happens to the School Sisters of Notre Dame property?"

There were two options to answer, "yes" or "no."

Commenters largely thought the city should try to stay out of the discussion on what to do with the property. Some believed the city would be able to help preserve the historic nature of the property while others believe private developers should have to right to do as they see fit with the Good Counsel campus.

"How is this different from any other proposed sale of a large property? I personally trust the sisters to use their best judgement and comply with any existing regulations," Margery Lisle wrote.

Bob Palmer wrote, "A community seldom gets an opportunity to acquire or control the future of an iconic asset like this. If it does not the property will become indistinguishable from everything else."

Barbara Keating wrote, "Zoning and environmental regulations are designed to protect both individual property values and the community commons issues from quality of life to infrastructure needs. I appreciate that the sisters specifically said that they want future usage of the property to be consistent with their values."