District eyes Zimmerman church lot — for parking

by Rachel Minske
Contributing Writer
What to do about a heavily used church parking lot near Zimmerman schools promises to be a point of discussion among Elk River Area School District officials in the coming weeks.
A parking lot situated between Zimmerman Elementary School and Zimmerman Middle-High School along Fourth Street West belongs to Christ Our Light Catholic Parish and often serves overflow parking needs when there’s an influx of vehicles from people attending school events.
“Overflow parking ends up in that church parking lot and happens regularly and routinely,” said interim Superintendent Bruce Watkins during a School Board work session meeting Nov. 14. “Sometimes when it’s not even a special event, we end up in that parking lot.”
Kevin Anderson, a pastor at the church, said parking is a notorious problem in Zimmerman and one, he feels, that has been neglected by the district.
“The parking in Zimmerman has always been terrible,” he said. “Whenever there’s an event, like at the elementary school, Grandparents Day, they always use our parking lot. “
The church is “definitely” for sale, said Anderson. The approximate 7-acre property includes the church building, wooded area, the parking lot and a parish house. Anderson said there have been a few parties interested in purchasing the property but said the church “would really like to work with the school district.”
Anderson would not disclose the church’s listing price.

Reason for the sale
The church in Zimmerman merged with a second parish in Princeton about six years ago and became formally known as Christ Our Light Catholic Parish. Ever since the merger, the church has alternated between buildings for worship services but is now looking for a permanent property. The church plans to construct a new building between the two cities along County Road 9, Anderson said.
Watkins said the church has been “gracious” in allowing the school system to utilize its parking lot. But there are some concerns about what would happen to the district’s access to the parking lot if it were sold to another party.
“If it’s sold to another entity, it could mean a cease and desist for overflow parking,” Watkins said.
While no formal decision was made during the work session, district officials have chosen to explore all possibilities with the property, including the idea of acquiring or renting solely the parking lot.
Anderson said the church is willing to work with the school district to make the sale, whatever it takes.
“We are so open,” he said. “We have no time restraints.”