Council denies variance for strip mallShortly before he left City Hall Monday, Kevin Smith said he wasn't sure if he will try again to convince Red Wing city officials to approve his development project.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
Shortly before he left City Hall Monday, Kevin Smith said he wasn't sure if he will try again to convince Red Wing city officials to approve his development project.
City Council voted 4-3 Monday to deny Smith's variance request, which would've allowed the independent developer from Hudson, Wis., to build a strip mall at 930 Main St.
"I have to consider, if I reapply, if it'll even stand a chance," Smith said.
For the past few years Smith has been setting the groundwork for his proposed strip mall, which would include a Subway and Taco John's with a drive-thru window -- and a couple retail shops.
The project had been stalled until recently. The poor economy made it difficult to find renters, Smith said.
Now, however, Smith's project faces another hurdle. The building he's proposing doesn't jive with a number of the city's newly adopted design standards.
"This project is so opposite from the standards," Council member Lisa Bayley said Monday.
Adopted in August, the more stringent standards govern building height, materials, setbacks and more in Red Wing's commercial areas and properties abutting Highway 61. City officials have said the new standards, in part, aim to make the area leading into downtown more attractive.
It was more than just not meeting design standards; Smith's proposal was simply not up to snuff, Council member Ralph Rauterkus said.
"To me it's really an incomplete proposal," he said referring to what he saw as inconsistencies in Smith's designs. "It's really kind of sloppy, in my mind."
Smith took offense to Rauterkus' comments and challenged the statement.
Council member Dean Hove stood up for Smith's project. He said it is a worthy one, especially considering the downturn in the economy.
"I don't want to see the city become unfriendly to business," Hove said.
Given that commercial development has been slow, Hove said, the city should embrace the project. "We should be patting this guy on the back ... I just think this project needs to move forward."
Hove also said Smith had resolved a number of issues, including standards for parking, building façade and height.
But that constitutes a change to Smith's proposal, Council President Mike Schultz said, and the proposal would have to be sent back to the city's planning commission for a new public hearing.
Delaying the project jeopardizes it, Smith said.
"It sets me back again," Smith said, adding a delay could cause him to lose a renter, which would halt the project indefinitely.
Ultimately, the council didn't send it back to the planning commission but denied the variance request instead. Schultz, Hove and Council member Carol Duff dissented.
After the vote, Schultz encouraged Smith to tweak his proposal and reapply.
Smith's project had been approved a couple years back, but he held off on construction because a tenant backed out of the project. His permit expired a little over a year ago.