DETROIT LAKES — A developer continues to work with Detroit Lakes city staff on a property he owns near South Shore Drive — even as homeowners in that quiet area of Detroit Lakes block efforts to build a convenience store and mixed-use complex. Got victory there.
The homeowner’s victory meant frustration for developer Jason Gehrig, owner of Gehrig Properties, whose merger and rezoning request was largely denied on Dec. 12. 13 was proposed by the city council, although it follows Detroit Lakes’ own development plan — which was approved by the city council itself only two years ago.
“We’re still working with the city to try to figure out the best solution,” said Gerhrig, who paid $2.4 million for the 68-acre South Shore property, which includes 54 acres adjoining downtown Lakeview Township plot.
His development concept includes a convenience store and a four-story mixed-use building off 270th Avenue, as well as multiple single-family homes along South Shore Avenue and a large area near South Shore Avenue and 270th Avenue.
Jon Lowry, Fargo’s project engineer, said the plan was developed with the help of city staff.
“It’s a unique parcel of land that’s partly in the city and partly outside the city,” he told council. “Early on, we sat down with city staff and asked ‘what do you guys want to see here? How do you want the area to grow? There’s a reason the growth plan is in effect in 2020.'”
in December. Linda Lohnes, who lives in the 600 block of South Shore Avenue, was one of a half-dozen or so residents in the area who opposed the business side of the proposal at the Nov. 13 meeting. “Putting a residential complex behind a petrol station is a bad idea,” she said, adding that the development “is going to change the whole vibrancy of the neighborhood — people love it the way it is.”
Chuck Collins, who also lives in the area, also opposed the proposal. “Site zoning – the definition is what they’re doing here, putting the commercial in the middle of the residential,” he said. “It’s clearly not in line with the community plan.” Most people in the neighborhood are not opposed to residential growth, he added. “Most of us are against business (zoning changes),” he said.
Others were frustrated that the convenience store was built near the new city park, which would bring safety, traffic, light pollution and crime problems to the area. They also noted that traffic and parking near the South Shore Drive public lake access has become an issue on busy summer days.
Most said they had no objection to new housing in the area, “as long as it’s not low-income housing,” one resident added.
It was also pointed out that because the city has demarcated commercial and high-density residential areas, the city council still has the final say.
Detroit Lakes needs to go south, says Alderman Dan Josephson. The city is sort of like Floyd Lake to the north, Long Lake to the west and other issues to the east, he said. The city “cannot grow in those directions,” he told the group. “The logical place to go is to go south.”
Josephson said he lives in the area and often rides his bike on South Shore Drive, and he doesn’t think the proposed development will cause problems for residents. He noted that many people opposed the new park there until it was built. “Are parks ruining communities?” he asked.
“I don’t like it when I hear the words ‘subsidized housing, government housing, low-income housing’,” he added. “Do we just want a bunch of rich people in the area? We want all kinds of people in this community. We want hospitality. We want to grow the business, and we want to welcome developers – we Turned down major developments (on East Shore Drive). We said no to their money, we said no to the apartment builders, we said no, no, no.”
Alderman Aaron Dallman sees things differently. “This town is having an identity crisis right now,” he said. “These people don’t want a convenience store on their block — there are enough of them in this town,” he said. “We need to start respecting the people in this town for what they want in their community … building homes, getting out of business — that’s where I stand.”
“It’s a good project, and that’s why it’s so tough,” Boeke said. He said he heard as many people in favor of the development as against it, but supporters didn’t show up for the meeting. “If the developer decides to pull out rather than merge into the city, we lose that tax base, and (the subdivision zoning decision) depends on the county and township regulations, which are known to be more expensive than the city’s — so we can have six high rises apartment, we could have 64 storage rooms – which one is secondary?”
Councilor Ron Zeman opposed the development. “Okay, here we go again,” he said. Last month, Eventide filed a request with the city to build a large four-story complex on East Shore Drive, roughly across from the Fireside restaurant. “Wherever they want to put it – right next to the house,” he said. “I’m not against businesses, but I’m against where they want to put them … Strip malls and petrol stations are not the kind of environment you want to have in anyone’s neighborhood or by a lake.”
Alderman Wendy Spry said that, like Zeman, she supports building more homes and said she wants to keep Detroit Lakes inclusive and affordable for young people, but has concerns about protecting the lake and maintaining the existing community on South Shore Drive. “It was a really tough call … but the design could be improved and I might have to vote against it,” she said.
Josephson moved to grant the annexation request, but in the end, he and Matt Bock were the only council members to support it. The motion lost 5-2, with council members Ron Zeman, Jamie Marks Erickson, Wendy Spry, Aaron Dallman and Madalyn Sukke voting against it. Council members Dan Wenner and Natalie Bligh did not attend the December meeting. The meeting on the 13th did not vote. The city planning board also voted against the annexation request earlier.
Technically, the commission declined to hear the first reading of the ordinance annexing 54.54 acres in the town of Lakeview, “and divided the area into “R-2” for one- and two-family dwellings and “B-2” for General Commercial District, “LB” Lakeside Business District and “RA” Agricultural Residential District at 557 South Shore Drive and 270th Avenue.
So what now? “In a way, it’s back to the design phase of the development plan,” said city executive Kelsey Clem. “He wants to develop the property and staff will continue to meet with him and develop it.”
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