DETROIT LAKES — A developer continues to work with Detroit Lakes city staff on property he owns on South Shore Drive — even as homeowners in that quiet part of Detroit Lakes prevailed in their efforts to stop a convenience store from being built. and a mixed commercial-residential complex. there.
The victory by the homeowners meant disappointment for developer Jason Gehrig, owner of Gehrig Properties, whose annexation and rezoning request was essentially shot down Dec. 13 by the City Council, even though he followed Detroit Lake’s own growth plan — a plan which was approved just two years ago by the City Council itself.
“We’re still working with the city, trying to find the best possible solution,” said Gerhrig, who paid $2.4 million for the 68-acre South Shore property, including a 54-acre parcel adjacent to city limits. in Lakeview Township.
His development concept included a convenience store and a four-story mixed-use building on 270th Avenue, and numerous single-family homes along South Shore Drive and in a large area roughly off South Shore Drive and 270th Avenue.
That plan was developed with the help of city staff, said project engineer Jon Lowry of Fargo.
“This is a unique parcel, part in town and part out of town,” he told the council. “Very early on, we sat down with city staff and said ‘what do you want to see here? How do you want this area to develop?’ The growth plan was put into effect in 2020 for a reason.”
At the Dec. 13 meeting, Linda Lohnes, who lives in the 600 block of South Shore Drive, was among about a half-dozen area residents who spoke against the commercial aspects of the proposal. “It’s a bad idea to put a residential area behind a gas station,” she said, adding that the development “will change the whole dynamic of the neighborhood — people enjoy it the way it is.”
Chuck Collins, who also lives in the area, was also against the proposal. “Dot zoning — that’s what they’re doing here, putting business in the middle of residential,” he said. “It clearly doesn’t fit the neighborhood plan.” He added that most people in the neighborhood are not opposed to housing growth. “Most of us are against the commercial (rezoning),” he said.
Others were concerned that the convenience store would be built next to the city’s new park, which could bring safety, traffic, light pollution and crime problems to the area. And they noted that traffic and parking are already a problem near the South Shore Drive public lake access on busy summer days.
Most said they were not opposed to new housing in the area, “as long as it’s not low-income housing,” one resident added.
Others pointed out that, just because the city has that zoned for commercial and high-density housing, the City Council still makes the final call.
Detroit Lakes needs to grow south, Alderman Dan Josephson said. The city is surrounded by Lake Floyd to the north, Long Lake to the west and other issues to the east, he said. The city “can’t grow in those directions,” he told the group. “The logical place to go is to grow up in the South.”
Josephson said he lives in the area and rides his bike on South Shore Drive regularly and doesn’t believe the proposed development will cause problems for residents. He noted that many were against the new park there before it was built. “Has the park ruined the neighborhood?” he asked.
“I’m not happy when I hear the words ‘subsidized housing, government housing, low-income housing,'” he added. “Do we just want a rich bunch in this area? We want to have all kinds of people in this community. We want to be welcome. We want to grow businesses and we also want to be welcoming to developers – last month we said no to a major development (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 saw things differently. “This city has an identity crisis going on right now,” he said. “These people don’t want a convenience store in their neighborhood — there are enough convenience stores in this city,” he said. “We need to start respecting the residents in this city as much as they want in their neighborhoods… Build the houses, get rid of the advertising — that’s where I’m at.”
Boeke said, “it’s a good project, that’s what makes it so difficult.” He said he has heard from as many people who support the development as those who oppose it, but supporters did not show up at the meeting. “If the developer decides to pull out and not annex into the city, we lose that tax base and (the subdivision zoning decision) comes down to the county and township regulations, which everyone knows are much looser and intentionally without loved than those of the city – so we can have six high-rise apartments, we can have 64 storage units – what’s the lesser evil there?
Alderman Ron Zeman opposed the development. “Well here we go again,” he said. Last month Eventide went before the city with a request to build a large four-story complex on East Shore Drive, roughly across from the Fireside restaurant. “And where they want to put it – next to houses,” he said. “I’m not against businesses, but I’m against where they want to put them … a mall and a gas station is not the environment you want to have in someone’s neighborhood or lakefront.”
Alderman Wendy Spry said that, like Zeman, she supports more homes being built and said she wants to keep Detroit Lakes inclusive and affordable for young people, but is concerned about protecting the lake and preserving the existing neighborhood. on South Shore Drive. “It’s a really tough decision … but there’s room for improvement in the design and I might have to vote no,” she said.
Josephson moved to approve the annexation request, but in the end, he and Matt Boeke were the only council members to support it. The motion failed 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 Bly did not attend the Dec. 13 meeting and did not vote. The planning commission earlier voted against the annexation request as well.
On a technicality, the council refused to hear the first reading of an ordinance annexing a 54.54-acre tract in Lakeview Township, “and zoning the tract ‘R-2’ One and Two Family Residential District, General Business ‘B-2′” District, “LB” Lakefront Business District and “RA” Residential Agricultural District at 557 South Shore Drive and 270th Avenue.”
So what now? “To some extent, it’s back to the drawing board as to what that development plan looks like,” said City Administrator Kelsey Klemm. “He wants to develop the property and the staff will continue to meet with him and work on it.”
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