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August 17, 2022

7/29/2022 11:57:00 AM
Dinnerbel plan revisions OK'd

The tension, drama, plot twists and emotions in the Lindstrom City Council meeting July 21 were similar to what you’ll find in a good summer read, however approximately 30 citizens opposing yet another city concession to these developers, were clearly disappointed with the ending.  

The Lindstrom City Council, with member Scott Hildebrand joining remotely on-line, ultimately voted 3-2 to allow requests from the developer changing a 90-unit apartment building’s roof and facade elements.  

The project is for the old Meredee’s/Dinnerbel site.  Council also granted a new completion date for the development agreement extending it to June 30, 2024.
What did not change was council’s earlier mandate that signs of active demolition and site rehabilitation activity need to be evident by October 2022.
A few citizens suggested council should table the revisions and let October come and go, so the project could expire.  The flat roof savings are making this financially viable, according to the applicant.

Another suggestion from an audience member was to reopen the entire development agreement and put new conditions in that could address ongoing public concerns about this project.

Peninsula Apartments is proposed for just north of Lindstrom Beach Park, on South Lindstrom Lake. The old Dinnerbel/Merdee’s Bistro spot got the green light on redevelopment plans four years ago.

There were two votes on changing to a flat roof, one 2-3 and one 3-2, with Council members Linda Merkel and Scott Hildebrand opposed, declaring “hell no.”  
Council member Bill Schlumbohm first voted with the majority to deny the revision.   The audience erupted into cheers and applause, only to be dashed  a moment later, when Council member Schlumbohm declared he wanted to reconsider the vote and motioned to reconsider.
There was no vote on his motion to reconsider.

Roll Call Votes were cast 3-2 authorizing the roof revision itself.

The Press inquired of City Attorney James Monge on the process of not voting for Schlumbohm’s motion— but at this point it had three for reconsideration with Schlumbohm’s change of heart. Monge said Reconsideration is approved by virtue of  a second.  

This conflicts with city practices and instructions  by usual resources on rules of order,  generally explaining that a motion for Reconsideration requires a simple majority.

There followed verbal outbursts from the 30 or so people attending the council meeting,  that this process “bullied’ members, created confusion and was improper.  
Council members opposed to the flat roof and elevation redesign were advised to outline their reasons for voting no.  City Attorney Monge instructed them that basing a vote on “community opposition’ is “not enough.”  This action is what he called a “quasi-judicial decision” and the vote needs a “rational basis.”  No similar instructions were given to those who supported the revisions.

At about this time, Council member Hildebrand had a profanity-laced meltdown. He logged off his internet participation uttering something about resigning.  He did not return to the meeting.

Citizens asked council to simply revoke this Conditional Use Permit and move on with finding a different firm.  The sentiment is that the old Dinnerbel supperclub building on the hill has been ignored by owners and sat in disrepair for years. Audience members stated Northland Real Estate developers have not inspired trust leaving the site blighted.

City Attorney Monge said the only way the city can outright revoke the permit is if a party violates permit terms and nobody has.

The new developer Christian Lawrence explained  design changes to the four year old Conditional Use Permit are because of the new proposed modular construction.  The newest party,  Rise Modular, has unit manufacturing based in Owatonna.  Lawrence said he is trying to adhere to the plan the city approved four years ago. But modular units come with a roof.  For cost savings and because a pitched roof and its mechanicals would be redundant, Rise hoped to change terms in the CUP.  

The building facade has also been altered, includingbalcony size, placement of bumpouts.  Many attending the public hearing at the city planning commission noted (story Press July 14) the new design lacks visual interest.

The planning commission had forwarded this whole package  on to council with no direct recommendations.  Planning commissioners, directed Lawrence to be prepared to participate  in a more detailed review at the council level. The planning group asked for better renderings of all sides of the building,  and  how it looks on the site.  Planning’s recommendation also sought information on building materials.  

These may have been provided to council— but they were not  available to attendees.

Citizens were further disturbed to hear staff outline how the earlier proposed commercial marina and restaurant are not in this “phase one” of the project.  Lawrence said he wants to find a restaurant and he hopes to add a marina later.

The deletions of these and other decisions impacting the plat did not sit well with citizens as a staff determination.

Tax Increment Financing was allowed, predicated on “mixed use” status of the project, for commercial, retail, and housing.  Two years ago negotiating the TIF contract for creating a subsidy to help the project happen, the marina was cited as the “commercial” component, planner Rita Trapp explained.  The restaurant only needed to be depicted where it could be built.  Lawrence added that he needs flexibility in wooing a restauranteur and to build finished commercial space at this juncture isn’t practical.

Citizen Judy Chartrand summed up stating the original developer Northland as Peninsula Apartments LLC only said what council wanted to hear “...four years later it’s all different, no jobs, no marina, this is not a favorable deal for the city....and I have doubts about promises being made.”

 Council member Merkel was the lone no vote on the Tax Increment Financing agreement being revised (dates changed to coincide with extension) as requested, with Council member Hildebrand absent.  

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