The vacant Blair Super Foods building at 19th and Front streets will see new life after action by the Blair City Council this week.
On Tuesday, council members unanimously approved a conditional use permit (CUP) submitted by Brent Stirek, owner of Stirek Construction Services, for a contractor yard, with material fabrication done inside only following a public hearing.
Stirek Construction Services manufactures furniture and cabinetry for senior living centers throughout the Midwest.
Stirek said he intends to modernize the look of the building's exterior using a mixture of stone, siding and steel. Plans also include the construction a second building along Front Street, the addition of a privacy fence, which he said will not only help block the view of the parking lot from Front Street, but also U.S. Highway 30.
The CUP was approved for 35 years or if the use of the property is changed and included the following stipulations:
• Landscaping of trees and rocked area in front of the new 40-foot by80-foot building.
• Any lighting on the Front Street side be directed downward.
• Single shift only until 10 p.m.
• Privacy fencing to the south and east sides of the property.
Neighbors Chad Kuchta and Matthew Rasmussen questioned whether the city council would also include maintaining the parking area along Front Street for people who live in the houses across the street. Both were under the impression, after attending last week's planning commission meeting, that keeping the parking was one of the stipulations included in the group's recommendation for approval.
But, Assistant City Administrator Phil Green and planning commission member Darrel Boesiger said it was not part of the motion.
"We talked about it, but we never put it in any of our stipulations," Boesiger said.
However, in the Enterprise's recording of the meeting, Chairman Bob Boettcher could be heard making the parking area part of the list of stipulations.
On Thursday, Green said Boettcher did indeed make the parking part of the stipulation, but he didn't believe it impacted the conversation or the council's decision.
Green explained that the parking area is in the city's right-of-way, but it is not considered city parking. The area was originally constructed at the request and expense of the grocery store owners and was maintained by them. If the council chose to keep it, Green said the city would have to maintain it.
Stirek said he wanted to remove the parking area.
"The main reason is that the curb was set about an inch higher than the building slab inside so what we have a negative drainage situation," he said, noting that the bottom of the building along Front Street is rusted, partly from ice melt and because of the drainage. "Anything I can do to improve the appearance of the building is something I want to do. Obviously we are making a fairly large investment in the city of Blair and this property, so I want it to look good as well."
Council gives go-head to zoning changes
Prior to hearing Stirek's request, the council approved changes to a zoning ordinance and the zoning map, which included the establishment of an overlay district under Section 1007, Special Mixed Use Industrial Overlay District.
The changes allowed Stirek to make his CUP request.
Green said city staff recommended the changes because of the unique land uses currently existing in the Central Business District that are considered non-conforming.
With the zoning change and overlay district approved, uses, such as such as a lumber yard, automobile service station, gas stations, printing and publishing business, warehouses and other storage have been added as "excepted uses" under the zoning ordinances. A CUP would still be required, however.
Current businesses in the overlay district will be grandfathered in and a CUP would only be required if major changes to the property are needed.
Speaking during a public hearing on the overlay district, Rasmussen said he'd like to see the lot at 19th and Front streets included in the new overlay district. He owns one of the houses and would like to explore tearing them down and using the lot for a commercial property.
Green said those lots can be used for commercial purposes because they are part of the central business district, with a CUP. But, he said the council could choose to add the property in the overlay district.
Council member Brad Andersen said he wasn't sure he wanted to open that lot to additional uses that the overlay district would allow, such as mini-storage units or gas stations.
Rasmussen, however, pointed out that the council would still get final say because a CUP would be required.
After hearing concerns from City Attorney Desirae Solomon the council chose not to expand the overlay district, for now, opting instead to approve what was originally presented.
"My concern is, was the public put on notification that there was going to be discussion by the city council that the overlay district may be expanded," Solomon said.
Andersen did indicate he'd be willing to consider an expansion of the overlay district to include the lot at a future meeting.
Council members Kevin Hall and Marty Shepard voted against the rezoning ordinance. Shepard questioned why the council wouldn't just table the item until the Aug. 27 meeting. Hall did not say why he voted against the motion.
While they wanted to see the parking remain and the overlay district expanded, Rasmussen and Kuchta were not against Stirek's plans.
"I like that somebody is trying to move into the area, so it's not vacant," Kuchta said.
Mayor Rich Hansen was also pleased.
This is good for Blair and Brent is good for Blair," he said.