Duluth Heights residents express dismay at prospect of hotel as neighbor – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — By a 7-1 vote, with Commissioner Samuel Lobby dissenting, the Planning Commission on Thursday night approved a review of a controversial plan to build a hotel just east of Kohl’s.

Several residents have come out against the project. Jo Haubrich presented the commission with a petition signed by more than 100 people opposed to the hotel project on the corner of Sundby Road and West Page Street.

Jill Crawford-Nichols lamented what would be needed to make way for the Townplace Suites by Marriott hotel.

“For anyone listening, I just want to briefly outline what you are about to approve: building nearly an acre of hardscape, which means substantial runoff in an area with multiple wetlands in front of a protected trout stream, currently being restored; the removal of 351 trees in a sensitive area, with a maximum tree size required of only 2 1/2 inches thick for replacement trees,” she said.

But David Bolf, a partner at Northland Consulting Engineers, said the hotel will be designed to store stormwater in on-site retention ponds that will filter through sand into the water table, feeding nearby wetlands that don’t flow. will discharge into nearby Miller Creek only after the water. had ample opportunity to cool down.

The proposed 100-room, 4-storey hotel would be 51 feet 6 inches tall at its highest point and have 112 parking spaces, with an entrance from Sundby Road.

The site is zoned mixed-use and commercial, making it a suitable location for the proposed development even though it clashes with neighboring properties zoned rural residential, said Adam Fulton, deputy director of the planning and economic development department. of Duluth.

The proposed business was described as a mid to high end extended stay hotel by Ben Kinseth, operations manager of Kinseth Hospitality Cos. of Coralville, Iowa. He said each of the units would contain a kitchenette and about half of the guests would likely stay at any one time for 10 to 90 days, with the other half of the clientele likely only staying a night or two.

Kinseth said it was not unusual to have friction when hotels were next to residential properties.

“It’s just a common occurrence when you have a booming commercial area versus residential areas. We’ve seen that before, and we’re certainly sensitive to the emotions and all the issues that come with it. So we have dealt with before and know him well,” he said.

Bolf said a right-of-way requirement will ensure that at least a 33-foot buffer of undisturbed vegetation remains on the east side of the property.

But Ben Fye, who lives just east of the site on Osage Avenue atop adjoining land zoned rural residential, was given little reassurance by the screen the setback will provide, given the height of the hotel. .

“A place like this will undoubtedly have a direct impact on my family’s quality of life. Under the current plan, I will have hotel windows looking directly into my residence and the bay window in my front bedroom” , he said, predicting that the value of his home will be greatly diminished.

Fulton said the proposed hotel site has been rezoned for commercial development since 2009.

“It’s a complicated site, no doubt. It’s close to Miller Creek. And I think a lot of us may remember the controversy when the Kohl store was built. So we have controls of stringent storm water and landscaping requirements,” he said. recognize that this does not eliminate the potential for conflict with residential neighbours.

Crawford-Nichols warned that allowing the hotel project to go ahead could pave the way for even more damaging development.

Commissioner Michael Schraepfer said managing disputes between developers and residents in changing neighborhoods is always a challenge.

“It still is. But the owner has property rights just as much as the individuals who live next door have the right to live there. That person has the right to do something that is within the UDC (unified development chapter), ” he said.

“Something I have to impress upon you is that if you approve of this as is, you’re setting a huge precedent,” she said. “Kinseth has almost another 24 acres in that exact area. If you approve of this as is, you’re basically telling a big corporation that they can wholesale-
box development between critical habitat and neighboring properties. »

Fulton said the Planning Commission’s decision requires no further action. But if opponents see fit to pay a $430 filing fee, an appeal could still be made within 10 days to the Duluth City Council.

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