City of St. Michael Planning Commission Rejects New Gas Station Proposal

The commission says a gas station located at the old Simonson Lumber site would not fit the vision of the downtown zone.

The City of St. Michael’s vision for the downtown zone — a professional or small retail area that looks nice — halted a potential buyer of the abandoned Simonson Lumber site from building a new gas station there.

The buyer was told by the city's planning commission that gas stations, car washes, convenience stores and fast food restaurants do not fit the vision of the downtown area. That part of the city is not zoned for those types of businesses, and the city would have to rezone the area if it chose to permit a gas station.

The Simonson Lumber building was lost to a January fire, and the planning commission continues to talk with potential buyers.

"There are plenty of other places to have gas stations — that wasn’t really the vision of the downtown area," City of St. Michael Community Development Director Marc Weigle reported to the council at last week's council meeting. "I did communicate that to the potential buyer — that the downtown plan guides it to more professional offices and some retail."

He added that the city envisions in the downtown area a mix of offices, for professional services like real estate, dentists, insurance and general retail.

"We consider things like gas stations and fast food as places that generate significant amounts of traffic and typically take up a lot of space for the amount of building they have," he said. "If we’re looking at developing downtown like a more traditional downtown, a gas station doesn't really fit that type of vision. They are more quick-serve type places that fit better with commercial areas."

He told the council that a new gas station may look nice for five years, "but in 10 years, we will say maybe we shouldn’t have done that. That’s not the look we're looking for."

He added that it was the consensus of the planning commission as a whole that a gas station at that site would not be a good fit.

City council member Kevin Kasel said that the city’s turning down the offer should solely be because it’s not zoned for a gas station — and not because the city already has a number of gas stations, or that it doesn't want to change the vision to accommodate a use that the city already has in other parts of the town.

“The challenge I'm going to have is, I don't want the argument used when we say, 'Oh, we don't need another bank, or another gas station,” Kasel said. "If we're not going to break the line here, we better not break the line somewhere else."

City council member Joe Marx said a gas station at the proposed location could be a good thing for local businesses.

"It might bring people off the road for a purpose, and they might shop somewhere else in town," he said.

Kasel said the city needs to see how the current plan and vision for the city works out.

"We need to be patient," Kasel said. "We need to let the plan play out the way it is."

Happy in St. Michael November 21, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Yeah. How's that vision working out for us here? Not so good! The Town Center is empty, save for 3 businesses, and we have all that other city-owned (read taxpayer-owned) land where they turned down a gas station. If someone buys the land outright, what's the problem. It's not like the rest of the buildings in Downtown St. Michael are aesthetic. I am curious how much Marc Weigle is paid and exactly what his purpose is if the only new business in the past year--as far as I can tell--is Lucky Pets. I'm not trying to be confrontational, I truly want to know as he's the Economic Development Director, but we're not developing any new businesses and turning down ones that want to build on a very irregular-sized lot. The council is going to increase our tax rate by 2.99%, a ridiculous and unnecessary amount, and they are turning away a business. You can set up exterior and layout guidelines for new businesses in that section, so what's the big deal. Look at how nice Kwik Trip looks! When that empty lot is still there years from now, I hope St. Michael residents remember that Council Members Kevin Kasel and Joe Marx seemed to be the only ones with the common sense and understanding of economics and free enterprise in this decision.
chris November 21, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Re-zoning a lot for another gas station is not the answer, we already have four of them, and one empty.
THE REST OF THE STORY November 21, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I am happy that St Michael chose not to add ANOTHER GAS STATION! That spot would be better served with a nicer looking building such as the Cornerstone with a Caribu in it.
Carolyn November 21, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Stick with the plan St. MIchael. You have the potential, when the economy turns, to have a nice downtown area where people can walk around and do some shopping and then have lunch at the Liberty.
Rick November 22, 2012 at 09:56 AM
Happy is exactly right. Private business investment should be on the hook, NOT taxpayer dollars. Until people get it through their heads that tax revenue is not a bottomless pit, we'll have the same style thinking as the comments below this one. This is a total lack of understanding basic economics. Gvmt costs actually rise during a recession/depression UNLESS gvmt cuts back. We all know how that works. Rarely, if ever. So then what? Yep. Raise peoples taxes 2.99% (which is 3%, who's trying to fool who here?) Any time there is a legitimate need for a legal business, it should be explored. What are you people going to do if someone want's to build a pawn shop? A head shop? Topless/exotic bar? All legal businesses, but hardly "family friendly" yet if something came to fruitition, residents would howl and the city would feel the pressure to block.


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