Council OKs retail business in industrial zone

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Over the objections of one member, the New Ulm City Council voted Tuesday to allow a record and vintage toy shop to operate in an industrial-zoned area at 326 Center Street.

NEW ULM– The new record and vintage toy store at 326 Center Street was approved for an interim use permit by the City Council on Tuesday.

The approval permit approval process for this store took more than a month due to concerns over the type of permit. Initially, the applicant, James Sowers, had applied for a conditional use permit to operate the business at this location. The property is zoned as general industrial zoning and was previously owned by Minnesota Valley Testing Labs.

A permit is required to allow a retail business to operate in an industrial district.

City staff recommended approval for the CUP, viewing this type of business as less intense than most industrial uses. Staff felt the business would not adversely impact other industrial land uses in the area, and sufficient off-street parking was provided.

The Planning Commission disagreed with staff and recommended against approval. The commission was concerned a CUP was too permanent for the property. The commission believed an interim use permit was more appropriate, because it was temporary and would not stay with the property if the business ever moved to a new location.

The council followed the commission’s recommendation to not approve the CUP and encouraged Sowers to reapply for an IUP instead.

Sowers was willing to reapply. The commission received the IUP application at its May 26 meeting and recommended approval by a 6-1 vote.

The City Council also approved the IUP, with a single dissenting vote from Councilor Larry Mack, who was also the dissenting vote at the Planning Commission meeting.

Mack’s concern was the IUP term was too long. The recommendation was for five years; Mack believed two years was more appropriate.

He also had concerns about the future of the property to the north. AMPI plant manager Bill Swan had spoken out against the CUP permit approval. The company did not favor having a retail store next door due to concerns with heavy truck traffic in the area.

Staff commented that because the building is zoned as I-2, all types of industrial uses would be allowed in this building without a permit.

Sowers spoke during the meeting and commented that as a record store, he doubted business activity would be any more a threat to AMPI than Minnesota Valley Testing Labs was for the many years, which operated at the same location.

Councilor David Christian asked if the staff was comfortable with granting a five-year IUP.

City Planner John Knisley said the staff was comfortable with five years because if the applicant failed to be compliant with permit conditions, it could be pulled. In addition, the applicant has the option of moving the business out of this location before the five years was up.

Christian made the motion to approve the permit. He said since the city denied the CUP and encouraged Sowers to seek an IUP, he was willing to approve the new permit request. Councilor Eric Warmka seconded the motion. It was approved with Mack voting against it.


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