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No parking requirements for condo (07/17/2013)
By Chris Rogers
New development of the condominium formerly owned by Dave McNally will not be subject to any parking requirements after the Winona City Council approved a zoning change to the B-2.5 district, the two-block area surrounding the condominium. The condominum could be developed as the 16-unit condominium originally planned, it could become a 10-unit rental building (with up to three unrelated persons per unit), or, as councilmember Michelle Alexander pointed out, with the addition of the adjacent lumberyard lot, the condominium could still become a rental housing building with up to 65 units.

The zoning change does introduce a new density restriction. Under the new zoning rules, residential development and lodging establishments in the district can only have one dwelling unit per 1,000 square feet. Previously there was no density limit.

The existing parking requirements for the district will remain unchanged: two spaces per residential unit in the western block of the district, none in the eastern block, which is in the downtown overlay district. Current zoning rules exempt the overlay district including the eastern block and the rest of downtown from parking requirements. The condominium complex is included on that block. A provision that would have removed that block from the overlay district and required off-street parking be provided was removed by the council.

Council debate

conscious of developers

After weighing parking concerns and development interests and after some debate over whether to proceed with a vote, a majority of council members decided to strike proposed parking requirements for the district.

"I would prefer to leave the overlay district as it is," Alexander said. Requiring parking for properties within the overlay district would limit property owners' ability to develop their property and could lead to large properties being converted into parking areas. "I don't really want to see a giant parking lot in downtown," she continued.

City Attorney Chris Hood warned the council that if a new plan for the development of the condominium is proposed, there would be no parking requirement for the large structure.

"Now I'm not so much in favor of this," responded council member Gerry Krage to Hood's reminder.

Krage cast the one dissenting vote against approving the changes.

During discussion, Krage recommended postponing the vote on the issue after council member Pam Eyden expressed confusion over the proposal.

"I would hesitate to vote for this because I feel confused about what this does," Eyden said. She added that she would rather revisit the discussion and suggested an informational meeting that was not directly before a council vote on the issue.

Council members on both sides of the issue were conscious of development interests in the property as they debated whether to move forward with a vote.

"We keep beating around the bush," Krage said of the council's discussion. "We have to be very secret. I understand why: because of all the potential suitors. They don't want to be made public nor do they have to." Krage acknowledged the need to provide any potential buyers attending the meeting with a clear timeline of when the council would make a ruling on the area; however, "we've got members of council here who say they don't understand what's happening. [] What is the problem to just take a bit more time so we all feel more comfortable to do the right thing? Because whatever we decide is going to be there a long time."

The council very nearly put off the vote. Alexander offered to withdraw her motion, but council member George Borzyskowski was hesitant to withdraw his second.

"We all want to get a feel for that property and get that property on the tax rolls," Borzyskowksi said. "What are we really going to be looking for to make that parcel move?"

Council member Paul Double joined in saying, "The one thing that is going to help immensely is to focus on that parcel [the condo], period. I think we got into confusion when we started to expand the impact. If we look at that parcel and what we need to move that parcel what is it going to take for that to happen?"

Alexander then voiced support for voting on the issue. "If it's just parking it should be something we should be able to hash out." She asserted that because of the way the condominium property was financed it could not be developed residentially, only commercially, thus negating the need for resident parking.

The parking requirement proposal, which was struck down, would have required parking for lodging establishments (apartments without kitchens), which are technically a commercial use. As approved, residential development or commercial lodging development of the condominium would not be subject to parking requirements

Borzyskowski replied to Alexander, saying that he doubted whether the council had the votes to pass the proposal. "Well, let's vote on it anyway; then we'll know," Alexander said.

"I don't think it's appropriate to move forward like this," Krage responded as the council prepared to vote.

The council then voted 6-1 to approve the changes, with Eyden supporting the motion. In an interview with the Winona Post afterwards, Eyden explained that the council discussion made the effect of the ordinance more clear.

Mayor Mark Peterson opposed an earlier motion by Alexander that would have reduced parking requirements in the section of the B-2.5 district outside of the downtown overlay district. When Alexander withdrew that element of her proposal, "It made it more palatable, I guess," he said. "I think it was time to make a decision ,and we had all the information we were going to get," he added.

A representative of Bluff City Properties attended the meeting. The rental company owns lodging establishments near Winona State University.

'Housekeeping' amendments postponed

A decision on amendments that would reduce parking requirements for lodging establishments across the city was postponed after the council discussed the impact on parking. "I don't think I'm the only one who is confused," Krage said.

In previous interviews with the Winona Post, city staff members said they did not know how the parking changes would affect existing lodging establishments.

$4.86M in contracts awarded for airport

The city council voted unanimously to award two contracts for a total of $4.86 million for the first stage of a $12 million renovation project at the municipal airport. The contracts will only take effect if federal funding for the project is received. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to fund 90 percent of the project, but funding is dependent upon congressional appropriations. Officials said that funding is down and it is unclear whether Winona will receive funding and if it does, how much.

The city plans to use the Port Authority to borrow money to finance its portion of the project and a renovation of the Lake Park Bike Path. The city has yet to hold public hearing on plans to designate the airport and the bike path as industrial parks. Using the Port Authority and designating the airport and bike path as industrial parks allows the city to avoid statutory requirements for voter approval to borrow the money. The City Council has yet to approve the industrial park designations or the borrowing. 


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