Owner withdraws CUP request

Pet treat company opts not to buy former County Fair building

Photo by Deb Gau Tuesday’s Marshall City Council meeting drew a large audience responding to a conditional use permit request that would have allowed a dog treat company to move into the former County Fair building. However, James Carr said he was withdrawing the request.

MARSHALL — A permit request that would have allowed a pet treat company to move into a vacant supermarket building didn’t make it as far as the Marshall City Council after all. But although the owner of the property formally withdrew the permit request Tuesday night, there was still conflict over the proposal — in the form of comments from members of the city council.

Council member Craig Schafer spoke directly to members of the public in the audience, saying he hoped residents were happy with the outcome of the situation. However, there was now a commercial property in town that would stay empty.

“I really hope people think about that,” Schafer said.

“I’m happy with that outcome, because I think it’s illegal,” to permit manufacturing in a general business district, said council member Glenn Bayerkohler. Bayerkohler went on to say he applauded residents for standing up.

Council member James Lozinski voiced concerns that having “big box” style properties sitting empty could hurt Marshall. There also seemed to be a “mob mentality” involved in some of the resistance to the pet treat business moving to Marshall, he said.

Up until Tuesday, Carr Family LTD Partnership had been seeking a conditional use permit that would allow the Chasing Our Tails pet treat company to operate in the former County Fair building on Country Club Drive. The permit request was the subject of a March 28 hearing that drew concerns and negative comments from Marshall residents.

Tuesday’s council meeting drew another large crowd. Members of a concerned citizens group opposing the CUP brought copies of a letter from their attorney, claiming that if granted, the permit would be in violation of city ordinances and Minnesota law. The group also had a list of additional conditions they wanted included in the CUP.

But it turned out there wouldn’t be council discussion on the proposal. James Carr presented council members with a letter formally withdrawing the CUP request.

In Carr’s letter, Chasing Our Tails owner Steve Trachtenberg was quoted as saying, “I want to be where I am welcomed, and wanted. I want to locate my company in a community where my personal and corporate values of growth and community contributions are appreciated, and that are aligned with the citizens and the city’s values.”

A phone message for Trachtenberg following Tuesday’s council meeting was not returned as of press time.

Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes kept comments from council members short during that part of Tuesday’s meeting.

“This isn’t a forum, because we have no agenda item,” Byrnes said.

While there was no longer any action to take on the CUP, council members expressed further frustrations with the situation later in the meeting during time for individual reports.

Schafer and Lozinski said they wanted to clarify some of their earlier comments.

“I understand constituents’ concerns,” Schafer said. However, he said he also tries to make decisions based on what would be best for Marshall.

Of the people voicing concerns about Chasing Our Tails, “Ninety percent of the people were cordial,” Lozinski said. But he said there were some who went as far as to contact the business owner’s bank and retail employees. “They have gone above and beyond normal research,” Lozinski said.

Bayerkohler said he didn’t condone improper behavior, but, he said “It goes both ways.”

“I am convinced what the council might have done tonight … was not legal,” Bayerkohler said.

Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson and Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson said city staff researched the legality of the CUP and came to a different conclusion. Hanson said the city also sought outside counsel who worked with Simpson.

“I believe we were complying with ordinances and statutes,” Simpson said.

In the end, “We had a request that never did come to us for consideration,” Byrnes said. Trachtenberg decided not to bring his business to Marshall based on perceptions of the community.

“I think it’s our issue to address that perception,” Byrnes said. “I think moving forward, we have to take a look at how we do economic development.”

Marshall resident Greg Taylor asked to speak to the council, and said he was worried about the business climate in Marshall, and how it would affect the city. Taylor said he contacted neighbors of Chasing Our Tails’ production facility in New Hampshire, and was told they had “zero problems” with the business.

Marshall needed several more businesses like Chasing Our Tails, “Or we’ll start going in reverse,” Taylor said. “We can’t stand much more of this, or we’ll get left behind in the shuffle.”