MARSHALL - A request for a parking variance at a Marshall business turned into an issue that split the Marshall City Council on Tuesday night. William Maertens, owner of Bend-Rite Custom Fabrication in Marshall, said the cost of meeting city ordinances for paved parking spaces and driveway access would hurt his business. But council members were divided on how they thought the city should respond.
Maertens was applying for a variance permit to reduce the number of parking spaces he would have to build for an addition to his existing metal fabrication shop near West Main Street. City ordinances currently require parking spaces based on the size of a building. In Bend-Rite's case, 33 parking spaces were required, but only eight people work in the building.
Maertens said there's also not much day-to-day need for customer parking at the Bend-Rite, and the cost of building and maintaining a parking lot could hurt long-term expansion at the business.
At a meeting earlier this month, the Marshall Planning Commission recommended the council approve 12 parking spaces instead of 33, with a crushed granite surface instead of paving.
However, it was a second possible issue with the Bend-Rite property that sparked the most intense discussion Tuesday night. City ordinances also require Bend-Rite to have a paved driveway access, but the property is not adjacent to the street and shares a gravel driveway access with another business.
Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson said an alternative would be to pave just the part of the driveway on Maertens' property. That idea drew criticism as well.
"A driveway to nowhere makes no sense," Maertens said.
Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director Cal Brink said the council should think about the message that its actions would send to business owners.
"To pave halfway to the road makes no sense and to pave all the way to the road makes even less sense," Brink said.
Council member Glenn Bayerkohler said the city also needed to consider the precedent it was setting. Would other businesses also come to the city asking for gravel lots instead of paved?
The council broke the parking variance request down into parts. Council members voted unanimously in favor of reducing the number of parking spaces required at the business to 12. However, a motion to allow crushed granite instead of a hard surface for the parking passed 4-3, with council members Bayerkohler, John DeCramer and Mike Boedigheimer voting against.
After discussing whether the driveway issue required council action on Tuesday night, DeCramer moved to allow the driveway to be built of crushed granite and only on the new construction area. Council members approved that motion 4-3, with Bayerkohler, Boedigheimer and Jennie Hulsizer voting against.
In other business, council members introduced a proposed zoning change for several properties along Main Street between 6th Street and the railroad tracks. The proposed rezone would change the properties from a higher-density housing area to a limited business area. The proposal had received some negative feedback from Marshall residents at an earlier meeting of the Marshall Planning Commission.
Tuesday's action by the council sets the stage for more discussion by council members, as well as comment from the public, said Olson.
Council members voted to appoint the architectural and engineering firm ATS&R as the architects for the Southwest Minnesota Amateur Sports Facility and expansions at the Minnesota Emergency Response and Industrial Training Center. Olson said ATS&R was one of four architectural firms interviewed for the projects last week, out of an initial pool of 11 candidates. ATS&R was the same group that designed the new Marshall High School building.
Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson said contract negotiations with the firm are ongoing. The council's appointment of an architect is subject to final approval at a future meeting.