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Miller Hill restaurant proposal approved

The Duluth Planning Commission approved a setback variance Tuesday for a new restaurant building and mixed-use commercial building at the current site of Grizzly's Wood-Fired Grill along Miller Trunk Highway.

The proposal, submitted by owner Steve Letnes, stated the current Grizzly's building and auto repair shop Fred's Motor, behind the restaurant, will be torn down and replaced with a smaller restaurant that seats 50-60 people, has a drive-thru and occupies about 2,200 square feet. It was not revealed at the meeting what restaurant would occupy the new building.

It also states the intent to build a mixed-use commercial building dubbed "53 Business Center" with up to eight retail storefronts on the lower level and office space on the upper level. The 22,000-square-foot center may also have a single-lane drive-thru.

"Right now the site is 100 percent impervious surface," said senior planner Steven Robertson. "So we actually have an odd situation where redevelopment of this site brings it closer to conformance and potentially reduces impacts."

The site is adjacent to Miller Creek, a designated trout stream. Letnes plans to construct underground stormwater storage, where runoff would cool before gradually making its way into the creek.

"This site is a mess. This site is largely gravel that's flowing untreated into the ditch," said Adam Fulton, community planning manager. "This is a big deal and a big improvement to what really is our biggest water-quality issue, which is sediment moving into these creeks."

The commission also approved a 150-foot coldwater stream setback variance for the business center. The proposal stated the business center would be approximately 70 feet from the Miller Creek with a rear-access drive constructed within 5 feet of the property line and approximately 30 feet from the creek.

Linda Ross Sellner opposed the commission approving this variance.

"We are encroaching on these valuable areas, so what I'm asking is that you maintain the measly 150-foot setback for this designated trout stream that is a natural resource that belongs to all of us," Ross Sellner said. "You have a right to defend the public good and the common benefit and not just business interest and construction."

Before the commission voted to approve the setback variance, Fulton noted that without it the lot would be completely unusable.

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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