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City Council reapproves variance for South Pier

While one group of neighbors did not get what it wanted, another might still have a chance of stopping or changing a construction project. An organized crowd of Park Point residents confronted the City Council Monday night in hopes of stopping or...

While one group of neighbors did not get what it wanted, another might still have a chance of stopping or changing a construction project.
An organized crowd of Park Point residents confronted the City Council Monday night in hopes of stopping or substantially changing a proposed hotel project.
The South Pier Inn is planned for the St. Louis Bay side tip of Park Point immediately over the Aerial Lift Bridge from Canal Park. It will have 10, two-story connected townhouse buildings. Each with three units.
Due to constraints on the property, the Sola family, who is developing the project, requested two variances and asked the city to vacate a portion of Minnesota Avenue.
Numerous neighbors have voiced their opposition to the project for various reasons. Most feared more traffic in the already congested area near the Aerial Lift Bridge.
However, a water resources management variance was granted, and the city agreed to vacate 200 feet of street. A setback variance was denied so the plans will have to go back to the city again for approval.
But some opponents say the City Council acted illegally when it passed a resolution affirming the Planning Commission's decision to grant the variance and asked the council to reconsider. They also restated concerns about traffic safety and allowing development before the city's pending plan is completed.
Several speakers mentioned that the issue has divided the Park Point community.
Specifically, they wanted the council to vote to reconsider the variance, then table it for more discussion. The council did vote to reconsider, and it passed.
"We should recognize that two weeks ago we said 'yes' to the developer," said Councilor Ken Hogg, against reconsidering it. He also objected to the manner in which the opposition was orchestrated.
Representing the Solas, attorney Bill Burns made a similar point. "The Solas have been proceeding full speed since you acted," he said. "I can't and won't accept the idea that rights you granted to them should be taken away."
In the end, the council voted on the variance resolution, again. It passed 6-1. Council President Greg Gilbert abstained. Councilor Lynn Fena was absent, and Councilor Russ Stewart again voted against it.
With that settled, West Duluth residents took the floor in their continuing opposition to the Westgate Townhouse project. They asked the council to rescind the special use permit -- at least until all appeals are exhausted.
The council asked the administration to determine the options.

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