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Council tables moratorium on Park Point development

The Duluth City Council will take a deeper look at the possibility of putting commercial development on hold in Park Point. On Monday night, it considered an ordinance establishing a one-year nonresidential development moratorium in the Minnesota...

The Duluth City Council will take a deeper look at the possibility of putting commercial development on hold in Park Point.
On Monday night, it considered an ordinance establishing a one-year nonresidential development moratorium in the Minnesota Point area.
The ordinance, proposed by Councilor Russ Stewart, did provide some exceptions including the Duluth Boat Club project and a controversial hotel near the Lift Bridge that was recently approved.
The stated purpose of the ordinance was to prevent inappropriate nonresidential development and to prevent overall aesthetic and environmental degradation in the area. This is similar to concerns expressed by residents who opposed the hotel.
The hotel has already prompted a traffic study of the area, and brought a lawsuit against the city for approving the project.
The proposed ordinance cited the facts that the point has experienced a recent surge of unplanned development, and that no neighborhood planning has been done in the past 25 years.
Stewart said the intent was to give residents a chance to come up with a neighborhood plan. "I think that it is important that we at least consider this ordinance, perhaps for a starting point," he said.
Councilor Lynn Fena brought up residential development as well. She asked what would happen if the city just enforced existing regulations with no variances or special use permits. She favored tabling it.
Councilor Donny Ness said the intention was good, but he was uncomfortable that it might set a precedent for other neighborhoods.
Councilors Patty Edwards, Russell Stover and Gary Eckenberg also favored tabling it.
However, Councilor Ken Hogg pointed out what he saw as a couple of "fatal problems" with the ordinance and preferred sending it back to the administration and starting from scratch. Like Fena, he brought up that there is only one piece of undeveloped commercial property remaining on Park Point.
The motion to send the ordinance back to the administration failed, then the motion to table it passed.
Clarifying his intent with the proposed moratorium, Stewart said it would have applied to the redevelopment of commercial property as well, which is where the potential problems exist.
The council made some progress in its efforts to get the time length of the regular meetings under control. A resolution passed changing the starting time for meetings from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The move will become effective after Dec. 1.
Public comments on nonagenda items will still be heard at the beginning of the meeting, and the council will try to use informal measures to speed business along.

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