The Silver Bay City Council has approved a setback variance appeal from the owners of the North Shore Adventure Park for the next phase of construction and development on the corner of Outer Drive and Minnesota Highway 61.

Kali Partners, the investment team behind the adventure park, is planning a $1.2 million, 3,600-square-foot building in the former gas station and convenience store section of the property on the corner of Outer Drive. Dubbed the "Adventure Village," the two-story building will be a year-round food hall. The business plans to provide food, retail, visitor information and recreational rentals from this space.

However, the plans for the building conflicted with the city's setback zoning codes by 8 feet along the north side and 3 feet from the west side of the proposed building site. Kali Partners applied for a variance and had a hearing with the city's planning and zoning commission. The commission voted to deny the variance request, causing the business to appeal to the council during the regular meeting Monday, Oct. 21.

City attorney Tim Costley reminded the councilors consider the request by applying three standards to it:

  • Was it due to the unique circumstances of the property?
  • Does it alter the essential character of the neighborhood?
  • Is it to be used in a reasonable manner?

Additionally, Costley reminded the councilors to keep in mind the city's comprehensive plan to see if the variance fits.

Alice Tibbetts, one of the owners of Kali Partners and the North Shore Adventure Park, presented the council with the plans for the building and addressed each of the standards for the variance. Tibbetts argued the lot is a unique circumstance because most of it is taken up by a large cliff face, which she calls "Eleanor."

"In keeping with the character of the neighborhood, we're looking to create something subtle, friendly with windows and a lot of natural light," Tibbetts said. "Something that says, 'Hey, stop here. It's a great place.'"

Tibbetts also showed how the planned building fit within the former gas station canopy area. She then quoted various lines from the city of Silver Bay's comprehensive plan and applied them to the project.

"The comprehensive plan calls for the city to invest in green building, diversify the tax base and to become a premiere destination," Tibbetts said. "We're working with a corporation and have a plan for solar power on top of the building that could cause it to become carbon neutral and energy neutral. We'd diversify the tax base by submitting more taxes. And we'd become a destination for people to play and stay in Silver Bay."

Tibbetts was joined in her request by a few residents. Councilor Richard DeRosier called for a vote to approve the variance.

"It frustrates me that we talk all the time about growth, then something like this comes along and we seem to want to stifle that growth," DeRosier said.

Mayor Scott Johnson argued that granting the variance could "lower the bar" for future requests and make it more difficult to deny requests.

In the end, the council voted 4-1 to approve the variance. Councilor Carlene Perfetto voting against the variance because she is opposed to tourism.