Hotel, restaurant plan involves home demolition, zoning change in Duluth

On Monday, Duluth city councilors will hear a proposal for a zoning change that could mean construction of an extended-stay hotel and a restaurant near Cub Foods.

On Monday, Duluth city councilors will hear a proposal for a zoning change that could mean construction of an extended-stay hotel and a restaurant near Cub Foods.

The plan would involve demolishing four homes north of Central Entrance between the Midas Auto Systems Experts shop and Myrtle Street to the east. The area, including some vacant land, adds up to about 3 acres.

The company purchasing the property is ready to unveil a proposed plan for the site, said Beth Wentzlaff, broker and president of Consulting, Management & Realty Associates in Duluth. But councilors first must switch the area's zoning from residential to commercial.

Calls seeking comment Friday to the company, Koehler Organization of South Dakota, were not returned.

Though the hotel will be aimed at extended-stay guests, it is unclear which hotel chain it would be. It's also too soon to know, if a restaurant does come, what type of dining it will involve.


Wentzlaff said one potential restaurant would be a chain not already in Duluth.

Though Planning Department staff members advised approving the zoning switch, planning commissioners shot down the idea by a 9-1 vote. Their rationale, according to notes from the meeting, was that rezoning the area to commercial is too harsh a switch. Commissioners advised switching the land from R-1 residential to R-3 or R-4.

R-1 allows single-family housing; R-3 and R-4 zoning allows multiple-unit housing such as apartments.

The comprehensive plan calls for the area to be a mix of homes and businesses.

If the area was zoned R-3 or R-4 instead of commercial, "the restaurant use wouldn't work," said Kyle Deming, a Duluth city planner. "The hotel use is a question mark."

Deming said granting commercial zoning would give the Planning Commission more oversight of the hotel and restaurant because residential zoning only sets basic requirements and the builder doesn't have to return to the commission after getting the first OK.

Commercial zoning requires that more trees and green spaces remain, creating a 50-foot buffer between the hotel and neighboring homes.

Wentzlaff considers the site a great location because it's near the mall and grocery stores.


But the location isn't ideal for everyone.

If the hotel is built, two property owners are concerned that their property values will plummet.

One of those homeowners is Robert Griffin, whose property would be behind the hotel along West Myrtle Street. The developer has not yet offered to buy his home.

"Rezoning will place us next door to a C-5 commercial development, which will drastically and negatively affect the value of our property," Griffin wrote to commissioners. His daughter and son-in-law, who built a home across from him on Myrtle Street in 2003, still are considering a purchase offer from the developer.

Although the Griffins and Ben and Jeanne Moog have asked the council not to approve the change and don't want to sell, the Moogs feel they have no choice but to sell or lose considerable property value should the land immediately next to them be zoned commercial.

"If this measure passes, the residential character of our property will be essentially destroyed," Ben Moog wrote to commissioners.

Councilors will discuss the proposal at 6:15 p.m. Monday on the third floor of Duluth City Hall. The issue probably will be voted on during the Feb. 11 council meeting.

If plans are approved, construction could begin later this spring or summer.

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