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Duluth Council to hear sandwich shop appeal, set process to replace Van Nett

Councilors will also be asked to sign off on an agreement for the restoration of Lincoln Park, after previous delays.

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Duluth City Council President Renee Van Nett welcomes people attending the opening of the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Aug. 18, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — City councilors will face some serious business Monday night, including:

  • Whether to allow for a sandwich shop to locate in Duluth's Kenwood neighborhood.
  • How to go about replacing the late 4th District Councilor Renee Van Nett.
  • Deciding if the city should finally proceed with renovations to Lincoln Park.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 411 W. First St. The meeting is also livestreamed at duluthmn.gov/live-meeting.

Sub shop appeal

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Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

The would-be operator of a new Jersey Mike's Sub Shop has appealed the Duluth Planning Commission's decision to deny the special-use permit he needs to locate in a proposed commercial development at 1303 W. Arrowhead Road.

Where a single-family home now sits, developer Alex Bushey had hoped to put up a 3,500-square foot building, with 1,400 square feet of the structure dedicated to the sub shop and the rest available as office space.

Neighbors objected, expressing concerns about the encroachment of commercial business on a residential area and increased traffic, including delivery trucks.

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City planning staff recommended granting the requested special-use permit, saying it was consistent with the mixed-use zoning of the property. But the planning commission disagreed and voted 6-1 to deny the permit.

The fate of the sub shop now rests in the hands of the Duluth City Council.

Councilor Van Nett

The council also will take up a resolution that could set forth the procedure to replace the late 4th District Councilor Renee Van Nett, who died June 3 of cancer.

At Thursday night's agenda session meeting, Van Nett's empty council seat was draped with a plush Pendleton blanket presented at her funeral ceremony, with a candle and flowers set out in her memory.

As the meeting drew to a close, Council President Arik Forsman thanked staff for honoring Van Nett's memory: "Obviously, there's a huge hole at the end of our table that can't be filled."

Although many councilors share Forsman's sentiment, they will nevertheless need to appoint someone to serve out the remainder of Van Nett's term, representing the city's 4th District, including the Lincoln Park, Piedmont Heights and Duluth Heights neighborhoods.

Van Nett was the city's first Indigenous councilor to be elected council president.

If a proposed resolution passes without alteration, the city would ask applicants to submit the required paperwork by June 27. The council would then conduct its first round of interviews July 7, selecting three finalists to advance to a second round of questioning July 11 before making their pick.

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Lincoln Park

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Scott Marek displays a 1905 photo of Lincoln Park Drive shot from the small stone bridge that crosses Miller Creek at an area called "the Canon." This section of road would have been removed under plans submitted by the city of Duluth in 2018.
Contributed / Scott Marek

Councilors also are expected to vote Monday on a proposed memorandum of agreement that could set the stage for a $2.1 million investment in Lincoln Park after years of delay.

The project promises "to restore this historic gem of a park in the Lincoln Park neighborhood," as Jim Filby Williams, the city's director of parks, properties and libraries, put it.

Original plans for park improvements were stymied by an objection when the city initially proposed to close the southernmost portion of Lincoln Park Drive. The road was deemed a historic feature of the original park, dating back to the late 1800s, and removing it would have imperiled $750,000 in funding from the National Parks Service.

However, the city revised its plans and the memo of agreement to be considered by the council Monday could seal the deal. The other parties to the agreement are the Parks Service and the Minnesota State Historical Preservation Office and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and Filby Williams said all involved have expressed satisfaction with the terms that should guarantee most of the park's historic features will be preserved well into the future.

This story was updated at 1:34 p.m. June 11 with information about how the public can attend the council meeting. It was originally posted at noon June 11.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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