Council to review motel plans

City will hear latest discussions on Nordic Lodge project

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— The owners of the Nordic Lodge may be done waiting on a major development permit to build an 8,324-square-foot addition to their motel to be approved.

After tabling the project May 1 and directing city staff to continue negotiations with the owners of the lodge and their architect, the City Council will review the latest episode in the ongoing discussion with the applicants tonight. The motel is proposing to add retail and office space, employee housing and a cafe at the front of the building on Lincoln Avenue between 10th and 11th streets.

Disputes regarding the construction of sidewalks and the motel's "busy" architecture dominated the debate over the redevelopment and ended up delaying the final decision for more than five months since Planning Commission approved it.

The motel was initially asked to build a sidewalk along 11th Street, which would have resulted in the loss of eight parking spaces on that side, because the parking would have gone from diagonal to parallel. Representatives from local businesses warned against the loss of those spaces. Izabela Banas, part-owner of the Nordic Lodge, also presented the council with a petition signed by 35 local business owners asking the city to consider keeping the spaces.

Council President Kevin Bennett said there was not enough of a connection between the need for a sidewalk and the new traffic generated by the businesses to reasonably demand the 11th Street sidewalk. But the city likely will ask the applicants to enter into a local improvement district to build a sidewalk and possibly a bridge along Oak Street. The city wants to put a $17,343 cap on the cost to the owners of entering into that improvement district so that they are not stuck with a large, unanticipated bill.

"Now that the cap has been defined for the Oak Street local improvements district, we are more than happy to contribute to this project knowing that we're not signing a blank check," Banas said.

City Planner Tracey Hughes said the improvement district works both for the city and the applicants, who discussed another option of building a sidewalk that cut across the applicant's property. That idea ended up being less appealing to both the applicant and the city.

In terms of the architecture, the city is asking the applicants to reduce the vinyl shingles on the building and add wood trim and stucco.

"The parties involved in the approval of the project have very individualistic preferences of colors and materials and it has been hard to come to an agreement," Banas said. "We hope that during this meeting we can finally reach a decision on the final look of the project."

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