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Bruce Lenzen of Bruce Lenzen Designs Inc. talks about the outdoor deck and patio proposed for the Smilin’ Moose Lodge Bar & Grill. They are shown in the lower drawing. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Randy Hanson)

Commission postpones decision on Smilin' Moose deck and patio

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The Hudson Plan Commission voted 4-2 last Thursday night, April 10, to postpone recommending whether or not the city should approve the proposed addition of a deck and a patio at the Smilin’ Moose Lodge Bar & Grill.

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The postponement came after business neighbors of the downtown Hudson establishment complained about the effect the expansion could have on the already short supply of parking in the downtown.

They included Art Doyle, owner of Art Doyle’s Spokes & Pedals; Meme Fehr, owner of the Sandeen Agency; attorney Brent Johnson, representing a group of unnamed downtown businesses; and John Potter, executive director of The Phipps Center for the Arts.

Doyle said it has become increasingly difficult to find a place to park in the 30 years he has had his bicycle shop in the downtown.

“At some point in time, parking capacity is reached,” he said.

Doyle said many of his customers bring two or three bicycles to be serviced, and if they have to park two or three blocks away, it will affect his business.

“The parking thing is a huge thing. The parking is a big deal,” he said for effect.

Fehr also was concerned about having an open-air bar, which she said is new to Hudson. She noted that the Smilin’ Moose has live bands on Friday nights and DJ music on Saturday nights.

“We have a unique historic district which we market as such,” Fehr said. We have a lot to protect and a lot to lose if we don’t get it right.”

She also was unhappy about a fire wall that would be built to separate the deck and patio from her adjacent parking lot. She said it would block sunshine from her building and create a dark alley out of the Sandeen Agency’s parking lot.

Johnson recommended postponing a decision to allow time to study the impact the outdoor bar would have on parking. He said this was a case where the city could require the Smilin’ Moose to provide off-street parking in order to expand.

Potter noted that a good number of The Phipps’ patrons are elderly or are limited in their mobility.

Community Development Director Dennis Darnold recommended requiring the Smilin’ Moose owners to pay $92,500 in lieu of providing 37 additional off-street parking stalls.

The number was based on the bar and restaurant adding 110 outdoor seats.

Attorney William Radosevich spoke on behalf of the Smilin’ Moose.

He said the establishment’s plans meet city codes, and because of that the owners are entitled to have them approved.

Radosevich questioned whether the city could legally require the Smilin’ Moose to pay a fee in lieu of providing additional off-street parking spaces.

He said he thinks it is an extraction of money that state law labels an impact fee, and the city is therefore required to follow certain steps to collect it. He said the state law requires that a needs assessment be done, then the development of cost estimates, and finally the assessment of a district-wide fee.

“This isn’t a Smilin’ Moose problem. It is a city-wide problem that needs to be solved by the city not on the back of one business,” Radosevich said.

Plan Commission members Frank Rhoades, Mary Claire Potter, Fred Yoerg and Patrick Casanova voted to postpone a recommendation on the plans. Mary Yacoub and Kevin Vance voted against the postponement.

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Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
(715) 426-1066
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