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Commission postpones permit decision

The Hudson Plan Commission on June 22 postponed recommending whether a used car business should receive a conditional use permit to operate out of the former Perkins Restaurant property on Crest View Drive.

Plan Commission members put off the vote after representatives of three nearby businesses argued the proposed used car lot would diminish the neighborhood.

Dan Routson, the Stillwater, Minn., and Somerset car dealer seeking to open the Auto Proz business, was told to try to allay the neighbors' concerns about it.

Carah Koch, the Plan Commission member who suggested that Routson meet with the neighbors, indicated that he might reduce their opposition by screening the car lot with trees or berms -- and taking other steps to mitigate its presence.

Chris Anderson, a partner in the law firm of Heywood, Cari and Anderson, said there is a lot of concern in the neighborhood about the future of the former Perkins property.

The two neighboring hotels, the Super 8 and Comfort Inn, survived the closing of a nearby fast food restaurant and a freeway exit, Anderson said, but there is concern about the effect that Perkins' move to Carmichael Road will have.

Having a car lot next to the hotels would harm them, he asserted.

"A used car lot and tire place doesn't fit the neighborhood up there," Anderson said.

He said a business's incapability with a neighborhood is one of the reasons listed in the Municipal Code for denying a conditional use permit.

While Luther Hudson Chevrolet is located nearby, it isn't adjacent to the hotels that would be negatively affected, Anderson said.

Dennis Lovold, owner of the Comfort Inn, immediately south of the former Perkins property, said hotels aren't typically found next to car sales lots unless the neighborhood is in decline.

In early 2006, Lovold tried to put together a deal to bring a sports-themed restaurant and bar into the vacant Perkins building.

A representative of the Super 8 motel, located on the other side of Dominion Drive from the old Perkins, also expressed opposition to the proposed car lot.

Plan Commission members Donald Gilbert, Tim Caruso and Fred Yoerg appeared to have been swayed by Anderson's and Lovold's arguments.

Gilbert, a retired car dealer, said he had some concerns about Routson's proposal but didn't elaborate on them, other than to say Routson has a tendency to park cars close to the road at his businesses in Stillwater and Somerset.

Caruso indicated that he could understand why people might not want to stay in a hotel located next to a lighted car lot.

Yoerg agreed that it would be preferable to have a restaurant or some other business on the property instead of a car dealer and tire business.

Plan Commission members Bob Bieraugel and Carah Koch weren't ready to rule out Routson's business, however.

Bieraugel said hotels often are surrounded by parking lots, so he didn't see why a nearby car sales lot would have a negative impact.

But he added that the landscaping plan for the property wasn't adequate, and that Routson would need to limit light pollution from his business.

"I would support this -- with lots of conditions," Bieraugel said.

Koch said she understood the neighboring businesses' concerns, but that Routson's proposal was the only one on the table. She encouraged Routson and the neighboring business owners to come to an agreement.

A Tire Proz store also was part of a concept development plan for the former Perkins site approved by the commission at its May 25 meeting.

Jay Andrews, who currently operates a Tire Proz store on Hwy. 36 in Oak Park Heights, Minn., would also run the Hudson store.

Routson's request for a conditional use permit to sell vehicles in a general business district will likely be brought back for consideration at the Plan Commission's next meeting.

The commission's next meeting will be at 7 a.m. July 6 if it follows its normal schedule.

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.

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