Council moves Beaudry expansion forward

by Kurt Nesbitt
Contributing Writer
Despite advice from city staff and the city attorney that the council wait and further develop documentation of the project, as well as a disagreement among the council members, the Elk River City Council proceeded Monday night with three actions that will allow Beaudry Oil and Propane to expand its facilities farther south.

Earlier this year, Beaudry proposed a 7,216-square-foot building to operate a truck repair, maintenance and storage facility and parking for the gas and oil company’s delivery trucks. The council approved 3-2 a zone change, conditional-use permit and a plat for the property. Mayor John Dietz and Council Member Jerry Olsen cast the dissenting votes.

The votes give the green light to the oil and propane gas company’s expansion, which would use several lots south of the company’s current facility at 630 Proctor Ave., between Quinn and Proctor avenues just north of U.S. Highway 10. The votes will move the project forward without some of the plans and documentation, such as a master plan for how the project will fit in with the rest of the area, that were recommended by city staff.

And that was the subject of disagreement among the council members.

Council Member Jerry Olsen and the mayor favored continuing the three actions until more details were fleshed out between the city and the company.

The other council members felt that the city has already spent enough time on the project and should move forward. They felt the city could change agreements with Beaudry Oil and Gas later.

According to city documents, the city Planning Commission passed the matter on to the City Council with the understanding that discussions about the master plan for the project would continue. Planning staff got a legal opinion from the city attorney advising the council to hold the rezoning until a master plan was developed so the rezoning could stay within the parameters of the city’s comprehensive plan. City staff members wanted additional time to develop the master plan further. City attorney Peter Beck advised the council to wait.

Some council members became concerned the applications might expire, since the process is getting close to the 120-day deadline outlined in state law. City Council Member Matthew Westgaard said he understood Beck’s point of view but felt the city has spent enough time reviewing the applications and said Beaudry “wants to move forward.”

Council Member Jennifer Wagner agreed with Westgaard.

But others disagreed.

Olsen favored a continuance. He said it seemed like a waste of time to make city staff redo the applications.

Council Member Nathan Ovall was concerned about the traffic problems the changes might create on Proctor Avenue. He thought the city was rushing the process in some spots, but doesn’t think that not having the master plan finished stops the city from doing anything.

Dietz cited another possible problem — the city has no guarantee of cooperation. He said the city and the company could be spending money on the same things, like stormwater ponds.

“To me, we’re gambling that they might work with us. And maybe they will,” Dietz said. “We could end up with nothing. We could end up spending all this money and spinning our wheels.”

Economic Development Director Amanda Othoudt said the EDA plans to use tax-increment financing to demolish and acquire properties at 709 Proctor Ave. and 706 Quinn Ave. and a vacant lot so the two avenues can connect. Income from some of the city’s related funds would finance the project, and the tax revenue generated by the Beaudry project would replenish those funds. EDA staff said the project could generate $1.4 million over 26 years.

The City Council later voted to establish a tax-increment financing district by deeming a dozen properties in the neighborhood structurally unsound. The properties are on Quinn and Proctor avenues and on Sixth Street Northwest. Eleven of them have buildings on them.