By Barbara Lyon, Citizen Journalist
Scooters, a Midwest-based coffee chain, will not find a home next to Culver’s. Although the front portion of the parcel on the corner of 14th Street and Stout Road is zoned commercial, the south side of the lot – which faces Fifth Avenue – is zoned single family to create a buffer for the other residential properties on the three-block street.
In a 6-3 vote following a public hearing on Monday, however, the Menomonie City Council denied Java Companies’ request to rezone 60-foot portion of the lot to a local commercial zone. During its December meeting, the Plan Commission favorably recommended the project after the developer promised to work with the city by providing privacy screening and landscaping to mitigate any issues with the operation.
According to City Engineer Kevin Oium of Cedar Corporation, the main entrance to the drive-up coffee shop would be on the south side. Parking would be for employees only along with a small patio area for bikers and walkers on the northeast corner. As the developer working on the project, Mark Krogh told the council that the project requires a full half acre and represents a “significant” $1.5 million investment. “We’ll work with the city and the residents to have a project that everybody’s excited about.”
Nearby residents worried about increased traffic on Fifth Avenue and parking on the already narrow street. For David Bauer, the new business would be directly across from the home he built on Fifth Avenue 32 years ago. “The street was not as busy back then,” he said. “As it is now, we can hear people placing their orders at Culvers. I’m sure it would be the same with the coffee joint.”
Mary Kay Mork, who moved to the neighborhood on Dec. 16, 2022, registered her concerns about traffic noise and headlights shining in her windows during the early morning hours. Unaware of the development plans until recently, she said, “I didn’t buy a new house to have a commercial property right next door when I knew it was residential.”
A few doors down, Jason Lynn noted that the area is sandwiched between the Dunn County Fairgrounds to the east and Culver’s to the west. “Please don’t encroach any more on the neighborhood,” he said.
Fellow resident Andy Crowe agreed, noting that an additional coffee shop would have an impact on Golden Leaf Café just a few blocks away on Stout Road. In an email to the council, he and Jennifer Elkin pointed out, “We have several families with young children within a block radius that should be considered. This proposal would increase overflow traffic to residential area that is already contending with that issue.”
Jason Hoyt who, with his wife, owns Golden Leaf told the council, “Times are tough right now the way things are. Having another competitor so close won’t help.”
Council weighs in
Council Member Ryland Erdman said he talked with neighbors in the surrounding blocks. “I wouldn’t want to have a line of cars pointing at my house at 6 o’clock all week long … people ordering at a drive-up.” Pointing out that with not many through streets in the vicinity, navigating in the area can be confusing, especially for nonresidents hoping to circle the block to get back to Stout Road. “It seems like a really poor fit for a residential area.”
After receiving phone calls from concerned residents, Council Member Gretchen Yonko said she looked at what kind of businesses would be allowed if the entire parcel was rezoned as commercial, many of which would be very disruptive to a residential area.
Stating that while he’s generally a proponent of new businesses, Council Member Eric Sutherland said, “One of the things that I’m always concerned about is the safety of our community. … I’m also concerned about the negative impact this may have on existing businesses.”
Erdman moved to deny Java Companies rezoning request. Council members supporting the motion were Yonko, Sutherland, Chad Schlough, Lucas Chase, and Randy Summerfeld. Opposed were Penny Burstad, Mary Solberg and Lee Schwebs.
In other action, the council:
Approved a memo of understanding with Habitat for Humanity for the purchase and development of three twin homes on city-owned property adjacent to Brickyard Road.
Approved the Menomonie Senior Center’s current lease agreement for $1 for 2023.
Approved the Community Services Department’s purchase of a half-ton crew cab ($44,050) and a half-ton regular cab ($42,250) from Keyes Chevrolet; one ton cab and chassis ($50,678) plus truck accessories ($20,786) from Markquart Motors; two mowers from MTI (Toro) for $56,028 less trade-in of $4,500.
Barbara Lyon, editor of The Dunn County News until 2018, currently serves the area community as a citizen journalist.