West St. Paul refuses zoning changes that would bring more discount stores

  • Article by: Laurie Blake
  • Star Tribune
  • August 17, 2013 - 4:38 PM

Looking ahead to possible new development in the Signal Hills area on S. Robert Street, West St. Paul City Council members last week said no to new discount stores by turning down requests from two property owners to rezone their land on Robert.

One request came from the owner of a commercial strip that includes the Old Country Buffet in the southern part of the city. The other request came from the owner of the area that includes the now-closed Suburban Ace Hardware on the city’s north side.

Both owners were seeking the change in an effort to fill vacant stores. The rezoning would have allowed discount stores and used-merchandise stores to open. Had the rezoning been approved, a Dollar General store would have had a green light to open in the old hardware store across the street from the Signal Hills redevelopment district.

Dollar General has been angling to move into the Ace Hardware building since last year. It was turned down by the Planning Commission and now the City Council. Community Development Director Jim Hartshorn has said the city would welcome the store at other locations already zoned for discount retail.

City Manager Matt Fulton urged council members to think about the rezoning in light of what Robert Street could be in the future. And he reminded council members that the only control the city has over which businesses open along Robert is through the zoning code.

None of the council members favored the rezoning.

Council Member David Wright said the city will soon start to encourage redevelopment in the Signal Hills area, which is the north entrance to the city. “I don’t want to have the gateway to the city cluttered with discount stores. That area will spur good development once Signal Hills starts to happen.”

The Signal Hills area is the four northernmost blocks on the west side of Robert. Some of the buildings in the redevelopment area have been purchased and torn down, including Langula’s Hardware Hank.

The Legislature this year allowed the city 10 more years to use a special tax incentive to promote redevelopment in the area.

So far, the city hasn’t adopted a specific plan. The next step is for consultants to do a study determining what mix of commercial, residential and retail uses would make the most sense for the district. About 16,000 cars a day pass the site.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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