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City grants one change, denies another for downtown developer

A downtown Wadena commercial building developer won one and lost one in front of the Wadena City Council, while a larger discussion of allowing street-level apartments is likely to be raised again.

John Gravelle, doing business as Kid Properties LLC, purchased and is renovating a property at 121 Jefferson St. S., and made two requests for conditional use permits. One was to create a dwelling on the main floor of the building. The other was to extend the second floor the length of the first floor.

Gravelle presented a plan to the council explaining why he thought a smaller commercial space with an apartment was a better way to use the space of his building. He said some prospective business owners have commented that the commercial spaces along Jefferson are too deep and spacious, and some don't need that much area for their products.

Councilwoman Kay Browne agreed.

"The storefronts are just too large for some businesses," she said. "We have so many empty storefronts here, we've got to get a little creative."

Gravelle added that with the building generating more income from renters, the rent would be lower for the business, as would the overhead.

"I think it's creative," Mayor Wayne Wolden said. "It's a way to offset the cost of expensive frontage property."

However, Wolden said he had concerns about a lack of offstreet parking for the unit.

"I don't think Wadena has a parking problem," Gravelle said, noting empty spaces in lots around town. "We have a parking discipline problem."

Councilwoman Jeanette Baymler said the city has a moratorium right now on new housing in the central business district, and the council has denied requests from others for more residential space.

The council voted 4-1 to deny that permit to Gravelle, with Browne dissenting.

Gravelle's other request got more favorable treatment. He asked the city for a conditional use permit to extend the upper floor of the building to the full area of the lower floor.

"This would not increase the number of apartments on the upper level -- it would increase the space for the upper level," explained Byron Larson, the city's zoning director.

The council voted to approve that request.