McGregor Planning and Zoning Board recommends no zoning change for condos

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Suggests city, Trilogy work together to develop mixed use plan

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The McGregor Planning and Zoning Board denied the request by Trilogy Partners, LLC—which owns the former Holiday Shores Motel property—to change the zoning from W1 waterfront commercial to W2 mixed use in order to construct condominiums at the location. The board also recommended that the city council, which has final say on the matter, work with Trilogy Partners to develop plans for mixed use, to include condo ownership and short-term lodging.

The decision came in a meeting Dec. 9, the second one held by the board in order to discuss the request. The first was held Nov. 30, during which many McGregor residents and business owners voiced concerns about proposed plans to construct an 18-unit condo structure along the riverfront. Community members instead pushed for construction of a new motel, citing a need for foot traffic to local businesses and hotel/motel tax to help fund the chamber of commerce.

“Community support for this is in the 10 to 15 percent range,” stated Zoning Board Chair Larry Brummel to Bruce and Lois Buccheit, who are part of Trilogy Partners with Terry Kerns and another un-named individual, in explaining the board’s decision. “Most are opposed to the concept of just condos.”

Trilogy Partners, along with engineer Mike Jansen, from IIW in Dubuque, were asked by the board to bring additional project plans to the Dec. 9 meeting. Jansen provided a site layout and discussed work he’d done to determine boundaries, requirements and other details. He said the group was aware the building could not reach over 2.5 stories, or 35 feet, per the city’s zoning regulations. They also planned to create 27 parking spaces, in accordance with regulations.

“We’re comfortable we can fit that many parking spaces and the building size on the site,” he said.

Plans for the building involved constructing just a shell, leaving interior build-out to future tenants. The board questioned if the possible square footage or size of units was determined.

“We haven’t done the design process yet,” Lois Buchheit said, “so some of that will come into play then.”

The board also inquired if Trilogy had any mixed use plans for the property, rather than just condos.

At the Nov. 30 meeting, Buccheit said Trilogy was leery of constructing a new motel because it was not within their budget. They also did not believe a condotel, incorporating hotel rooms and condos, was allowed.

McGregor city attorney Mike Schuster said that’s not necessarily the case.

“It’s a concept with little precedent, but that’s not to say it can’t be done,” he explained.

Board member Sallee Scarff-Muehlbauer questioned why Trilogy did not contact the city from the start (the property was purchased in June), when they knew the area was not zoned for condos.

“Everyone around here wants to work with you,” she said. “If I was going to buy property and spend that money, I would see what the city has to say.”

“We weren’t aware we needed to get approval from the city to buy a business,” Buchheit responded. “Obviously, we made an error.”

Although they felt condos would not be a detriment to the community, several board members felt a mixed use plan would be a win-win for everyone.

“I’m thinking of the future of the town,” remarked board member Donna Staples, suggesting a plan that incorporates condos with a motel, restaurant, store or some other commercial venture.

“We want you to be successful, but we have to look at what’s best for us,” Brummel stated. “This property is the diamond here in town. We won’t have another opportunity like this for years.”

Board member Beth Regan was worried what a denial would mean for the property.

“I believe a hotel is the highest use of the property, but it was for sale for many years,” she said. “By saying no, it doesn’t mean they’re going to build a hotel. We can’t tell them what to do. How long could it sit? How long could we wait for a hotel? I don’t want to look at a vacant spot for 10 years.”

“We understand it’s a lot of money,” Scarff-Muehlbauer said. “We hope you will come back and work with us because we want to work with you.”

Along with the recommendation to the council, the board also suggested planned unit development be allowed as a special exception in W1 waterfront commercial areas. 

The council will discuss the zoning request at its Wednesday, Dec. 16 regular meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

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