Wednesday, March 19, 2014 | NEWS
SCF Plan Commission weighs fitness center proposal
Look of new building raises concerns, as entry to city
Greg Marsten | Staff writer
ST. CROIX FALLS – A proposal to move a fitness center franchise from its current site in the former St. Croix Falls Fire Department to an all-new building on the south end of the city drew both praise and criticism at the regular meeting of the St. Croix Falls Plan Commission on Monday, March 17.
The current SNAP Fitness Center is owned by Ken and Darci Brookins, who recently purchased a parcel of property on the south side of the city, at the corner of McKenney Street and Hwy. 35, in what was formerly being used by the former Quest Canoe operation.
The property is zoned B-2 Highway Commercial, but is also within the so-called Scenic Overlay District, because of its proximity to the St. Croix Scenic Riverway, which means there is a relatively strict set of regulations regarding improvements ot properties.
The Brookins have proposed to build a 114-foot long, 64-foot wide, 7,296-square-foot commercial building to house the fitness center, which would also include a day care, tanning operation and more.
"The project is somewhat controversial, because of the location," St. Croix Falls Administrator Joel Peck said, noting that while the location is "very visible ... the entrance to the city," he admitted there is very little the city can do to address the general look of the property, since it is the correct zoning and the couple already owns the property.
While the St. Croix Falls Plan Commission was generally in favor to the new construction, they did have serious concerns with the look of the proposed building, which several of the commissioners said had the look of "a pole shed."
"My reaction? It kind of looks like (one of) the fireworks stores," Mayor Brian Blesi said. "I think they should give more consideration to the design. Someday, they'll want to sell it."
Several commissioners concurred, and the plan to have a huge, metal-sided, single-color building with only six windows was not the kind of look they felt was the best for the location, which they repeatedly referred to as the "entrance to the city."
"Yeah, it just looks like a pole shed," Commissioner Mark Sabel said. "It's not in the industrial park, it's an entrance to the community, the first thing many people see in St. Croix Falls. I think the building needs to be really more dressy, not a pole shed."
The Hwy. 8/35 Scenic Overlay District is meant to "prevent scenic degradation," and even notes the need to "'protect such 'entrance views' of the city and to minimize the adverse visual effects of development ..."
It also requires muted earth-toned exterior colors, as well as wood, stone or other natural materials, which the commission stressed. They passed those concerns on to two representatives of the proposed project, Matt Adam and Bryan Raddatz.
The commission suggested the design pay closer attention to the wood, stone or natural material requirements, and both Raddatz and Adam said they would try to work with the owners on the issue, but noted the additional costs of certain materials.
"We understand that, but remember, this building will (eventually) be repurposed, and what's economical today may be a detriment tomorrow," Blesi said, noting that the location on the property was also an issue to be addressed. "Placing a building is a 100-year investment."
There was also some concern about landscape designs as well as the placement of the building on the lot, which may make future development on the large corner lot more difficult.
Commissioner Warren White also suggested they try to incorporate city bike trails to the location, to minimize the volume of auto traffic, noting the purpose of the building is physical fitness.
But in general, the commission was happy to see interest in development, but stressed the need for a more appealing facade, and looked to see more landscaping plans, as well as possible storm water management plans as the project moves ahead.
"I think it's tremendous that someone wants to invest and build something in our community," Blesi said. "It just needs to better conform (with the scenic overlay requirements)."
"Yeah, it needs to be dressed up a little bit," Sabel added.
The commission took no formal action on the proposal, other than the facade recommendations, but they did offer to let the building firm use the city's elaborate topographical mapping to further landscape and storm water planning on the property.