For the second time in as many months, a re-use concept for Stillwater’s historic armory was nixed over parking concerns.

On a split vote March 5, the City Council shot down a plan by Matthew Wolf and CVII Holdings to convert the building at 107 East Chestnut Street into high-end apartments, a craft distillery and office space. In February, the Council had denied a conditional use permit for a similar proposal, directing the applicant to come back with a plan for 15 standard parking spaces.

Concerns expressed in February about the substandard size of some of the proposed parking spaces had been resolved with the revised proposal, according to Community Development Director Bill Turnblad.

Of three possible reuse scenarios, two of them featured seven or eight apartments, craft distillery or micro-brewery space and office space, while the third option eliminated the craft distillery space. All the required parking spaces had been redesigned to be 9 by 18 feet to meet the zoning code standard for parking stalls.

According to Wolf, a distillery was “very interested” in the space on the first go-round, but moved on when the allotted distillery space was reduced. With the redesign, he told the Council, “the application meets every written standard articulated by city code.”

“It’s a lot of square footage with very little parking,” Mayor Ted Kozlowski said. “What if this office space isn’t as desirable but retail is? Then we have to figure out how to mitigate parking once again.”

Councilmember Dave Junker said he was much more comfortable with the revised plan, though not perfect. Councilmember Ryan Collins agreed. Junker moved to approve the plan, but the motion failed with Councilmembers Tom Weidner, Mike Polehna and Mayor Kozlowski voting nay.

Polehna added that he’d talked to the former Armory commander “and he said there’s no way parking would work in that garage the way it’s been proposed.”

The Council honored Stillwater Fire Fighters Jacob Bell, Jon Bell, Derek Nelson and Christopher Zeuli and retired firefighter Phillip Gresafe for saving the life of 73-year-old Lake Elmo resident John “Geno” Jeska.

On Feb. 1, the five men were on an annual snowmobile trip, eating at a restaurant in International Falls when they saw Jeska having difficulty. A sudden stroke had stopped his heart. The men immediately called 911, put Jeska on the floor and started lifesaving CPR. Jeska was flown to Duluth where he spent two weeks in the hospital. Jeska was present at the Council meeting to honor the firefighters. 

Fire Chief Stu Glaser attributed the rather emotional success story that occurred that day to the firefighters’ training and experience, adding that CPR training is something everyone should have. 

Assistant Fire Chief Zeuli said CPR can be learned in as little as 20 minutes.

“Most people are scared to do CPR even if they know how,” he said. “They think something will go wrong. These people are not going to make it if you don’t at least try.”

Glaser also thanked residents for helping keep fire hydrants clear of snow, and reminded them to keep furnace exhaust ports and gas meters clear as well.

The Council also: 

  • Heard a presentation from Andrew Giesen, Washington County Project Manager for the Highway 5 Phase 2 improvement project. The project, to be constructed in 2020, aims to improve pedestrian accessibility along the route from Croixwood Boulevard to Highway 96. Neighborhood meetings for property owners along the corridor will be held later this month. Further information on the project can be found here.

  • OK’d the use of municipal parking lots 9, 11 and a portion of 8b for 2019 Cruisin’ on the Croix car show, which will be held every other Wednesday evening from June 12 to Sept. 18;

  • Passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency in anticipation of spring flooding;

  • Accepted a feasibility report and ordered 2019 street improvements, focusing on the Oak Street neighborhood, Croixwood, the Broadway Street area and Second Street North;

  • Approved an amendment to the development agreement for Curve Crest Villas allowing for the sale of the 90 unit multi-family housing facility, which was constructed in 2002 using housing tax credits; and

  • Reviewed a list of about 40 city-owned properties that have been leased or licensed for use by businesses and individuals, with a view toward standardizing protocol governing the use of the lands. Examples include public boat docks leased to St. Croix Boat & Packet, the Staples Field park area licensed to the North Hill Community Garden, and the Walnut Street retaining wall at the Church of St. Michael, among others. Staff is gathering more information for discussion at the Council’s next work session, April 2.

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