By Rachel Kytonen
New Hope Community Church is looking to lease a building in downtown Cambridge for the purpose of office space, holding evening meetings and a Saturday evening service.
City Planner Marcia Westover explained during the Cambridge City Council meeting Monday, Sept. 19, that New Hope Community Church submitted an application for a code amendment and conditional use permit request. The code amendment request is to amend city code to allow places of worship in the B-1 Downtown Business District by a Conditional Use Permit (CUP).
The Planning Commission reviewed the request at its meeting on Sept. 7, and recommended denial of the code amendment. The Commission didn’t act on the request for the CUP as it was improper based on the denial of the code amendment.
City Administrator Lynda Woulfe explained city code doesn’t allow a school or church within 200 feet of a bar or liquor establishment, as part of the alcohol business zoning regulations.
During the council meeting, New Hope lead pastor Bill Berg explained the church is looking at leasing the building at 145 2nd Ave. SE. He explained the building would be used for office space for the 12 full-time employees, nightly meetings, youth activities and a Saturday evening service.
“Our desire is not to negatively affect downtown businesses,” Berg said. “Our desire is to help the downtown flourish, and see the community flourish.”
He said the Saturday evening service would be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and would average around 80 people. He said the service is being offered to its parishioners as another option.
Berg said the main Sunday service would still be held at the Hardy Performing Arts Center at the Cambridge-Isanti High School.
Berg said he also doesn’t feel downtown parking would be an issue, and would encourage its employees and members to park in the nearby commuter lot. He said he is also working on a parking agreement with a nearby business.
“My philosophy is that if it’s hard to find a parking spot in downtown Cambridge, that’s a good problem,” Berg said. “New Hope is an active church in the community, and with 12 office staff working in downtown Cambridge, and with our other evening meetings, that will generate a lot of traffic flow.”
Berg also presented the council with a petition containing the signatures of 13 businesses indicating they don’t have any problems with the church having an office in downtown Cambridge.
Loren Davis, owner of the Cambridge Bar and Grill, said parking has been an issue in downtown Cambridge for years. He said the New Hope service on Saturday night wouldn’t be any different compared to nights when the Cambridge Legion is holding a wedding reception.
Davis said his concern is with business owners not being able to obtain liquor licenses due to the city code. He encouraged the council to look at removing “churches and places of worship” from the city code, but leave wording in the code as it relates to schools.
Jim Thoreson, from the Cambridge American Legion, did indicate the Legion is trying to sell its current building, and relocate to a smaller location within the city of Cambridge.
Thoreson was concerned that if the Legion would sell their building, new owners may not be able to obtain a liquor license if the council changes the ordinance.
Council Member Bob Shogren said he would like city staff to come up with a solution to allow New Hope to locate downtown, but not impact liquor licenses anywhere in the city.
Following discussion, the council approved a motion to rescind its earlier action in the meeting to deny the code amendment. The motion also included tabling the rezoning application amendment, and extend the 60 day review period required to an additional 60 days.
2nd Ave. bridge update
Public Works Director Steve Wegwerth gave an update on the 2nd Ave. bridge project. Wegwerth explained the original completion date in the contract is Oct. 1, which included placing the final two inches of thick concrete surface on the bridge deck. The contract provided another 30 days to complete all work, including final clean-up items.
He said the Oct. 1 deadline for the final concrete surface replacement is a hard completion date required by MnDOT with no adjustments for weather forecasts. The purpose of this is to allow the new concrete to properly cure, dry and gain strength before winter weather and salt application occur.
Wegwerth said Lunda Construction started construction as soon as the DNR allowed it in mid June, and has made satisfactory progress except for approximately two weeks when the unusually wet conditions and high water levels prevented any work from being done in the river.
Lunda has since expedited their work by working overtime hours and by revisiting their operations by working on both bridge abutments at the same time which requires them to provide a larger, more expensive crane that will reach across the entire river.
Wegwerth said in spite of this, the final concrete surface will be placed on Oct. 7, which is one week past the MnDOT deadline.
After discussion, by consensus, the council gave direction for Lunda to place all concrete now, using a special sealer to protect the new concrete, at a cost of $4,600. The option would allow the bridge to open this fall. The council will also allow Lunda to have a three week extension on its final completion date.
City staff will bring back the final change order, time extension agreement, and contract for the sealer to the council for final approval at its Oct. 3 meeting.
2012 street improvements
The council approved a motion to accept a proposal from SEH, Inc. for the feasibility study relating to the 2012 street improvements.
The proposed 2012 street improvements consist of reconstructing the streets and underground utilities generally located between 11th Ave. SW, 16th Ave. SW, S. Dellwood Street and Hwy. 65. The former MnDOT Hwy. 293 from Hwy. 95 to Main Street is also included.
The proposed engineering services consist of surveying the project area, performing preliminary design, estimating costs, calculating special assessments, conducting a feasibility study, preparing a feasibility report and conducting public meetings.
The proposal from SEH indicates they will perform the services on an hourly basis, for an estimated maximum fee of $68,500.
City Engineer Todd Blank said the estimated cost for the project is $5 million, but noted the city did receive a lump sum payment of approximately $2 million when MnDOT turned back Hwy. 293 to the city.
As far as assessments to property owners, Blank indicated it has been past practice for the city to not assess corner lots twice. If corner lots had been already previously assessed for a prior project, they will not be assessed again.
An informational neighborhood meeting is planned for October.