Following a closed session of the Cambridge City Council on May 15, the city has agreed to purchase the former Ace Tack building in downtown Cambridge.
City Administrator Lynda Woulfe explained the city will purchase the property for $217,000 with a closing scheduled for no later than July 1. The city purchased the property as part of the Highway 95 expansion project.
The agreement titled “Purchase in lieu of condemnation agreement” is between the sellers Gary and Jean Edblad and the city of Cambridge.
The city must pay $108,500 of the purchase price at closing, with the remaining $108,500 to be paid for by Jan. 15, 2018.
General real estate taxes due in 2017 with respect to the property will be prorated between the parties. The Edblads paid the first half of taxes due May 15 in the amount of $3,391 and the city will pay the second half of taxes due Oct. 15 in the amount of $3,391.
Woulfe explained the building will be torn down, but the timeline is unclear.
“The building will be torn down for the highway improvement project. I wish I had a better handle on the project timeline but won’t know much until the Legislature finishes their work,” Woulfe said. “Earliest the project could happen would be either 2019 or 2020. If it is not funded, then I have no idea about a project date without having further conversation with MnDOT. If the project is out there a ways, I will ask City Council to consider using it as a business incubator building, but we haven’t had any discussion on that at all yet.”
Interim use permit for auto sales, minor repair shop
Community Development Director Marcia Westover explained Kevin and Briana Wudel have applied for an interim use permit for automobile sales and minor service at 1401 First Ave. W., Cambridge.
Westover explained automobiles sales and minor auto repair services are allowed in the B-1 Downtown Business District only through an interim use permit.
The purpose of the interim use permit is to allow a use that reasonably utilizes the property for a limited period of time or allow a use that is presently acceptable but with anticipated development or other changes will not be acceptable in the future. Interim use permits terminate upon a specific date, but can be extended upon reapplication before the Planning Commission and City Council.
Westover explained the Cambridge Planning Commission recommended denial of the interim use permit by a 4-to-3 vote and directed staff to prepare findings of fact for denial to be recommended to the council.
Westover explained the findings for denial were to be based on automobile sales and service not being a compatible use for the downtown and not a good fit for the future since the inception of the updated Cambridge Comprehensive Plan and the Discover Downtown Cambridge Committee.
Westover explained the property previously had an interim use permit for automobile sales and minor service known as Woody’s Auto that had been issued in March 2014 to Steven Wudel. However, that interim use permit was discontinued due to the death of Steven Wudel in July 2016 and the interim use permit is not transferrable.
Following an hourlong discussion, the council approved a motion to table the decision on the interim use permit to further study the parking issue and directed the applicant to prepare an on-site parking plan to make sure parking and zoning ordinances are being followed.
Kevin Wudel, brother of the late Steven Wudel, explained the business would primarily be a used car lot and minor auto repair work would primarily take place on the cars he would be selling.
Patrick Neaton, attorney for Kevin Wudel, said he understood the city’s position of revitalizing downtown, but having an empty building will not help that cause.
“I certainly understand the goal of revitalizing downtown and the goal of creating a vibrant downtown, but having a vacant lot will not help that,” Neaton said. “This building is built for automobile repair, and it appraised that way as the highest and best use. This is not an old building. It is a structurally sound building, and I fear it will be vacant unless this is allowed on the property.”
Neaton said the city should work with Kevin Wudel.
“Mr. Wudel believes in Cambridge and has put his money in Cambridge and in good faith to work with the city,” Neaton said. “No one else has come forward saying they want to put a different business there. The building was vacant for many years before Steven Wudel came along and opened up his auto sales business. If Steven would not have died, the interim use permit would be in effect for another two years.”
Cambridge resident Monte Dybvig, owner of Doctor Monte’s Auto Repair, whose business abuts 1401 First Ave. W., spoke on parking concerns.
“I have invested heavily in making sure I have parking available for my business, and when talking with our business neighbors, parking has always been an issue,” Dybvig said. “We have a vision of downtown that was presented with the new comprehensive plan, and we have an idea of what this place should look like.”
Cambridge resident Jeremy Ellingson, who is a local real estate agent and part of the downtown task force and comprehensive plan task force, asked the council to uphold the Planning Commission’s decision.
“I have bought vehicles from Woody’s; they are great people and provided a great service, but as we move forward, I don’t see a car lot in that particular location,” said Ellingson.