City refuses to grant zoning for proposed restaurant

A Vermillion home can't be moved and replaced with a proposed fast food restaurant.

That was the consensus of the Vermillion City Council following a lengthy discussion at its meeting Monday.

Duane and Lorraine Brunick, who live at 916 Ratingen Strasse, had applied to have their residential property's zoning changed from R-1 residential to GB – General Business District.

The Brunick's home is currently overshadowed to the west by one of the new Coyote Village student housing buildings currently under construction.

The Brunicks' son, Rick Brunick of Sioux Falls, said his family plans to move his parent's house from that location and construct a fast food restaurant – possibly a Taco Bell – on that lot. "We also have an option with the neighbor next door to purchase their land if it (the lot) is not big enough," he said.

He also presented diagrams of how the restaurant building and parking could be located on the property.

Farrel Christensen, building official for the city of Vermillion, pointed out several factors that weighed against granting approval to the zoning change request.

"The lot is currently surrounded by residential and educational uses," Christensen said. "The nearest commercial lot is located at the corner of Ratingen and Cherry (Streets)."

The Vermillion Planning Commission considered the proposed zone change at its Oct. 26 meeting, and forwarded a recommendation to deny the application and retain the current zoning status.

"There are a number of concerns that staff has with the zone change request," Christensen said. "The first is that due to lack of other commercial zoning in this area, if approved, the zone change would create a spot of commercial zoning without any connection to any other business uses."

Christensen said the size and shape of the proposed lot also is a cause for concern. "The lot is small for commercial use, and because the lots that are adjacent are residential, additional setbacks would be required, further reducing the buildable space in the parking and driveway availability for lots," he said.

Setbacks of 20 feet are required in the front and rear of the lot, with 15-foot setbacks on the side. "In addition, a six-foot buffer zone is required, and either a fence or some sort of living ground cover is required, which further reduces by six foot on each side the parking lot area and the driveway area," Christensen said.

Since the Brunicks had indicated they were interested in placing a fast food restaurant on their lot, city staff compared the property at 916 Ratingen with existing fast food lots in Vermillion.

The proposed business would be located on the smallest lot – with a total of 15,980 square feet – of all fast food restaurants in the city. Should the new restaurant building be constructed with dimensions of 38 feet by 70 feet, which is approximately the same size as the Burger King restaurant in Vermillion, there would be space to park 12 vehicles in the lot, compared to 39 at Burger King.

In a memo to the city council, Christensen notes that the number that creates the biggest problem for the proposed commercial lot is the frontage. When the setback requirements are met, 90 feet of the building frontage is left remaining, which is a very narrow lot for this type of use, especially when surrounded by residential uses, he noted.

"Other fast food parking lots have on average three to four times the amount of parking lot space that 916 Ratingen," Christensen wrote. "When arranged double-sided with a drive-up window, sufficient parking would not be possible on the proposed lot unless the primary structure is very small and parking spaces even further reduced."

He noted that changing the lot's zoning to general business would mean that future uses of the property could someday change from the proposed fast food restaurant being planned for the lot.

"Some of those uses that could provide problems for us would be bars, gas stations, motor repair places, things like that," Christensen said. "We just have to simply say that this it is probably inappropriate to use that lot for commercial purposes, and we recommend that council deny the application."

City Attorney Jim McCulloch told the council that maps included in the Vermillion's comprehensive plan shows that current land use for that area of the city. "It starts commercial down on Cherry Street, and transitions down to multi-family residential and then up to single-family residential."

A second map in the plan shows future proposed land use in the area. "Land use for this particular parcel is considered to be same that it is now," he told city aldermen. "If you were to grant this, you would be in conflict with your comprehensive plan."

Brunick told council members that he believed the new restaurant would be a benefit to the community.

"There really isn't any fast food being close by those new dorms that are being built, other than McDonald's." he said. "The kids – they just love Taco Bell, and I was just hoping that this would work for this town, also."

Darby Ganschow, USD director of Auxiliary Services, urged the council to keep the property zoned as residential. He said changing the zoning as proposed would create a small island of commercial property in a residential area.

"The site doesn't seem to be set up appropriately for commercial development. The size is small, there is no place to grow because of Coyote Village behind it, and because of residential property to the north and the south, and the street to the east," he said. "That seems to be a hindrance to the possibility of creating this into a commercial property."

He told the council that the Brunicks have great vision with their desire to bring a new business to Vermillion. "But I think there a lot of commercial properties available in Vermillion where they could do the same thing," Ganschow said, "without jeopardizing this particular area of the city."

USD is focused on continued growing of its enrollment figures, which is becoming more challenging because of demographics, particularly a trend indicating a decrease in the number of graduating high school seniors in South Dakota for several years to come.

"Once we get our enrollments up to where we think they should be, we will have a vibrant university community," Ganschow said. "That also is going to provide some economic benefits to the city of Vermillion."

Ratingen Strasse, he said, serves as a main route for bringing prospective new students to the university campus.

"Whatever we do, we have to make sure that this area creates a great first impression for these students," Ganschow said. "If we don't, we could lose those students before they ever set foot on campus. We need to make sure that whatever is put into this area is vibrant, is great, and a great recruiting structure for the university."

Ron Ingalls of Sioux Falls, Brunick's business partner in this attempt to locate a new restaurant to Vermillion, told the city council that the proposed new restaurant equates to a $2 million investment, and a 20-year commitment on part of the franchise to the city.

"As far as Ratingen Strasse being an entry-way to the university, it's an entry-way to a dead end, because it goes down to Cherry Street, and that's where it stops," he said. "If there is going to be an entry-way to the university, it should go through the university so you can see the whole campus."

"I know that one of the fears that you have with this project is that it is spot zoning, and I do understand that," said Holly Brunick of Sioux Falls. She asked the city to consider how the land use in the area has changed in the last few months. An area that once housed a trailer park near the residential homes on Ratingen Strasse is now home to large, multi-student residential student housing.

"Now, there is a very large multi-residential complex going up behind these two very small residential lots," she said. "So they have almost been spot-zoned … they (the homeowners) have been left with residential (property) in the middle of something that is very non-residential as far as single-family housing goes."

"Vermillion really does need more of these kinds of enterprises geared toward the students and geared toward the public," Alderman Mary Edelen said. "I really do like that thinking of what can we do in Vermillion to make this a better community.

"However, I have to qualify my statement," she said. "I'm really not sure that this is the proper way to go about this whole thing," noting that changes should be made in the city's comprehensive plan before this type of zoning change is considered. "I'm impressed with how you've been thinking about this, because I believe Vermillion needs more of these kinds of enterprises. I just am not sure if this is the right place for one of those."

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