Review of Vermillion Street guidelines comes weeks before expected CVS development application
With a potential major redevelopment plan about to come before the city, the Hastings Planning Commission recently took a look at the document guiding development in the Vermillion Street corridor.
The Vermillion Street Corridor Development Guidelines were established in January of 2008 after extensive discussions between city staff, businesses and the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. Its goal, as stated in the document, is to improve the area’s economic vitality and market position. It deals with business viability, visual image, transportation and pedestrian safety from 11th Street to 33rd Street. The guidelines are not ordinances, said Community Development Director John Hinzman, but rather a vision for what the community, city and businesses wanted to see in the area.
Now, with CVS Pharmacy on the verge of completing an application to build a new store on the northeast corner of Vermillion and 15th streets, the commission took some time at its July 22 meeting to discuss how the guidelines affect development and how they should be applied to new development proposals. CVS is working with city staff to complete an application for development of a new store here. The site in question covers the entire block at the northeast corner of Vermillion and 15th streets. Hinzman said he expects to bring the application to the Planning Commission at the Aug. 26 meeting.
Positioning of buildings was a matter commissioners brought up for discussion. The guidelines indicate a preference for having new buildings constructed right along Vermillion Street with parking alongside or behind the building, unless neighboring structures already have parking in front. The guidelines are what led to the orientation and position of the NAPA building at Vermillion and 15th streets. The guidelines were also brought into play with the Kwik Trip development proposal, which was ultimately stopped for other reasons.
Commissioner Don Slaten expressed concern that, as buildings approach Vermillion Street, truck and sanitation traffic moves closer to the residential neighborhoods adjacent to the corridor. That’s where the complaints will come from, he said.
Another issue with pushing buildings up against Vermillion Street is that customers don’t always understand where to go or where to park, according to one business owner who contacted commissioner Bryan Alpaugh.
While there are places along the corridor where parking isn’t visible, it’s not desirable, Hinzman said.
“We certainly wouldn’t want to put CVS in that position with the development of this site,” he said.
He pointed to the NAPA building, where the parking lot is visible from the street and the building still meets the guidelines.
“I believe that in many of these sites, you can accommodate the positioning of the building on the roadway and have parking very visible,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Bullington said he was concerned about the aesthetics of the corridor, and whether or not the city is attracting the kinds of businesses it would like to see there. Things like weed control in the median and roadway repairs, which are both the responsibility of MnDOT, affect the first impression people get of Hastings.
Bullington asked if it was possible to create some legislation or another mechanism to ensure the areas of the city people are likely to see first are kept in good condition.
“There’s mechanisms for doing that,” Hinzman said. “Ultimately, it’s going to require dollars to do it.”
Has it been effective?
Bullington said that the Vermillion Corridor guidelines are “one of the most critical things we can look at in Hastings.” He recognized the effort that went into creating it, but questioned how effective it’s been and if it’s time to re-evaluate the document.
“...But you know, it has been five and a half years, and, just looking at the Vermillion corridor today, I’m just wondering how ultimately effective this has been,” he said.
He wondered whether or not the guidelines have ever discouraged developers from taking on projects within the corridor. Hinzman said he has not heard of that happening.
“It would be a shame if that was to occur,” Hinzman said. “If we’re doing that, I frankly don’t think we’re doing our job here with these types of guidelines.”
Addressing Bullington’s point that the guidelines may not be meeting the city’s needs as the economic and business environment changes, the commission indicated a need for the guidelines to undergo a regular review process.
“I’d like to see some ending date that it needs to be reviewed by,” said commission chairman Mark Vaughan.
Any guideline or plan needs to be reviewed after a certain point, he said. Hinzman indicated he would plan to bring the guidelines back for review around 2018, in keeping with the 10-year review schedule already established for other plans like the city’s comprehensive plan and the downtown Heart of Hastings plan.
The Vermillion Street Corridor Guidelines are available online. To view the document, go to www.ci.hastings.mn.us/
CommunityDevelopment/Index.html and click on “Vermillion Corridor Guidelines” under the Resources tab.