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Staff photo by Clay Schult The property at 326 Center Street could become a vintage record and toy store, if the proper permits are filed.

NEW ULM– The Center Street vintage record and toy store will have to restart the permit process.

The New Ulm Planning Commission on Thursday recommended not approving a conditional use permit for the business, but expressed its willingness to approve a provisional use permit if the applicant, James Sowers, does so. request.

Sowers is looking to open a vintage record and toy store at 326 Center Street. This property is zoned in general industrial zoning. The property was previously owned by Minnesota Valley Testing Labs. A license is required to allow a retail business to operate in an industrial district.

City staff recommended CUP approval, considering this type of activity to be less intense than most industrial uses. Staff felt that the undertaking would not negatively impact other industrial land uses in the area and that sufficient off-street parking was provided.

The commission voted against recommending the permit, due to concerns about the permanent nature of a CUP.

Staff photo by Clay Schult Classic album covers are already displayed in the windows of the building at 326 Center St., which is slated to be a vintage record and toy store.

Commissioner Larry Mack asked if an IUP was more appropriate for this type of ownership. His concern was that a CUP would remain with the property even after the businesses moved, whereas an IUP was temporary.

Town planner John Knisley said an IUP could be used in this scenario, but the application was for a CUP and council needed to decide on this type of permit. The published agenda for the meeting indicated that the council would hold a public hearing to discuss a CUP. If the committee voted on an IUP instead.

Community Development Director David Schnobrich said a separate IUP application would need to be submitted for consideration.

AMPI director Bill Swan also spoke out against approving the permit. Swan’s objection was on behalf of AMPI. He said the company was not in favor of having a retail store next door. AMPI is located to the east of the property.

Swan said there was already heavy truck traffic in the area. He thought adding cars and pedestrians next to it would create more problems. Swan said the business would work best in a downtown storefront.

Commissioner Ashley Aukes asked if the traffic created by the New Ulm Furniture was creating traffic problems, as it had been a commercial building next door to AMPI for years.

Swan said tractor-trailers trying to reach AMPI’s truck scale on the east side of their building had trouble navigating German Street. Most walk down Center Street but turn left on German and go around the block instead of back up the ladder.

Swan also said the bike path on the east side of the AMPI property creates conflicts with bicycle and pedestrian traffic. He said the AMPI erred in allowing the trail to pass through this area. AMPI was against any increase in traffic in the area.

Aukes asked Sowers how many customers they expected to come to the store.

Sowers said he ran the Johnny B Good store under the mall before COVID shut down the business. He said that at the time there were two or three people at most in the building.

Business hours would be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Sowers said he wanted it to be a temporary place of business. After starting it, he thought the business would move elsewhere.

Mack said that since the owner only planned to operate the business temporarily, CUP didn’t make sense for ownership.

Aukes made a motion denying the permit with a second from Mack. The commission unanimously denied it.

The commission clarified that Sowers could reapply for the IUP. The IUP would be in effect for five years. Sowers said he was ready to reapply.

The recommendation to deny the CUP will be presented to New Ulm City Council on Tuesday.


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