St. Paul zoning panel approves controversial Como-Raymond development

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Despite oppostion from some neighborhood residents, the St. Paul Zoning Committee on May 11 unanimously approved a request from Como Raymond Properties (CRP) to rezone the property at 2101 Como Ave.. That change is necessary in order for owner Ned Wesenberg to add a Subway restaurant to a remodeled building on the site.

The approved TN2 zoning classification permits moderate-sized fast-food restaurants, which are not allowed in B2 areas. Wesenberg also wants to change the BP station now on the site from an auto service station to an auto convenience market. The latter use is not permitted in TN2 areas, so a conditional use permit is necessary.

CRP also requested variances for parking, fences, ingress/egress and outdoor storage. The Zoning Committee approved variances for 15 parking spaces rather than the required 19, waiver of a required six-foot wall between residential property and the site, and reduction from 60 feet to 40 feet of the distance between an ingress-egress lane and residential property. The committee denied variance requests for outdoor storage and a required three-foot wall along the site’s right of way.

Zoning Committee action followed approval of CRP’s plan by the District 12 Land Use Committee and the executive committee. The next step in the process is a hearing before the St. Paul Planning Commission on May 19.

At the May 11 meeting, Wesenberg said that he purchased the BP station in response to a request from the previous owner. He said he plans to spend $60,000 on landscaping at the Como-Raymond site. Wesenberg also owns Park Service at 2277 Como Ave.

Landscape architect Stephen Mastey said that the proposed plan will increase parking on the site while reducing the amount of impervious surface.

Several neighborhood residents spoke in opposition to the zoning change. Bill Plummer said he represented other residents of the Alden Square neighborhood, which is located southeast of the BP station. Plummer said they support beautification of the corner but don’t think rezoning is necessary to accomplish that.

Plummer said the proposed plan would increase congestion at the intersection, put more pressure on already strained parking in the immediate area, and further endanger the pedestrian crossing at Raymond and Gordon, just south of Como. He predicted the addition of a fast-food restaurant would add 650-700 vehicles a day to the area.

Plummer also complained that residents did not receive adequate notice of the redevelopment plans, and he asked the Zoning Committee to at least delay a decision in order to give residents more time to discuss the matter.

Alden Square resident Erik Jordan said that fast food on the site is being used to justify beautification and questioned whether that “Faustian bargain” make sense.

Robert Warde said that a fast-food restaurant would not fit the character of the neighborhood. He echoed Plummer’s request for a delay on the rezoning decision.

Speaking in support of the rezoning, Jeff Lunde, who manages the Subway at 2121 University Ave., said that the previously cited figure of 650 new vehicles a day was grossly inflated.

Philip Broussard, the project’s building architect, said they predict significant walk-in traffic at the new restaurant. He pointed out that most St. Anthony Park residents who now want to go to a Subway travel by car, so Subway is already generating automobile traffic in the neighborhood.

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