Harmony Planning Commission shoots down proposed retail variety store CUP

By Charlie Warner

By a 4-1 vote at their Tuesday, Feb. 8 meeting, the Harmony Planning Commission recommended that the city council not consider a retail variety store Conditional Use Permit (CUP) ordinance.

By a 4-1 vote at their Tuesday, Feb. 8 meeting, the Harmony Planning Commission recommended that the city council not consider a retail variety store Conditional Use Permit (CUP) ordinance that was proposed by the Harmony Economic Development Authority (EDA). The proposed Dollar General store would be located at the site of the former Wheeler’s Bar and Grill.
Planning commission member Jesse Grabau made the motion, which was seconded by Miles Petree. Commission members Tony Webber and Jim Strozyk voted in favor of the motion, while commission member Erik Olson voted against it. 

Proposed ordinance summary
A retail variety store would only be allowed to locate in the City of Harmony by a conditional use permit. It would be defined as a retail store between 3,000 and 15,000 square feet that sells at retail an assortment of physical goods, products or merchandise directly to the consumer, including but not limited to food or beverages for off-premises consumption, household products, personal grooming and health products, and other consumer goods. Retail variety stores do not include stores that (1) contain a prescription pharmacy; (2) sell gasoline or diesel fuel; (3) specialty food stores; (4) dedicate at least 75% of shelf space to food or beverage items of any type; (5) dedicate less than 1% or shelf space to food or beverage items. A copy of the complete proposed ordinance can be found on the City of Harmony’s website. 

Ordinance history
The proposed ordinance was first discussed by the EDA last fall and finalized during the EDA’s Jan. 20 meeting. At the Jan. 27 city council meeting, EDA President Kerry Kingsley explained why the EDA had proposed the ordinance. He said that the EDA board did not feel a dollar store would be a good fit in Harmony and that dealings in the past with proposed dollar stores had never worked out.
During a special city council meeting held Jan. 27, a large crowd was on hand to comment on the proposed ordinance. Consideration of the proposed ordinance was prompted when it was learned that the Dollar General Corporation was interested in locating a store at the former Wheeler’s (Harmony Roller Rink) site. The city received site plans for the Dollar General building and a check for the zoning permit on Jan. 27, according to City Administrator Devin Swanberg.
A number of individuals spoke during the Jan. 27 meeting – some favoring the ordinance and others who felt it really wasn’t in the city’s place to decide which retail businesses could be allowed and which ones couldn’t. The EDA asked the council to consider the proposed ordinance and requested a moratorium on granting a zoning permit to any potential retail stores.
The council listened to the comments and then decided to impose a moratorium on the issuance of new zoning permits to retail variety stores. The EDA recommended a 90-day moratorium. After more discussion, and advice from EDA Coordinator Chris Giesen, the council agreed to a moratorium with an end date of March 10.

Concerns lead to public hearing date
At the Feb. 8 planning commission meeting, Petree said he was concerned that the proposed ordinance was created “so that a certain store couldn’t locate here. And I feel we could be opening ourselves up to a lawsuit.” Grabau agreed with Petree and questioned on what the proposed ordinance was based. “There are a lot of things in this (the ordinance) that I am not comfortable with,” Grabau noted. 
Following the planning commission meeting, the Harmony City Council met where they learned of the planning commission’s recommendation. The city council decided to schedule a public hearing on the proposed ordinance to be held Tuesday, March 1, at 7 p.m. in the Harmony council room. 

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