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Development Roundup December 2019

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Jane McClure

New Taco Bell restaurant?
A controversial plan to rebuild the Taco Bell at 565 N. Snelling Ave. is going back before the St. Paul Planning Commission and its Zoning Committee. Plans for Zoning Committee hearing 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 at City Hall, and a commission vote as soon as Dec. 20.
Planning Commission decisions on conditional use permits are final unless they are appealed to the St. Paul City Council.
There has been a Mexican-style fast-food restaurant at the site since 1973, including Zantigo and Zapata as well as Taco Bell. In 2015 a new restaurant was proposed but plans were set aside after objections from neighbors and Planning Commission members. At the Planning Commission, there was debate as to whether or not allowing the current business to keep operating was a good outcome.
Restaurant owner Border Foods wants to tear down and replace the existing restaurant, retaining its current drive-through service. Plans call for moving the drive-through service farther away from residents, adding a wall and other buffering features, and reducing the amount of on-site parking.
Taco Bell has been a source of controversy. Late-night and early morning patron behavior at the drive-through has drawn complaints over the years, including noise, fights, loitering and other behaviors.
One complication for Border Foods and for neighbors is the lack of clarity in city records. At some point a drive-through window was installed, although a conditional use permit was never issued for the window. It’s not clear why that didn’t happen because the permits are a longtime requirement for all types of drive-through services. With no conditional use permit for Taco Bell, the city never had a chance to place conditions on operations such as speaker placement and noise levels, and hours.
Another wrinkle is that the site’s longtime commercial zoning was changed to traditional neighborhoods use, as part of a larger study for North Snelling. That type of zoning is meant to promote denser, more walkable neighborhoods and deter uses such as drive-through services.

Parking ramp changes hands
One of the few city-owned parking ramps outside of downtown has a new owner. The St. Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) November 13, approved the sale of the Spruce Tree Center ramp to the adjacent office building owner, Spruce Tree Center LLC.
Sale price is $1.5 million.
A license agreement with the city will allow for 200 ramp spaces to be used for events at Allianz Field, the Major League Soccer stadium just east and south of Spruce Tree Center. The terms of the license agreement allow for up to 25 professional soccer matches and up to 10 other events, as well as a gold cup soccer event.
The center and ramp are at the southwest corner of University and Snelling avenue. A purchase has been negotiated for more than a year.
In 1987 the city worked with Metro Plains development to build the office building and the ramp. The building, with its bright green exterior, is meant to resemble a spruce tree. The building was in private ownership, but the ramp was a city-owned ramp.
The operating agreement gave the building owner the right to purchase the ramp.


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