Walmart and other businesses could have a chance to stay open for 24 hours, but the Andover City Council will have a say in this on Nov. 7.
Andover divides its business community into five zoning districts — shopping center, general business, industrial, limited business and neighborhood business.
For example, the Andover Downtown Center that includes County Market is within the shopping center zoning district. The Andover Station developments along Bunker Lake Boulevard, including the future Walmart, are within the general business zoning category. The Kottke’s bus property falls within the industrial zoning district.
The former Serendipity Café building that now houses Anytime Fitness, Healthy Vibe Nutrition and Studio K are in the neighborhood business area. A small property on the west side of Crosstown Drive and just north of the Molly Professional Center is the city’s only limited business zoned area.
At this point, the city has allowed businesses within the neighborhood business and shopping center to be open for 24 hours if they wanted to while other businesses had to shut down at some point.
The council in early October stated that businesses that have to shut down at some point must do so for a five-hour window between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The city code defines this as “non-continous” hours of operation.
Walmart, at that point, could not have a 24-hour store, but this could have also impacted other businesses. For example, Community Development Director David Carlberg said that Target has been opening at midnight for Black Friday, and it could have done so this year with the way the new code was written.
On a 4-2 vote Oct. 23, the Andover Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the city ordinance be revised to permit continuous hours of operation in the shopping center, general business and industrial zoning districts, while the neighborhood business and limited business areas could have 24/7 operations as well if the council approves a conditional use permit (CUP) on an individual basis.
The council will make its decision at the Wednesday, Nov. 7 council meeting, which is not on the regularly scheduled Tuesday because of the election.
Carlberg said if the council adopts the new ordinance, existing businesses within the general business and industrial zoning areas could be open for 24 hours if they choose. Anytime Fitness is in the neighborhood business district, but it still would not need a CUP because it opened at a time when the city permitted 24/7 operations in this zoning district.
Steve Farrell told the commission during the Oct. 23 public hearing that government should stay out of business decisions,
“It’d be horrendously irresponsible to put in a stipulation to not allow a business to be open 24 hours that could employ our neighbors,” Farrell said.
On the other hand, Hugh Ward read the city of Andover’s vision statement from its website and stressed the words “quiet neighborhoods.”
Ward said the city had failed the residents in the Parkside at Andover Station housing development by even putting it so close to the general business zoning district land that once had the Pov’s Sports Bar and will next have Walmart.
Andover is not on a main thoroughfare like Highway 10 or Highway 65, so Ward does not see why Andover’s Walmart should be 24/7 when other stores in the metro area are not.
According to its website, Walmart metro stores designated as “supercenters” that are 24 hours include Brooklyn Center, Cambridge, Elk River, Forest Lake, Maple Grove, Oak Park Heights and Shakopee.
“Supercenters” in Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Fridley, St. Paul and Vadnais Heights have reduced hours as do some nearby Walmart stores in Blaine and Coon Rapids that are not listed as supercenters. The Fridley Walmart supercenter is open from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Ken Madden said telling stores they have to close sends a bad message to other businesses that may be coming to Andover. This is coming up because of Walmart, but the council cannot just tell one business what to do, so others could be impacted, he said.
“I don’t like the city council, because of one business that they don’t like, telling the rest of the businesses to close,” Madden said.
Madden would like having 24-hour businesses in Andover, especially during the holiday shopping season so he could shop for gifts when his wife and kids are asleep.
John Stong said businesses helps the tax base pay for the Andover YMCA/Community Center and the other nice amenities that the residents enjoy, so he does not want the city hindering businesses. People who move next to areas zoned for commercial use should understand this is what they are moving next to, he said.
“We need to be as flexible as possible and say, ‘Andover is open to business,’” Stong said.
Planning commissioner Kyle Nemeth said County Market used to be open 24 hours, but now chooses not to be. That is a decision businesses should be allowed to make and not government, he said.
Planning commissioner Valerie Holthus believes that all businesses that want to be open 24 hours should apply for a CUP, regardless of what zoning district they are in. Criteria such as traffic and noise could then be addressed by the council.
A CUP comes with an application fee, a public hearing at a planning and zoning commission meeting in which neighbors are notified and then an appearance before the council.
“By putting that conditional use permit on all of our business districts, it doesn’t necessarily restrict 24 hours of operation, but at the same time it does allow for another layer of review, so future planning commissions and future city councils can take a look at each business as they come in and determine if it’s appropriate for our community,” said planning commissioner Steve Peterson.
According to Peterson, while most people at the Oct. 23 meeting asked government to stay out of business hours regulation, others at past public hearings and through emails have asked the city to restrict hours so there are mixed opinions in the community on this issue.
Holthus and Peterson voted no to the proposed ordinance amendment because it does not require a CUP for all districts.
Planning commissioner Dennis Cleveland said councils and thus political leanings change. Someone can always find a reason to not allow a 24-hour business, so he preferred not requiring a CUP for the larger commercial and industrial zoning districts.
“You let the business stay or fail because of the business, not because of something we did,” Cleveland said.