Businesses such as Target, Festival Foods and the proposed Walmart can be open for 24 hours between Nov. 15 and Jan. 1, but will have restricted hours the rest of the year.
The Andover City Council approved this proposal on a 3-2 vote Nov. 7. Mayor Mike Gamache and Councilmembers Tony Howard and Julie Trude voted yes, while Councilmembers Sheri Bukkila and Mike Knight voted no.
Walmart representatives had no comment following this decision. The store had been pushing for the right to be open 24/7 throughout the whole year.
Walmart’s legal representative Richard Snyder of the Fredrikson & Byron firm in Minneapolis stated in an Oct. 8 letter to the city that Andover is not located on a major highway so customers that this Walmart store would draw would be residents of Andover.
“They should be reassured to know that if for whatever reason they need to do some shopping in the early morning hours — such as on their way to the airport to catch an early morning flight, or to buy more baby formula needed for that day — that option will be available to them,” Synder wrote.
The catch was the city would have needed to change the city code to accommodate a 24/7 Walmart or any other business in the same area that would want this.
Andover has multiple business zoning districts. The Andover Station development along Bunker Lake Boulevard, which includes the planned Walmart on the former Pov’s Sports Bar site at the northwest corner of Bunker Lake Boulevard and Jay Street, is in the general business zoning district. Just east of here is an industrial zoning district that includes the Kottke’s bus service site.
Both these business zoning districts cannot have 24-hour businesses under the current city code, but the council’s revision will allow the full-time hours during the holiday shopping season.
According to Community Development Director David Carlberg, Target typically has Black Friday extended shopping hours.
When the council recently clarified that businesses that could not be open 24/7 must close for at least five hours between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. each day, Carlberg said this could have impacted these special holiday shopping events.
Therefore, this issue went beyond Walmart. Carlberg said that the Planning and Zoning Commission was already looking at the city code rules for business hours of operation. With knowledge that this was being discussed, Walmart sent the letter to request that continuous hours of operation be permitted in the general business zoning district.
According to Bukkila, in the four years she has been on the council, the goal has been to control the tax base and look at the ordinances to see if they are applicable today. She said staff was directed to find ways for the city to be more business friendly.
The city has conducted a retail market analysis and the Planning and Zoning Commission began reviewing ordinances at the beginning of the year. Bukkila said none of this was initiated by Walmart.
Business owners commented in the retail market analysis that they feel Andover’s business property taxes are too high as are the standards the city enforces. They said the city is difficult to work with, there are no major highways, politics are negative and it is not a business friendly community.
Respondents to the survey said they wanted businesses that created more jobs.
Bukkila read one comment in the business owner survey that said, “The city and government tend to get in the way of businesses by passing ordinances that get in the way of development.”
On a personal note, Bukkila said that she lives 400 feet south of the Andover Station commercial area. Even though this is in her back yard, she supports the 24/7 businesses, she said.
If the council wants higher standards, taxes will be higher, Bukkila said. The business community is a huge taxpayer that allows residents to have nice things such as the Andover YMCA/Community Center, which the council is now looking at expanding, according to Bukkila.
“We’re not living up to our potential and our standards are getting in the way,” Bukkila said.
Trude was very critical of the process. She said when the council approved the preliminary plat for Walmart back in August, the council told citizens that they would be notified if Walmart could become a 24-hour store.
Carlberg said this was a text amendment, which legally does not require mailed notification to individual properties. All it requires is a legal notification in the city’s official newspaper, which is the Anoka County Union, he said.
When the commission and council previously looked at defining what it means to have “continuous” or “noncontinuous” business hours, Carlberg said he did notify all business owners as a courtesy.
He said no courtesy mailings were done before the commission discussed the text amendment to allow 24/7 businesses in the general business and industrial zoning districts. There was just the legal notification in the newspaper.
Trude said many residents did not know this was coming up until they watched the commission meeting on television, and she apologized that residents were not informed of what was happening.
The vision the council had in the late 1990s for the Andover Station area was a small-town community where people could live adjacent to the development and walk to the businesses, she said.
According to Trude, the homes just to the south of Target and other businesses were put in to meet this vision. The city is also selling land in Andover Station North north of the future Walmart site to a housing developer.
Trude does not feel 24-hour businesses fall in with this vision.
“That spoils that whole vision that we worked on so hard on creating as a community,” she said. “I’m not willing to give that up.”
“I think if Walmart wants to rezone their property, they do it the right way.”
Gamache knows that holiday shopping hours are important. With these extended hours in place for part of the year, the city could see if there are any issues, he said.
Knight said this would still be a subjective judgment.
Establishments that are in the neighborhood business and shopping center zoning districts were already permitted to be open 24 hours throughout the year and this will not change.
McDonalds and Kwik Trip are the only two Andover businesses that are currently open around the clock, according to Carlberg.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]