Zoning changes proposed for Coon Rapids auto mall

A change to both the zoning and land use designation has been proposed for the Coon Rapids Auto Service Mall site on Coon Rapids Boulevard.

The Coon Rapids City Council June 18 will act on a recommendation from the Coon Rapids Planning Commission to a request by Mid America Real Estate for a change to the comprehensive land use plan and rezoning for the five parcels at 2624-2760 Coon Rapids Blvd., from office to general commercial.

The rezoning ordinance was introduced by unanimous vote at the June 4 council meeting.

The city approved the auto mall project in 1987 as a planned unit development, which authorized only specific automobile related uses, including auto service, parts and accessory sales, according to Planner Scott Harlicker.

Since then, the auto mall concept has lost its popularity and over the past few years, the property owner has found it more and more difficult to find tenants that comply with the auto-related intent of the planned unit development, Harlicker wrote in a report to the commission.

Indeed, the auto mall recently has had more vacancies than auto-related businesses.

Right now, there are only four tenants, Harlicker told the council.

In a letter to the commission, Mid America Real Estate stated that over the past few years, it has seen increasing interest for the current vacancies by more “general” retailers.

According to Mid America Real Estate,  most of the uses allowed in the general commercial zoning district are “actually less intense and less invasive uses, particularly in the areas of sound and smells when compared to auto service related users.”

“The current location no longer lends itself to auto user interests, but now lends itself to more general retail users,” the property owner states in the letter.

The broader range of uses at the center provided by the land use and zoning change “will help fill vacancies, keep the facility vibrant and active, all the while continuing to serve the local Coon Rapids community with services in current demand,” it states.

No changes are proposed to the site, according to Harlicker.

The existing trees that provide a buffer to the residences to the south cannot be removed without having the original site plan modified with approval from the commission, Harlicker said.

In recommending approval of the zoning and land use change, Harlicker wrote that it would promote the improved appearance and function of Coon Rapids Boulevard, would eliminate an obsolete land use and would have no adverse impact on the area.

No one spoke at the public hearing before the commission in May and it concluded that the changing times and market warranted the zoning change to general commercial.

According to Harlicker, if the rezoning is approved, then one of the current tenants, an auto body shop, will become a non-conforming use. It will still be able to continue in business at the auto mall, but it would be unable to expand, Harlicker said.

“We have an opportunity here to keep things moving forward on Coon Rapids Boulevard,” said Mayor Tim Howe.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]