Harley Davidson wants to expand at new Blaine site

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

The owners of a Blaine Harley Davidson store are looking to move just a couple of miles further north on Highway 65 to build a new “destination” store that would be the largest in the Twin Cities.

The current showroom at the Harley Davidson store in Blaine can hold about 35 motorcycles. The showroom at the new property will be able to hold around 150 bikes, according to the store’s general manager, Ron Dible. Photo by Eric Hagen
The current showroom at the Harley Davidson store in Blaine can hold about 35 motorcycles. The showroom at the new property will be able to hold around 150 bikes, according to the store’s general manager, Ron Dible. Photo by Eric Hagen

Ron Dible and Dale Rhodes bought the Blaine Harley Davidson at 1441 85th Ave. NE in February 2016, but they lease and do not own the building. The store had been there for about 35 years. They also jointly own the Lakeville Harley Davidson, and Rhodes owns a third store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dible said.

Their intent has always been to build a bigger, better building that would become more than a spot to buys bikes, clothing, parts and accessories and be a “destination” that people from many miles away would visit, Dible said.

They purchased a vacant site at 9751 Ulysses St. NE and are in the process of getting city approval to construct a building that would be three times the size of their current location, and this time they would own the building.

The new showroom on the main floor would have space for over 150 bikes. The current showroom can hold around 35 bikes, according to Dible.

“We’re going to have the latest bikes, clothes, parts and accessories. In every department, it’s going to allow us the opportunity and the space to have a lot more options for the customer,” said Dible, who serves as general manager of the Blaine store.

The building would have 11 tech bays for bike maintenance, a dynamometer to test the power output of an engine and a heated garage where people could store their bikes during the winter.

Dible and Rhodes’ goal would be to open about one year from now. Before they can break ground, they will need approval from the Blaine City Council. This was scheduled to come back for a discussion at the Jan. 19 meeting and the final vote is set for Feb. 2.

The Blaine Planning Commission recommended approval, although it did hear opposition from neighbors at its Jan. 10 public hearing.

Residents were concerned about loud Harley bikes riding in the area and that this ultimately would decrease their property value.

Katie Vazquez and her family recently moved into a home on the corner of 98th Avenue and Buchanan Street, which is one possible access for the bikers making their way to and from the store on the east side of Buchanan Street.

“My family and I are opposed to the construction of this property mainly because we are new homeowners and are starting a family,” she said.

Vazquez’s father, Ron Gustafson, also lives in this home and said more people on Buchanan Street should have been notified.

“Everyone on Buchanan should be notified because it’s going to be affecting them,” he said. “I have nothing against Harley Davidson, but you guys have to think about the flow and where the cars and motorcycles will be going. Buchanan is going to be a raceway, guaranteed.”

Blaine always sends public hearing notices to properties within a 350-foot radius of a proposed project. In this case, the public hearing notice went to 25 properties, and residents from three properties gave public comment by coming to the Jan. 10 meeting or sending an email.

Mitch Ficocello is worried about people revving their motorcycles and the “rallies” that could be held on the site.

Kieralee Krueger said her dog has extreme anxiety and barks at every loud automobile or motorcycle that drives by.

“I feel this will make the value of my property drastically drop,” she said. “I feel this is not an appropriate business to be built so close to a development.”

Planning Commission Chairperson Joe Ouellette said he would like the city to ask Harley Davidson to not do any test driving on Buchanan to “start off on a good foot” with the neighborhood.

”It’s like anything else in society. It’s that 5 or 10 percent that ruin it for everybody,” he said. “Let’s see if we can figure out how to corral them from the get-go.”

The store would have two access points, with neither being on Buchanan Street. The store would be located closer to Highway 65 and the western 4 acres of the site bordering Buchanan Street would not be touched because it is wetland, which Dible said gives a “natural buffer” between the store and the neighborhood.

While some riders coming south on Highway 65 could take 99th Avenue and Buchanan Street to get to the Harley Davidson store, Dible said their test route avoids Buchanan Street and the neighborhood to the west.

“You don’t learn anything test riding a bike at 25 mph through a neighborhood,” he said. “They’re not going to have to worry about test rides through their neighborhood.”

The test drivers would be directed to turn right on Highway 65 from 97th Avenue. From there, they would head east on Highway 10, take the County Road J exit, head west on County Road J (85th Avenue) and turn north on Highway 65.

“Most riders tend to be sensitive about their impact on neighborhoods and tend to be respectful,” Planning Commissioner Daniel York said.

But in order to even allow development on this site, the council must amend the rules of its planned business district to allow a motorcycle dealership showroom and maintenance facility. The council was made aware of Harley Davidson’s interest in this site in August 2016 and said they would be supportive of this type of development.

Blaine city staff have told the City Council and Planning Commission that Harley Davidson would need a special events license every time they hold any type of rally. Dible said they did a Hogtoberfest this past October where they cooked up large pigs to feed pork to riders who stopped by. They also like to do rides for charities.

While the riders would park their bikes outside, Dible said they would utilize their large mezzanine to hold most activities inside and not outside.

“We’re super excited about it,” Dible said.

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