BAXTER -- Preliminary plans for a Holiday Inn Express, restaurant and meeting room at the Twin Birch motel site in Baxter surfaced at the city's planning and zoning meeting Tuesday night.
Conrad Bye, Nisswa, presented the idea to the planning commission as an informal, preliminary proposal at the end of the meeting. An area franchise for a Holiday Inn Express was awarded to Bye and Paula and Jim Traylor, Crosby.
Bye proposed building the Holiday Inn Express at the Twin Birch motel location, which he already owns. The motel is located just off Highway 210 and west of the Highway 210/371 intersection. The Twin Birch motel has been at the location about 30 years and is still operating, but it is not zoned for a motel.
Bye approached the commission about six months ago requesting a zoning change from the current office/service zoning to commercial two zoning, which would allow the Holiday Inn. The planning commission approved the change, but Bye said he pulled the request before it reached city council consideration in order to work on the overall proposal.
That zoning change and a variance for a setback from the neighboring property to the north will be early topics with the commission. The neighboring property on the proposed hotel's northern border is zoned residential, but has been in practical use as office space. Residential zoning requires a 20-foot setback while commercial properties allow a 10-foot setback. That extra setback room will be needed to close the gap to meet the city's parking space requirements. Without the variance the project falls about 30 stalls short of the city's parking requirements.
With the variance, the proposed hotel plan calls for 165 parking spaces. City requirements are for 172.
Bye said he was looking at shared parking between the restaurant, the hotel and the conference room, with the anticipation that a single car may account for guests using all three facilities.
Commission Chairman Bob Kinzel said he thought the piece of property was too small for Bye's plan.
"I'm not sure where the commission's going to go on this," Kinzel said.
Commission member Ron Matich said they were talking about a disparity of seven parking stalls. "Let's look at the entire picture," he said.
Bye acknowledged a great deal was being done on the property, which is about three acres. But he said land is expensive.
Today Bye said maximizing land use is key with expensive property and consideration of sprawl. He said it also makes sense when looking at green space requirements and having a diversity of assets -- such as the hotel and restaurant -- in order to create year-round revenues.
The proposal calls for a 72-room hotel in a three-story building with an elevator, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant and a 1,500-square-foot meeting room that could accommodate 150 people. The restaurant, which is likely to be a familiar franchise name, is expected to seat 132 people. The proposal is set for further discussion on the commission's March 13 agenda. If all goes without a hitch, Bye said construction could start in early September with an opening in April 2002.
Holiday Inn Express hotels are considered "limited-service" hotels that offer complimentary breakfast bar and competitive rates for business and leisure travelers. The Holiday Inn franchise became available in the area when the Ramada Inn replaced the former longtime Holiday Inn location on South Sixth Street in Brainerd.
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