During its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night, the city plan commission unanimously approved a site plan for the Merrill Festival Grounds’ multipurpose building.
According to city administrator Dave Johnson, the structure will span 80’x245’, covering 19,600 square feet and will house an expo hall as well as a new location for the Merrill Enrichment Center.
Later Tuesday evening, the commission held a public hearing on re-zoning of the former Lincoln House property from “Business District” to “Planned Unit Development.” City officials also unveiled a very recent development proposal for the property Tuesday night.
In fact, according to Mayor Bill Bialecki, the city just received printed plans for the development Tuesday morning.
According to Johnson, the plans call for a 4-story building complete with underground parking, consisting of a single retail space, 30 income-dependent living units and 10 “market rate” living units.
“The developer just approached us before Thanksgiving. They are under time constraints due to applying for grant funding,” Bialecki stated. “This hearing isn’t meant to decide if we should move forward with the development, but rather to decide if we should re-zone the property. That is the first step we must take for any development.”
Commission member Mike Williams raised concern of a zoning issue if the development were to fall through.
“If the development fails, the zoning will revert back to Business District,” answered zoning and building inspector Darin Pagel.
As part of the public hearing, two county residents who live outside the city limits spoke in opposition to the development, citing their desire for downtown commercial development rather than residential.
Merrill resident and owner of Ace Hardware Tim Haight spoke in favor of the development, citing the possibility of additional downtown residential property assisting in business growth.
The commission ultimately approved a motion by member Ken Maule to consider re-zoning, pending additional information to be submitted per ordinance requirement.