The International Falls City Council will meet in special session Nov. 19 to consider the outcome of a variance request by the developers of an 83-bed multi-service hotel on Highway 53.
The 6:30 p.m. council session will follow a 5:30 p.m. city Planning Commission meeting when members will hear a request from IFalls Group LLC, developers of a Best Western Plus planned for Highway 53 and Memorial Drive. The developers are seeking a variance to city zoning that requires buildings to be less than 35 feet in height there. The developers' plans call for a 55-foot high building.
The hotel will include a restaurant and lounge, meeting room, fitness center and pool facility, show drawings from Lucachick Architecture Inc. provided by Falls Mayor Harley Droba.
Droba told the council Monday he took part in a conference call Thursday involving the developers, city Administrator Ken Anderson, Koochiching Economic Development Authority Director Paul Nevanen, and city Building Official Kelly Meyers about the project.
The developers request the city improve the now dirt Pleasant Avenue with pavement, and asked the city to work with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to design a more gentle turn off Highway 53 to Memorial Drive.
In addition, the developers said they have asked Minnesota Power to remove or bury power lines across their access on Memorial Drive, Droba said.
Droba told the council Monday he indicated to the developers that the city is committed to address the issues moving forward.
Meanwhile, Droba said the hotel development is just one of several projects in the works that have involved many people, including former Mayor Bob Anderson, Administrator Anderson, Meyers, Nevanen and others.
He said those folks work "behind the scenes... put hours and hours on projects that may or may not see the light of day," and build relationships toward potential growth. He continued that the KEDA works on 10 to 15 projects each day, but few people may know about them because of confidentiality laws and requests and nondisclosure agreements.
"International Falls is investing in our future, the business community is investing in themselves, and we have started the process of moving forward," Droba said.
He also pointed to other positive movement in the community, including the Knights Inn renovation, Highway 53 improvements planned to start next year, the city's five-year capital improvement plan, and the Koochiching Technology Initiative's work to expand broadband internet access.
In other business, the council Monday:
- Agreed to send letters to the KEDA Board, International Falls-Koochiching Airport Commission Board and the International Falls Recreation Commission seeking bylaw changes that would allow the organizations the flexibility to appoint elected or non-elected representatives to serve on the joint-power boards.
- Agreed to seek additional bids to remove, upgrade and replace two furnaces and air conditioners at the Koochiching County Senior Center building, which is owned by the city and leased to the center. Street and Water Commissioner Ted Brokaw told the council discussions have been ongoing about the issue for about five years. He said the furnaces are working, but replacement parts no longer are available should they fail, so plans for replacement need to be made.
- Appointed Center Ward Councilor Joe Krause as mayor pro tem, to serve in the case of Droba's absence.
- Approved a consent agenda that included approving employment separation for police Patrol Officer Kalan Schneider, effective Oct. 24.
- Renewed the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force Inter-Agency Agreement, with the community in it's second year of membership, noted police Chief Rich Mastin.
- Approved Mastin's recommendation to increase from part time to full time police Patrol Officer Dustin Helgeson, effective Nov. 18.
- Approved Droba's appointment of Michael Klaphake to the vacant seat on the Zoning Board of Appeals, filling out the term held by Jerry Franzen, who resigned, expiring Dec. 31.