Hastings City Council approves preliminary planning for apartment proposal

Posted 10/6/21

By Theodore Tollefson The Hastings City Council convened for their first meeting of October on Monday night and held two public hearings for awarding contracts to an ordinance and charter amendment. …

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Hastings City Council approves preliminary planning for apartment proposal


By Theodore Tollefson

The Hastings City Council convened for their first meeting of October on Monday night and held two public hearings for awarding contracts to an ordinance and charter amendment.

Although public hearings were on the agenda as well as public comment, no one chose to speak during the public comment nor either of the public hearings.

The ordinance on the agenda was regarding a proposed 32-unit apartment building that has been proposed to the city by local realtor Luke Siewert. The 32-unit apartment building is proposed to be built at the northwest corner of Tyler and 3rd St. The current lot is filled with a parking lot and house. The house is currently owned by Siewert and the parking lot is owned by the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority (HEDRA).

John Hinzman, Community Development Director for the city of Hastings, said to the City Council Monday night that HEDRA authorized sale of the parking lot property to Siewert back in July.

“This would be a four-story building, the first story would be parking and then three stories of residential above that,” said Hinzman. “One of the challenges of this project is how you deal with a zero-lot line. Basically no setbacks building right at the property line and have it not look like a parking garage in the first level. Generally, a parking garage is not something we want to do, we want some activity on that first floor. That’s been a challenge on this site and we’ve been able to have the developer incorporate some landscape to provide a better feel of that first floor.”

Hinzman also shared that the building meets all landscaping requirements that are set by the city of Hastings and that from a massing standpoint on the building’s design. The building has a representative look of older buildings in downtown Hastings to keep in tribute with design on what came before.

Council member Lisa Leifeld asked about the logistical side of parking with the building’s first floor and if the planning for the Siewert project had taken a recent downtown parking study into consideration with their planning, “Looking at what we’ve got going for parking with that lower level. With the recent downtown parking study, has this been reevaluated or reassessed and taking into consideration the findings from that study?” asked Leifeld.

Hinzman answered Leifeld that the recent parking study done for downtown Hastings had not been taken into consideration at this proposed apartment building, but has done all within city requirements to make parking adequate and not an eyesore for city residents and travelers to its’ first floor parking space.

Leifeld also asked how many parking spaces will be available for the entire building both indoors and outdoors as well as if all parking will require

See CITY COUNCIL Page 9 entrance keys given out to residents.

Hinzman said that there would be 32 indoor garage parking spots for the building and 13 outdoor and that all indoor parking will require entrance keys that only residents of the building would be given.

Council member Mark Vaughan asked if the soil underneath the proposed lot had been looked at and if the possibility of the soil not being able to uphold an underground parking garage so close to the Mississippi River, and if the plans may have to change because of the soil.

Hinzman assured Vaughan that parking would not be underground for this apartment building, but on the surface as mentioned previously during the planning presentation.

Prior to Monday night’s meeting, the Siewert plan had been reviewed by an advisory committee and had the City of Hastings planning commission approve 7-0 on recommendations of actions set forth for this development plan at the September 13 meeting.

After questions from the council, Mayor Mary Fasbender moved a motion to approve the ordinance amendment for the zoning code at this property from its’ current C-3 designation to DC. There was also a motion to approve the start of construction for the Siewart apartment project. These motions were seconded by council member Tina Folch and both approved by the city council.

Following the approval of the Siewert Apartment proposal, the City Council discussed conversations that they have had with the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council (HPAA C) and their advocation for the city to create an arts commission for the city to enrich the arts culture within the city of Hastings.

HPAAC had filed their study done on economic impact of local arts to the city council earlier this year in March, and city administrator Dan Wietecha shared that city staff had recommended it was not the best approach for adaptation of an arts commission for the city. Wietecha said staff felt that HPAAC’s study would be a great guiding document; however, “staff hesitated at the suggested formality of inclusion in the comp plan,” said Wietecha.

To speak for the community advocacy of creating an arts commission for the city of Hastings, SC Toys owner Barb Hollenbeck spoke to the council as a citizen advocate outside of HPAAC membership on why the arts commission would greatly benefit the city.

“When my family and I moved here in 1999 I thought Hastings was a great place but there was nothing to do with the arts at all. I always thought that was missing and that Hastings was missing that opportunity of having that arts component. Over the last ten years it’s been building and becoming extremely successful, the initiatives, the events, the art exhibits, our riverwalk containing art, the new mural. I just feel a commission is a great way to keep the arts programming going and propel the city into the future,” said Hollenbeck.

Following Hollenbeck’s presentation of advocacy to the council, members deliberated back and forth on how an arts commission could be created for the city of Hastings and what obstacles would be in the way of its creation.

Councilmembers Folch and Vaughan had recommended that it may be more beneficial to the city to add the initiative of enriching the arts in Hastings to already established commissions for the city rather than creating an entirely new one set for the arts. Councilmember Leifeld countered her colleagues saying a singular arts and culture commission is necessary for the Hastings city government, believing fully that local arts help improve the public both on an entertainment and economic standpoint.

After deliberation between the council members, the majority decision for the Hastings City Council was in favor of creating an arts commission for the city but they believed that the arts commission needed more centric, concrete goals before meeting with the planning commission for approval.