Council to hear project denied by planning board

Council to hear project denied by planning board - A graffiti covered wall - Land lot
A plan to build commercial space, four market rate and eight affordable homes will come before the Marathon City Council. CONTRIBUTED

City of Marathon staff say a proposal calling for a 34,000-square-foot commercial space and 12 homes (four market rate and eight affordable units) meets all city criteria. On Nov. 18, however, the city’s planning commission voted 2-1 to deny it. 

“It’s a huge impact,” said planning board member Mike Cinque. “Although it meets the general calculations, our comp plans says anything over 10,000 square feet needs to be reviewed by the Marathon City Council.” Cinque and board member Matt Sexton voted against, and Lynn Landry voted to approve. Board member Mike Leonard was absent. Pam Dobson has resigned her appointment to the board, and her successor will be appointed by Councilman Dan Zieg. 

Several residents spoke at the planning meeting, opposing the project adjacent to their own homes.

“The project should be compatible with the community,” Cinque said.

Last year, the property was rezoned to become a Mixed Use and Residential Low lot. It’s owned by local developer Guillermo Torres, and purchased after Hurricane Irma. It’s adjacent to the city’s Utility building and spans the area between 101st and 104th streets. The project doesn’t require variances and the conditional use request is “intended to allow for the integration of certain land uses and structures,” according to the staff report.

Torres said he wants to build the $3 million, three-story commercial space nearest U.S.1. For reference, the city’s utility building also has a 10,000 square foot footprint, and is 27 feet at its tallest point. Torres said the first floor of the commercial space would be for retail, the second for varying sizes of office space, and the third floor an open concept for group meetings such as corporate seminars or school reunions. 

“We would probably enclose about 10 percent of the top floor for facilities,” Torres said.

If approved, the project would be completed in phases, with the commercial aspect completed first. He said he already has verbal interest in the commercial space and a proven track record of building concrete homes in Marathon for the middle class: 14 houses in 2019 and 15 houses under contract for 2020.

“There are four houses already constructed behind that property. I live in one and my brother lives in the other,” he said, adding that it is his intent to respect the neighbor’s concerns, as he lives there as well.

The entire site is 6.69 acres: 2.3 acres are zoned mixed use and 3.73 acres are zoned residential low. The remaining is considered submerged lands and would remain untouched. The plan calls for access to the site from 101st and 104th streets, and not U.S.1. The city requested an additional 5-foot easement on 101st Street to widen the road. The city requires, and the plan calls for, 96 parking spaces.

The project will be heard by the City of Marathon at a future council meeting. Torres said he has hired legal counsel.

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Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.