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Commission creates TIF for hotel project

A proposed hotel project moved forward Monday with the creation of a tax increment district on Superior’s waterfront. 

But residents affected by and opposed to the project scored a small victory.

While the project area included a number of area residential properties, those homes were removed from the project area.

The Plan Commission on Monday amended the project area after residents expressed concerns about their home being labeled “blight.”

“As a citizen of Superior here, I would like to see development here,” said Matt Miller of East Second Street. “Unfortunately, I’ve got no choice but to be against this. I am affected financially by the proposal.”

Miller said an associated issue has come to his attention since ZMC Hotels, based in Duluth, announced plans to build a 75-room Hampton Inn on Superior’s waterfront.

Residents in the project area received notice their properties would be declared blighted.

“That essentially opens up the door for us to be pushed out against our will,” Miller said.

Miller asked the commission to consider removing the residences from the project area.

Susan Chandler agreed the declaration was troublesome. Her mother lives across Highway 53 from the proposed hotel project, and Chandler said her mother has been very upset since receiving the notification.

“I’m watching an 80-year-old woman who has been told her home is a blight in the city of Superior,” Chandler said. “This is killing her; she’s every emotional. She cries every day about this. This was done very callously, without concern for the citizens.”

Despite the negative connotation, blight does not reference the condition of the homes, said Jason Serck, Superior’s economic development, port and planning director. Legally, blight refers to vacant land or abnormally platted property, the latter of which is the case in the area, he said.

The plat essentially goes out into the harbor and corrections need to be made, Serck said. He said after consulting legal counsel, it was determined there would be no issues with removing the homes from the project area, and eliminating the negative connotation that comes with a blight declaration.

While several area residents spoke against the project, not everyone living in the area is opposed to the development.

John Williams of 300 block of East Third Street was the first of seven people to step forward in favor of the project.

Six people spoke against the proposal.

“If we expect to grow in this town, we’re going to need a different type of hotel,” Williams said. “I worked at Fitger’s for eight years and the type of people who most often stayed there were … from all the big companies because it was a very service oriented, high class type of hotel.”

Williams said the high-traffic intersection is probably the best site for a new hotel.

According to Mayor Bruce Hagen, two hotel chains independent of one another selected the site on the waterfront between Perkins and the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center.

“It’s not a very big residential area that’s going to be affected by it,” Williams said.

The commission maintained the boundaries in creating the TIF, but amended the project area to remove the residential properties.

The tax increment district does include the residential properties, said Attorney Bob Tofte, who represents the city’s Plan Commission and Redevelopment Authority on development issues.

The commission also tabled a proposed change in the city’s zoning ordinance that would allow hotel development in waterfront districts.

Serck requested the delay in a decision to give the city time to talk to residents about the proposed change.

A public hearing on the project area begins at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Room 201 of the Government Center.