Fenton— Applicants who want to turn the Red Fox Outfitters building into an event and banquet venue have a few weeks to get signed lease agreements for the parking lots if they want their permit approved.
At the Thursday, January 27 meeting of the Fenton Planning Commission, a few commissioners indicated that they wanted something done with the building. However, they were unwilling to approve the special land use request unless Cruwood Granary had signed lease agreements with the companies that would allow them to use their parking lots.
The property is 0.542 acres located at 234 N. LeRoy St.
Applicants Chelsie Welch and Corey Cunningham, owners of Cruwood Granary, are seeking a special land use permit to convert the building into a special event banquet hall that will host events for 200 people or less for weddings, showers, retirement parties, office parties and Suite. The property is zoned Central Business District/Planned Unit Development. Its current use is listed as retail, although Red Fox Outfitters closed in March 2020. Skypoint Ventures, the real estate/capital development arm of Phil Hagerman and Jocelyn Hagerman, owns the property.
Carmine Avantini, President of CIB Planning, and Justin Sprague, Vice President of CIB Planning, who are Fenton’s planning consultants, have found that the plans conform to the proposed land use and are properly serviced by existing facilities and roads.
It is potentially compliant maintaining the existing and intended character of the area.
“It is also important to note that the food will not be prepared on site but will rather be delivered by catering services. The applicant should be prepared to explain to the Planning Commission which catering/restaurant services will be used and how many vehicles are needed for deliveries,” according to their report.
Cunningham said they plan to approach local businesses for catering services.
Parking remains the main concern. The plaintiffs said they plan to give their customers city maps and signpost other parking lots. They also plan to use shuttles and valet parking. Welch said a majority of wedding guests use shuttles or Ubers.
“Another possible concern, which should be addressed as part of the provided parking study, is the potential impact that event parking would have on area businesses and the adjoining residential neighborhood to the northeast,” according to the Sprague report.
Applicants may count public parking spaces within 500 feet, but must demonstrate space availability. The ordinance requires a parking space for every two people of capacity, and the applications indicate that the maximum capacity of the facility is 240. This means that 120 parking spaces are required.
Welch and Cunningham have identified eight separate car parks that their customers could use. In total, the plan shows 301 parking spaces. ROWE Professional Services Company conducted a survey between 4pm and 6pm on Friday November 5th and Saturday November 6th to study the number of places available in these lots. There were 140 places available on Friday and 166 available on Saturday.
In addition to public parking, agreements with private companies make up some of these spaces. Customers have an agreement to use the car parks at Fenton Glass (60 parking spaces) and the Skin and Vein Institute (29 spaces). A third car park with 11 spaces is the customer’s property.
However, planning commissioners have expressed concern that these agreements could end at any time. CIB Planning recommended denial of the special land use application.
“…we are of the opinion that a permanent solution to the parking supply has not been made. It is possible that this use will negatively impact existing businesses in the area as well as the residential area to the northeast. It will then be up to the municipal government to resolve these associated parking issues and the solutions may not be readily available,” according to the letter.
Commissioner Tyler Rossmaessler said he doesn’t understand why an event space would have more parking issues than a restaurant. “I understand it’s by bike, but if the parking lot is full, the parking lot is full,” he said. “We have to come to a ‘yes’ on something.”
In October 2020, another applicant applied for a special event permit, but was denied due to parking issues.
Rossmaessler said this building is too important to the city center not to be used.
The commission ultimately voted to defer the matter until the next meeting to give Welch and Cunningham time to secure leases with those companies to use their parking lots. The next Planning Commission meeting will be on Thursday 24th February at Fenton Town Hall.