344 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
  
   
www.344summit.mn.cx 
  

Proposed "Luxury Boutique Hotel" 

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Watson Davidson residence (1915? / 1916?)


Proposed "Luxury Boutique Hotel" (2014)

(Click on any photo for an enlarged view)

DELINQUENT
PROPERTY TAXES

at
344 Summit's Boutique Hotel

"...one of the finest,
if not the finest,
projects of its kind in the state.
"

As of  01/11/2016
$   2,705.29  delinquent -- All 2014
$ 23,355.54  delinquent -- All 2015

[ Current Payment Status ]

Zoning Committee - General Info

  • Agenda - Public Hearing - August 28, 2014

  • First Draft - of Staff Report - 8/21/2014

  • 14-316-432 - Final Staff Report - revised 8/28/2014

  • Memo - to Zoning Committee - 08/28/2014

  • Committee Results - Summary - 8/28/2014
       
    Next?  The full Planning Commission receives the recommendation of their Zoning Committee and will vote on Friday, 09/05/2014, to approve or deny the application.      

       


  • Ahead of the Zoning Committee's 08/28/2014 public hearing, the hours-old freshly-revised staff report was presented.  During the public hearing, 1 person spoke in favor and 3 spoke against the proposed boutique hotel.  Immediately after the public hearing was closed, a motion containing carefully drafted special conditions was proposed, voted on and passed without public discussion.  It was late, the meeting adjourned, and everybody hurried home. 

  • It seems that a bit of behind-the-scenes "arm-twisting" and large amounts of discussion took place between 8/21, when the first staff report was written, and 8/28, when the revised staff report appeared.  Both staff reports recommend denial of the application:  

    • The revised staff report reads like it is analyzing a residential apartment building

    • The original reads like it is analyzing what the application actually requests - a hotel - which, in St. Paul, is defined as a commercial use.

    • Apparently, via eleventh hour behind-the-scenes semantics (verbal and not clear how binding as to the developer), and despite the application's very clear written description that forcefully and repeatedly uses the the word "hotel," at least some members of the Zoning Committee were persuaded that this venture is residential and not commercial. 
         

  • If 344 Summit really will not be used for commercial purposes, why isn't the word "hotel" simply replaced by the word "residence" or "apartments" or some other non-threatening, non-commercial, residential-type word?  And then, everything else could be left pretty much the same.  One word...could answer a lot of questions...and close many loopholes. 
       

  • PROBLEM:  This is not a simple issue with a clearly-defined answer.   One way to resolve it is to deny the current application, after which the developer can reapply for reuse of his large structure as a Luxury Boutique Residence, d/b/a "Watson's Roost for the Really Rich" or whatever name he chooses.

    • Discussions in June to mid-July:  Change word "hotel" to "residence?"  Nope.  Broad limitations on banquets & receptions, etc?  Nope.  Narrower limitations, ok.  Required off-street parking?  Nope.  Ingress/egress?  Nope, don't worry.  Event venue?  Nope.  Impossible.  No liquor.  Well...trying to get license.

    • Some issues became today's eleventh-hour special conditions (Thank you!).  "Hotel" thorn remains.

    • Wheels are in motion.  If John really means what he's been saying about not being commercial, there's probably little reason for a boutique residence or boutique apartments application not to succeed. 

    • If he envisions trying to creatively circumvent or "test the limits" of today's proposed CUP, a name change that deletes the word "hotel" will be resisted.

Developer's application for a Conditional Use Permit was delivered to the City of St. Paul on 07/30/2014 and "officially received" on 08/05/2014

Conditional Use Permit Application
    
    


Planning Commission - General Info

  • Agenda - September 5, 2014, 8:30 am

  • Planning Commission Resolution - as proposed & voted on by Zoning Committee 08/28/2014, ~6:45 pm
        
        

  • The proposed Planning Commission Resolution (up for a final vote on 09/05/2014) includes eight special conditions that are definitely a step in the right direction.  

    • Those eight conditions aim to satisfy a number of the concerns that are raised in these web pages.  

    • Many thanks for these efforts
         

  • However, the proposed Resolution goes on to recommend approval of the application for a conditional use permit for a "hotel" at 344 Summit.

    • A hotel is classified as a commercial use, and thus may not be consistent with the description of Established Neighborhood in the Land Use Plan for this particular location.  

    • The revised staff report (dated 08/28/2014) states that two required conditions are not met because a hotel is a commercial use [Findings 4(b) and 5(a)], and goes on to recommend denial of the application for a CUP for a hotel.

    • A 3-page memo from city planners to committee members discusses the difficult issues at length and suggests that the committee might wish to change some of the findings.

    • Despite the inconsistency (see above), members of the Zoning Committee did vote to change staff findings (as suggested by city planners in their memo) and recommend approval of the proposed Resolution.

      • 4 votes in favor

      • 1 vote against (Nelson)

      • 2 members departed before the vote 

        

  • PROBLEM:  Approval of a conditional use permit for a use that is not permitted provides fertile grounds for an appeal to the City Council.

 

  • Another way to resolve this might be to draft a document for the developer to sign that will become part of the CUP in which John Rupp agrees that the word "hotel" does not designate or allow any commercial use of the property at 344 Summit, EXCEPT as follows:

    • to qualify 344 Summit under Sec 63.207 as a property with ten (10) residential apartment occupancy units that is required to provide three (3) spaces of off-street parking for overnight short-term lodging guests.

    • other ?

    • other ?

    • i.e. -- Plan ahead and tell us about it, or you don't get to do it. In the long run, it will be a better business plan. 

Excerpts from Planning Commission Resolution, 14-316-432
● as recommended by the Zoning Committee - on 08/28/2014
● for approval or denial by the full Planning Commission - on 09/05/2014

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Saint Paul Planning Commission, under the authority of the City's Legislative Code, that the application of John Rupp for a modification of condition 65.132(d), the parking requirement, is hereby denied; AND

BE IT ALSO RESOLVED, by the Saint Paul Planning Commission, under the authority of the City's Legislative Code, that the application of John Rupp for a conditional use permit for reuse of a large structure for a  hotel  at 344 Summit Ave is hereby approved, subject to the following conditions:                           [emphasis added]

1) A minimum of three off-street parking spaces must be provided on the property, subject to approval by the Heritage Preservation Commission.

2) The property will not be used as a reception hall, banquet facility or assembly hall.

3) The applicant will acquire all necessary and appropriate licenses and permits prior to establishing the use.

4) All exterior alterations to the structures and site must be approved by the Heritage Preservation Commission.

5) No food or beverage service is to be offered to the general public.

6) Changes to the driveway to provide for all non-commercial vehicles to exit forward onto Summit Avenue.

7) All commercial vehicles providing delivery or services must be accommodated on site, without blocking travel, parking or bicycle lanes, or the public sidewalk.

8) All site work to accommodate conditions for this use must be approved by the appropriate entities and completed before the use is established.

  

  

  

 Watson Davidson's
  Gardens & Crops
         (1949)


Watson, strolling in his gardens (1949)

Zoning Code Section 66.214.  Intent, RT2 townhouse residential district.   "...Because of its residential nature, this district is not intended for more intensive uses such as small conference centers, private retreat centers and reception houses."

     

Property owner, business owner and local developer, John Rupp, purchased the former art school property at 344 Summit in 2013 and is exploring uses for the site.  He has talked to various staff at the City of St. Paul about historic preservation codes for building remodeling, permits for beer/wine service, uses allowed under zoning, etc.  

Developer's application was delivered to the City of St. Paul on 07/30/2014 and "officially received" on 08/05/2014.

July & August 2014.  Developer's proposal is aimed at the creation of a "Luxury Boutique Hotel" to include:
  
restored interior (10 units) 
  
restored grounds and gardens 
  
ongoing efforts to obtain a liquor license 
  
a single narrow driveway for: 
      
stacked parking of guests' cars, except when needed for 
      
ingress/egress, delivery vehicles, service access  

(See Developer's Proposal)

 

  At our Boutique Hotel, 

        rules are for 

        ...  ? ?

  

One of the significant problems, as I see it, is my understanding that in the City of St. Paul "hotels" are considered "commercial" ventures that commonly include ballrooms, banquet spaces, meeting rooms, spaces to gather in groups, etc., etc., etc. (what I will loosely call, "party venues").  Zoning in our residential neighborhood does not permit "hotels" with their intensive uses. 

I believe that to propose and later receive blanket approval for a "hotel" without specifying strict written conditions that restrict usage will produce, by default:

  • sleeping spaces;

  • party venue spaces;

  • service and delivery traffic;

  • resident guest traffic;

  • commercial guest traffic;

  • parking demands (guests, staff & services);

  • ingress/egress demands; and

  • who knows what else.

Eric Lein, across-the-street neighbor