Council delays decision on bank project

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro City Council said at its Nov. 7 meeting that it needed more information before deciding whether to approve an Emprise Bank request regarding the construction of a new drive-through that would exit onto Main Street.

The project would require the demolition of the bank-owned building that was the former home of Silver Shears, and the loss of seven parking spaces along the Main Street exit area.

The Hillsboro Planning & Zoning Commission had recently recommended by a 4-2 vote that the council approve the project.

Gaylord Goerzen, commission chairman, told the council the vote was not unanimous because some members were concerned that a neighboring business, Prudent Travel, would lose all of its storefront parking spaces.

“They basically eliminated all the parking in front of Prudent Travel, which severely lowers the property value of the Prudent Travel building,” Goertzen said.

“At the present time, they don’t have a lot of people who come to Hillsboro directly because they’re planning tours. But they did say it would affect the sale of the building.”

Kevin Suderman, a member of the commission, added, “I think it’s a good project, but I’m very concerned how you work with one business and potentially take away something from another one at the same time.

“I think it’s something the (council) should be very wary of.”

Mayor Delores Dalke presented a letter stating the same concerns that was submitted by Hank Wiebe, owner of Prudent Travel, who was out of town the night of the council meeting.

“We are not against progress, particularly when it comes to downtown businesses,” Wiebe wrote. “But we are against allowing the progress of one business to have a negative impact on neighboring businesses.”

Bob Watson, senior vice president of Emprise Bank in Hillsboro, presented the bank’s expansion plan once more.

“I would like to second the concern about the parking in front of Prudent,” Watson said at the start. “When we started this, we never dreamed it would take seven parking places. Although we’re not traffic engineers, we still have some big questions whether it really should.”

The council ultimately decided to defer the issue until that question could be definitively answered.

City Administrator Steve Garrett released Monday a judgment on the issue by City Engineer Bob Previtera. He said the city could accept a smaller turning radius than the 15 feet recommended by a traffic-flow study, but the city would assume any legal liability for doing so.

The council also wanted to know if the handicapped parking space located along Main Street immediately west of the bank could be preserved rather than having to relocate it.

According to Garrett, Previtera said leaving the space intact “creates a vision problem for the north-bound lane of Main Street making a right turn (from) Grand to Main.

“Further, it creates a terrible vision problem with the traffic using the drive-through.”

In addition to the concerns for fairness and the loss of parking spaces, Dalke expressed her personal concern about creating a “hole” on Main Street with the removal of the old building.

“When we start tearing buildings down on Main Street, what is our future?” she said.

Watson said the old building would be torn down anyway at some point, but he did not suggest how the space would be used if the drive-through was denied.

Watson listed the “positives” for the proposed project as being better customer service for Emprise customers, plus the increase in the city’s valuation and tax revenue that would occur by investing several hundred thousands dollars to complete the expansion.

“If there’s any way we can work together to somewhat solve this parking deal, or if there’s another solution we haven’t thought of, we’d be very happy to try and work with you,” Watson said.

The council plans to make a decision at its Nov. 21 meeting.

HDC office space

By consensus, the council agreed with a request from the Hillsboro Development Corp. that the office for the director it intends to hire be located in city hall.

“I think it would be a huge benefit for both of us (HDC and the city) to be side by side,” said Lyman Adams, representing the HDC board.

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