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Board's decision could have implications for Mitchell's lodging industry

Mitchell's Planning Commission decided against recommending approval for a lodging house on North Capital Street in city limits on Monday. The property outlined in yellow is the site for a proposed lodging establishment called The Corner Retreat. (City of Mitchell photo)

The city of Mitchell could soon set a precedent impacting the future viability of short-term lodging in city limits.

Mitchell's Planning Commission recommended the denial of a conditional use permit request from Tracy and John Fink on Monday to allow a gathering and lodging space called The Corner Retreat to operate at 1400 N. Capital St., which lies within a single-family residential district. The denial was recommended in a 3-2 vote at City Hall Monday and will face its final test before the Mitchell City Council at its meeting next week.

If the denial is upheld — approving the permit would require support from six of eight council members — City Attorney Justin Johnson suggested it could have broader implications on what's allowed in city limits.

According to a letter filed by the Finks, the house would be used for family gatherings, retreats or lodging for families in Mitchell for an event. And only four of the 21 neighbors who received letters about the facility voiced their opposition, mostly concerned with a possible lack of parking created by the proposed facility.

Before the commission recommended its denial, Johnson forewarned there could be more facilities like The Corner Retreat applying for permits in the future.

"I think we're going to see more of these come to the city of Mitchell eventually, so I'm a little bit concerned about this possibly setting a bad precedent," Johnson said, noting the city might not want to be so restrictive.

Johnson suggested the denial of The Corner Retreat could close the door on vacation rentals by owners (VRBO) market in city limits, and there's at least one operating in Mitchell currently.

The council will be the final acting board on the matter, and approving the facility could create a unique space in Mitchell.

"I would love to be the first VRBO in Mitchell, because we don't have anything like this," Tracy Fink said.

As they've prepared for launch, John Fink said some family and friends have used the space. In their letter to the city, the Finks envisioned The Corner Retreat hosting graduation and baptism receptions, wedding rehearsal dinners, family reunions and more in a home setting.

Neighbors who disapprove of the operation have reservations over parking, including Cynthia West.

West shared concerns over parking and said she was drawn to the area of town due to its residential atmosphere.

"I like the idea of a facility like this, I just don't know if it's the right place for it," West said. "And I'm concerned about our property values, too."

Planning Commissioners Doug Molumby and Larry Jirsa also expressed concerns. Molumby addressed parking issues and Jirsa wondered if Capital Street was the right home for The Corner Retreat, suggesting it could devalue adjacent properties.

"My gut feeling tells me it's just kind of out of place there," Jirsa said. "It's too big, there's too many people."

Commissioners Bob Everson and Larry Griffith approved of a motion to allow the permit on a six-month review basis, but were overruled in the recommendation by Commissioners Jay Larson, Molumby and Jirsa.

City Planner Neil Putnam said the City Council will hear the plan at its Nov. 20 meeting.