Business group drops lawsuit
A business group has dropped a lawsuit attempting to stop a Moorhead homeless shelter's cross-town move. After discussions with shelter officials, the First Avenue Business Association decided to drop the lawsuit against the city, an appeal o...
A business group has dropped a lawsuit attempting to stop a Moorhead homeless shelter's cross-town move.
After discussions with shelter officials, the First Avenue Business Association decided to drop the lawsuit against the city, an appeal of its decision to give Churches United for the Homeless a permit to operate at the former Plunkett's furniture building, said association spokesman Tom Anderson.
"We still have a real issue with the city, but we felt that by pursuing it further it may tarnish things for Churches United, and we didn't want to do that," Anderson said.
Shelter and business group representatives discussed forming a neighborhood advisory group or having a business association member join its board of directors, said Gary Groberg, executive director of Churches United.
"I think we were at least able to allay some of their concerns," Groberg said. "We want them as neighbors and allies -- this is not about somebody being against somebody else."
After those discussions, the association decided to drop the appeal, although members still would have liked to see the council revisit the issue, Anderson said.
"We just didn't want this thing to perpetuate and go on and on and on," he said.
The suit's legal position was not the reason for dropping the suit, Anderson said.
The law firm representing the city in the case had said the First Avenue Business Association did not legally exist as a corporation when it filed the lawsuit, making the appeal invalid.
In October, the Moorhead City Council gave Churches United for the Homeless a conditional use permit to operate at 1901 1st Ave. N.
The shelter had been considering the move because it would cost an estimated $1 million less to renovate the Plunkett's building than to fix up its dilapidated church at 203 6th St. S.
A month later, the First Avenue Business Association filed the appeal, which said the city had violated its zoning ordinances by granting the permit.
The business association never had an objection to the shelter itself, Anderson said.
Members simply felt the council approved a poor location for the shelter -- one unsafe for pedestrians and on a corridor the city had planned to reserve for commercial development, Anderson said.
Those objections haven't changed, he said.
"I think this decision by the City Council is going to hurt businesses in Moorhead for many, many years to come," he said.
City Manager Bruce Messelt said city officials have begun meetings with several business groups about city issues. He hopes to gather more public input earlier when similar issues arise in the future -- for example, when the city begins discussing the placement of possible new public housing.
"We want everyone involved in the decision-making process, so nobody is surprised by the issue, and more importantly, so no one feels slighted by the process," he said.
With the challenge to its permit dropped, Churches United will begin its capital campaign for renovations in March, Groberg said.
Construction could start soon afterward, depending on the flow of donations, he said.
"We'd really like to be able to start it sometime in March, and be in there before the end of summer," Groberg said.
All three parties said they wanted to put the lawsuit behind them and work together, but Anderson added that the business association would likely be involved in city issues in the future.
"We are going to keep the business association together because we need business associations in Moorhead so we have a strong business voice," Anderson said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Joy Anderson at (701) 241-5556