Dingmann gets OK to construct funeral home
LUVERNE -- Despite objections voiced by three community residents, the Luverne City Council Tuesday evening unanimously approved a conditional use permit for Dan Dingmann to construct a funeral home on the former Fledgling Field along U.S. 75 in Luverne.
The approval is a long time in coming for Dingmann, who has had plans to develop the bare lot for seven years.
"After seven years and many thousands of dollars, we've reached the finish line -- we see the light at the end of the tunnel," Dingmann said following the special city council meeting.
Tuesday's session began with the City Council's termination of a memorandum of understanding it had signed with Dingmann a few years ago.
The memorandum in question outlined Dingmann's plans to renovate the community's former hospital and clinic building. However, with two new City Council members, a new mayor and a new city administrator taking the helm since that memorandum was signed, not everyone was in favor of the agreement.
Dingmann signed his intent to terminate the memorandum prior to the meeting, City Attorney Ben Vander Kooi announced. However, that termination is contingent upon the completion of three steps -- including that Dingmann be granted a conditional use permit to build a funeral home on Fledgling Field, that the city grant him a building permit and that construction be started on the project.
Prior to the council's approval of the conditional use permit, Mayor Andy Steensma offered those in attendance an opportunity to voice opinions relating to Dingmann's request.
Renae Sawtelle, who lives in the neighborhood of Fledgling Field, was concerned that despite voicing opposition to Dingmann's plans for the past five years, City Council members didn't take their opinions into consideration.
She questioned the city's comprehensive plan relating to Fledgling Field being zoned as "downtown mixed," meaning that it is open to both residential and business development.
Council member Pat Baustian explained the reason the city zoned the neighborhood as downtown was because there were already a number of home-based businesses such as beauty salons and dental clinics in the area.
"Of any of the options, it probably fits better into a residential district than any other district," Council member Esther Frakes said.
"It seems like it doesn't really matter because most people wanted it there," Sawtelle responded.
Jeff Wollman said he doesn't know of any business in a residential neighborhood that has 41 parking spots. He told the council he was concerned about devaluation of property in the neighborhood once the funeral home opens, and also questioned the zoning and comprehensive plans.
Wollman said he looked at the city's comprehensive plan, and it included 10 pages outlining the city's wishes to "keep the corridor north of Main Street as a residential, character neighborhood."
Dingmann said he has researched how funeral homes affect property values, adding that seven funeral homes he looked at were either converted from a house or built new and showed property values in the neighborhood increased, not decreased.
His plans are to construct a 7,130-square-foot funeral home, with access to the parking lot from both Brown and Luverne streets.
Dingmann said he hopes to begin construction on the funeral home within the next 30 to 60 days and anticipated that it would take about four months to complete.
If everything goes smoothly, he said they could be open in their new location by September.
The existing Dingmann Funeral Home is located in a 1902 home off of U.S. 75. Dingmann said he plans to put the home up for sale, and added that it would make a beautiful residential home.