The Cloquet City Council denied a request to use the city’s Veterans Memorial Park as the site of a car and recreational vehicle sale during its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Twice in the last 10 years — most recently in 2018 — Cloquet Ford Chrysler and Coates RV used the park for a fall sale. Following the 2018 sale, however, some concerns were raised if the sale was an appropriate use of the park.
After looking back at the zoning ordinance, city staff discovered using the space where a sales event was the primary use is prohibited and denied the application for the 2019 sale.
Dealership owner Al Birman requested clarification because vendors are allowed in the park at the city’s Fourth of July celebration each year.
While the ordinance prohibits a sale as a permitted primary use, they are allowed as part of a “public festival” and the council voted unanimously to deny the application.
Birman questioned the council’s decision, noting that one of his business partners is a disabled veteran and listing off the tax revenue the two businesses generate for the city and Carlton County. He also said Cloquet Ford Chrysler spends significant money marketing the city throughout the region.
"We've spent $15-17,000 a month on TV, radio, newspaper, internet and mailers promoting the city — bigger and better than any other business, better than the (Cloquet Chamber of Commerce), better than anybody," Birman said.
Following Birman’s comments, several local veterans took an opportunity to say that they weren’t comfortable with the park being used for a sale.
Ward 3 Councilor Sheila Lamb was concerned that using the park for a sale could cause damage to a space the city has invested large amounts of money.
“The amount of money that we have put into this park — that is a primary concern for me,” Lamb said. “It’s something for the city to be proud of, but more importantly for our veterans to be very proud of and the preservation of that — out of respect for them and to honor them I think is part of this equation.”