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Moratorium could be extended

DULUTH - Deliberating over details like whether brick substitutes are the same as bricks and whether it's possible for a large building to have a roof that comes to a point, members of the Duluth City Council debated standards that will come to define all future large-scale developments in the city.

The large-scale development study began in response to Wal-Mart's request for variances to build a 176,000-square-foot building on about 31 acres at the corner of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Chattahoochee Drive. But the City Council's decisions would affect hospitals, schools and other large retail projects if they pass the measure next Monday.

Now, there is a moratorium on all buildings greater than 75,000 square feet, set to go through January.

At a Monday work session, council members discussed how much glass buildings should have and whether parking lots should be landscaped. They talked about which building materials they would allow and prohibit and how to ensure that projects had a unified theme.

Some council members worried that their efforts to keep Duluth's small-town character intact might backfire by keeping quality businesses out.

"We want to be mindful of the fact that we don't want to make doing business here so cumbersome that we drive everybody away," City Councilwoman Marsha Anderson Bomar said. "We have to strike a balance to get good quality development that we want."

Council members decided to stop short of calling the regulations an overlay district, instead saying they were simply regulations that would be in effect when buildings hit a certain size.

Council members also said they wanted to consider steps they could take to keep big-box stores and other properties from remaining vacant and said there was a possibility that the moratorium may be extended to allow those provisions to be created.

Members of the public will be able to comment on the large-scale development study at Monday's City Council meeting

and the draft version is available on the city of Duluth's Web site at www.duluthga.net.

The study is part of controversy surrounding Wal-Mart's request to build a store in the area. The retailer was denied building permits in August because of the moratorium and two lawsuits have been filed against the city by landowner Jack Bandy, one with the intent of having the moratorium lifted.