Are there 'invisible' businesses?Businesses on the west side of Highway 29 South feel like they’re invisible.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Businesses on the west side of Highway 29 South feel like they’re invisible.
Drivers can’t see them clearly because of all the trees in the state’s right-of-way between the highway and the frontage road.
The businesses, which include Tennessee Roadhouse, AmericInn Motel, Days Inn, McDonald’s, Simonson Tesoro and Super 8, are so concerned about their lack of visibility that they submitted a petition to the Alexandria City Council to do something about it.
They want the trees and what they referred to as “swamp vines” removed or trimmed, so out-of-town drivers will be able to see them better.
Kevin Cunningham, owner of Tennessee Roadhouse, told the council that the action was prompted after businesses received their property tax notices that are, once again, increasing.
“My taxes are up 7.1 percent this year,” Cunningham said. “People can’t see our property and with taxes going up…it’s killing us.”
Cunningham said that other businesses on the west side of the highway, such as Target, are also concerned about their vanishing visibility but were unable to sign the petition because of corporate policy.
Cunningham said that the west side of Highway 29 used to be the “high energy” corridor, easily attracting the attention of passing motorists. Today, all that energy is focused on the other side of the highway, which he said is much more visible.
“One side [the east] seems like Vegas,” Cunningham told the council. “The other side is like death.”
Some of the trees are poplars with most of the growth occurring in the high part of the trees, Cunningham said, which adds to the visibility problem.
Cunningham noted that the businesses work hard to keep their properties looking nice but it doesn’t do much good if passing motorists don’t even know they’re there.
“It’s a tough economy,” he said. “We need to be seen.”
The council agreed that something should be done.
Council member Owen Miller said he was under the impression that the businesses had already taken their concerns to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) this past summer. He said he was disappointed to learn that MnDOT still hasn’t done anything about the trees.
The council asked Public Works Coordinator Bryan Bjorgaard to ask MnDOT, since it is state property, if the city could trim the trees. Bjorgaard agreed to do so.
Miller suggested sending a letter to MnDOT that explains the seriousness of the problem and then setting a deadline of January 10 of when the state should get back to the city about a solution.
The council voted unanimously to send the letter.
Mayor Dan Ness said the city should take the matter another step further by requesting Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen and Representative Torrey Westrom to meet with the MnDOT commissioner to discuss the visibility problem.
“I think we need to pull out the big guns here,” Ness said.