I have been working over the last year and a half on my development project for downtown Elk River with my recent focus on addressing the concerns about the impact the project will have on the local business during construction and how to mitigate those impacts.
I informed the mayor and city council in writing that I had lots of information to present to the business downtown and the community about the project specifically regarding the impact to local businesses and how I believe those impacts can be addressed in a way that allows the business to thrive during construction. The coronavirus resurgence, new lockdowns, and business restrictions have essentially halted any ability to effectively share the information. The harsh economic pain being experienced by some business, my own restaurant the Tipsy Chicken included, made it clear now was not the appropriate time to move forward with any further discussions. There were simply much larger concerns to be addressed and life needed to get back to some sense of normal and business needed to get back open.
I requested from council and the mayor that the Jan 4th deadline for the next meeting be extended 6 months in the hopes the pandemic would be mostly behind us and the important work of addressing the impact on local businesses could be worked through with the local business and property owners. It seemed a common sense and responsible request.
Regrettably, the council and mayor chose not to accept my request for the extension. That would be disappointing but acceptable if that were the only decision, but it was not. The council and the mayor then made the irresponsible decision to call a public meeting against my request as the very citizen proposing the development. They somehow feel that in the middle of a pandemic where so many businesses will be just over a month from reopening, including the Tipsy Chicken, a public meeting was a good idea and that gathering feedback on my project without allowing me to present my full proposal and answer the community’s concerns was a good plan. On top of that they also decided it would be a good time to ask our citizens to provide feedback on where they think downtown should be in the next 5 or 10 years so they can put it into the comprehensive plan. I don’t know about you but I’m not anywhere near being at a spot where meeting with hundreds of people to try and determine what our city should look like in 5 or 10 years makes sense. It is appalling our mayor and council think that’s an important discussion to be having right now.
If you support development downtown or prefer that it stays the same, we should all agree it’s irresponsible to hold a public forum of such importance with potentially huge long-term significant impacts on our community at a time when business is just reopening, the virus is still surging, and our citizens are still trying to navigate the challenges of everyday life, Myself and family included.
I am publicly announcing that I am withdrawing my proposal and will not partake in the irresponsible public forum. As a citizen and business owner I urge the council to refrain from gathering feedback at a time when not everyone’s voices can be heard, at a time when people are trying to open their business and manage the challenges of school, daycare, quarantines, work, and so on. Do not use the pandemic as a time to shape the future of our great community and instead focus on making sure this community gets through the pandemic and economic hardships. I love this community and will continue to work hard everyday to make it better for ourselves and our children, which is why I feel withdrawing my proposal and refusing to engage in such irresponsible government action is the clear choice. I look forward to seeing everyone again soon at the Tipsy Chicken and wish everyone a safe and healthy 2021. — Jesse Hartung, Elk River resident, president of Modern Construction and owner of Tipsy Chicken in Elk River.