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Elevator platforms move workers at the Costco site up into the roof supports.

Biz Buzz: Costco begins hiring

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News Brainerd,MN 56401 http://www.brainerddispatch.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/brainerd-migrated/11444370.jpg?itok=M3R04AEZ
Brainerd Dispatch
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Biz Buzz: Costco begins hiring
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Costco: Now Hiring

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Prospective employees can now fill out applications as Costco is now hiring for Baxter jobs through its website.

A sign at the Costco Warehouse construction site off Elder Drive in Baxter announced the hiring process has begun for the store. Construction must be ahead of schedule as the company moved the opening date, listed on its website, up two days to Oct. 24.

Previously, Costco listed the opening date as Oct. 26.

For prospective employees, the starting hourly wage is listed at $11 per hour. Costco previously told the city of Baxter, employees, on average, earn $22.37 an hour after they have been with the company for three years. On the company’s website, it has a link at the bottom for employment opportunities.

Costco currently operates 605 warehouses, including 438 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 82 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 22 in the United Kingdom, 13 in Japan, eight in Taiwan, seven in Korea and three in Australia.

In filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Costco reported it plans to open up to three new warehouses by Sept. 2. In its list of locations coming soon, Costco has 16 warehouses listed for openings between Aug. 17 and Nov. 29, including Baxter and one in Rochester.

The strip mall near the Northwest Fourth and Washington streets intersection recently had a facelift and added something not typically seen along the main thoroughfare through Brainerd — green space. Nor-Son handled a remodel for the building. Transformation efforts also dramatically changed the front exterior from pavement to flowers, grass and trees. The back parking area offers access to the businesses from well-marked doors.

While green space was added to the city there, a variance was requested for a lot down the street so less green space would be needed.

Justin Imgrund applied for conditional use permits to put in an automotive sales and service business and a variance for less green space than required for the undeveloped lot on Washington and Northwest Second streets, just west of the Mississippi River. The lot, near Ace Hardware, has been home to Balsam Lane’s Christmas tree sales each winter and abuts the Tyrol Hills residential area.

The application was before Brainerd’s planning and zoning commission Wednesday and approved by a 3-2 vote for the site plan and a 4-1 vote in approval of the variance from the green space although survey work on the site had yet to be completed. Mark Ostgarden, Brainerd city planner, said approving the plan without the survey information is atypical. But Ostgarden said it’s all in the comfort level of the planning commission for what is needed to make a decision.

Ostgarden said it’s certainly possible to make a decision without the information, although there may be a dilemma if the decision is based on data that isn’t accurate, such as setbacks or buildable area.

The added twist on this property is its location on the banks of the Mississippi River. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) right-of-way is also a player along the frontage, meaning the applicant would likely have to get MnDOT approval for some tree removal.

The property is zoned for general business, which allows auto sales and repair. Ostgarden said about 10 people, mainly from the nearby residential area, spoke against granting the conditional use permit or the variance. Ostgarden said residents missed an opportunity when the city was rezoning land along Washington Street last year and could have voiced a desire to have the zoning restricted to office space.

If the site plan has to be changed after a survey is done, Ostgarden said another hearing may be required.

The plan for a 12,000-square-foot building and paving for a car lot, creates additional impervious surface on a lot that is now largely grass. Ostgarden said any additional run-off has to be contained onsite, which is why a survey, stormwater management plan and utility plan has to be done to verify there is room for all that on the site. There is a retention pond currently at the base of the hill for runoff from the existing impervious surface to protect the river.

Ostgarden said from a land-use perspective, the auto business is allowed although it required a CUP and a variance, meaning the city could put on additional requirements unlike a business such as a fast-food restaurant, which could have received a permit without conditions to build on the site. Because of the relationship to the river, Ostgarden said the site does raise additional concerns.

“So we want to take a closer look at how it’s designed,” Ostgarden said, adding compatibility with the neighborhood was also a concern. These plans need to be done so the petitioner has the responsibility to build the way the project was proposed, Ostgarden said, without that the petitioner takes a risk of not being able to build unless the plan is changed. The land is owned by the Gustafson family.

Ostgarden noted if the city says no it is looked upon as anti-business and if it says yes residents may think they aren’t being listened to. “Where is the middle ground?” Ostgarden asked. As with most things, it’s a balancing act.

“We’ve decided it is the right business for the spot,” Ostgarden said. “We just need to make sure it’s compatible. There would have to be some extraordinary circumstances to say no.”

Since the state Legislature removed the hardship requirement for variances, it is difficult to deny those requests and they rarely are, Ostgarden said. But the city can establish conditions for a use that doesn’t match enough that it can be handled with a straight permit, such as screening.

The planning commission agreed an 8-foot fence was required on the north side of the property toward the residential area, saying the five property owners should work out what look is acceptable. That is not typically done, Ostgarden said.

The final decision is with the Brainerd City Council. The issue will be before them on Aug. 20. The council could require the green space to be included in full or request difference fencing or plantings as buffers. But Ostgarden said the council typically approves or denies planning commission recommendations and they have at times disagreed.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz.

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Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852
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