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AUSTIN EDITION Council approves photographer's move

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

The Austin City Council allowed the owner of a downtown photography studio Monday to move her business into a residential neighborhood despite complaints from several neighbors.

Misty Christ, owner of MC Photography, received a conditional land-use permit from the city to run her photo-studio business out of the home at 504 Fourth St. S.W., which is in a single-family residence district.

After almost an hour-long discussion, the council voted 5-2 in favor of the request. Council members Scott Pacholl and Gloria Nordin opposed it. In October, the Planning Commission voted 4-3 in support of the request.

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Christ and the home's owner, Steve Wheeler, made the petition for the permit. Christ now will buy the home from Wheeler and move her business there from North Main Street.

Her plans include demolishing the property's current garage and building a garage attached to the home. A 2-square-foot sign for the business will be placed on the garage.

Several residents who live near the home wrote or spoke at the council meeting against the request, citing a lack of street parking and the business not fitting in well with the older, classic neighborhood. They also worried that the business would decrease the value of surrounding properties.

Bruce Loeschen, 501 Fourth St. N.W., expressed concern with potential parking problems and said approving the request could lead to more businesses in the neighborhood. He suggested Christ build in one of the city's vacant lots.

City Attorney David Hoversten advised the council that the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that mere public opinion against a proposal does not justify the council denying it.

"It's not a popularity contest," he said.

Christ told the council she's the only employee at her business and she constantly has to run back and forth between her home and work. This move will make her life much easier, she said, adding it also would help her pursue a master's degree online. Her current home is too small for a studio.

Business will be done by appointment, she said, and parking shouldn't be a problem. The driveway can hold several cars, she said, but usually she has only three to four appointments a day.

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Noting her plans for a new garage, Christ said she thinks property values will increase.

"I just don't feel that this should be a problem," she said.

Under city ordinance, Christ will have to comply with eight rules, including containing the business to one floor of the home and making sure any products for sale are not visible from the street.

After the vote, Mayor Bonnie Rietz wished Christ well with her move.

"I'll be a very good neighbor," Christ told her.

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