Billboard permit on hold

Request will be approved if airport says it's OK

By Joshua Lynch

STEWARTVILLE -- The owner of a closed truck stop at U.S. 63 and Interstate 90 wants to erect two electronic message boards there.

Albert Lea-based Malcolm Inc. has requested a building permit from the Township Cooperative Planning Association to install a 105-foot tall message board near Interstate 90 and a 23-foot tall message board along U.S. 63.


Township zoning administrator Gary Pedersen said final approval to install the signs is pending with nearby Rochester International Airport.

"We're still working with the airport to see if an illuminated sign is allowed there," he said. "If we get a 'yes' from them, then the permit will get a 'yes' from us."

A temporary restraining order issued July 29 temporarily prohibited any remodeling at the former Hungry Bear Family Restaurant near Stewartville. The order was nullified Aug. 7 when a building permit was obtained.

Township officials sought the order after they became concerned Malcolm Inc. might convert the site into an adult business. Company officials eventually said the building would house a New Age-themed retail store.

Malcolm Inc. owns four buildings in Minnesota -- two in St. Cloud, one in Mankato and one near Duluth -- that house adult bookstores run by another company.

Stewartville's land-use plan and township ordinances prohibit adult businesses within 1,000 feet of proposed residential development, which applies in this case.

Pedersen said approval of the two signs will hinge upon their height and illumination. Township regulations do not require Malcolm Inc. to reveal the messages that would scroll across the electronic signs.

"We do not ask what's going on the billboard," Pedersen said, "but if it's offensive, then it's something the township would deal with later."


Malcolm Inc. was taken to court in July 2000 for erecting a billboard near Mankato advertising the Pure Pleasure adult bookstore. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ultimately said the billboard must be removed for violating county zoning ordinances.

Malcolm Inc. official Malcolm Prinzing could not be reached for comment Monday.

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