Local business owner Tom LaMotte brought a petition to the Devils Lake City Commission meeting Monday evening asking to put a stop to a project planned for the city’s historic downtown.

Local business owner Tom LaMotte brought a petition to the Devils Lake City Commission meeting Monday evening asking to put a stop to a project planned for the city’s historic downtown. Although the protest period for the project had long been closed, Mayor Dick Johnson and commissioners Dale Robinson, Rick Morse and Craig Stromme listened to LaMotte’s concerns during the Visitors or Delegations portion of the agenda.

LaMotte stated he had called business owners from several cities that had completed this kind of project to get their perspective. What he found was many who said that if they had a choice, they would not do it again although many were still optimistic that their businesses might come back now their projects were completed. LaMotte’s main concerns were the loss of parking for downtown merchants and businesses - an estimated 60 parking places, the length of time that the downtown area might be difficult to access during the construction period, the cost assessed to the downtown business owners and how navigable the streets will be once there are trees, bushes, bump-outs and obstacles added to the sidewalks.

“We need to be able to see and to get around on the streets,” LaMotte said. LaMotte had been part of the Steering Committee that originally developed the plan and although early on he was in favor of it, he now believes the plan should be scrapped fearing it will do more harm than good for the city’s downtown and its occupants.

Kelly Swenseth, also a downtown business owner and part of the Steering Committee gave an eloquent rebuttal to Lamotte’s presentation. She outlined the benefits and positive outcome hoped for by those in favor of the project.

Both agreed that something needed to be done to “spruce” up the downtown area, but at this point, it appears, that was about all they agreed upon. The mayor suggested they reconvene the Steering Committee to bring the two sides together and to see if there was a way the project could be “tweaked” to allow a few more parking places and some solutions to the concerns brought up by LaMotte and those who had signed his petition. That meeting has not been set as of this printing.