Editorial: Fountain Lake needs a restaurant

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, June 8, 2010

On the north shore of the biggest lake in Fairmont, Hall Lake, boaters can tie their crafts to the docks at the Channel Inn and sit down for an outdoor meal at a patio along the shore or an indoor meal in the wood-lined interior. Or they can phone ahead, tie the boat to the dock and retrieve their to-go order from the exterior bar.

Ice cream, burgers, fries, hot dogs and all the usual goodies are available at the Channel Inn.

This scene of a beloved restaurant catering to boat traffic is repeated at many lakes all over the United States.

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But not on Fountain Lake in Albert Lea.

The No. 1 reason it has not happened would seem that an investor is needed to open the restaurant.

However, the No. 2 reason is that none of Fountain Lake’s shoreline is zoned for retail commerce.

There is some near the Episcopal Church for office space, but no land on the shore allows a restaurant. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

So if there ever would be a suitable entrepreneur, initial research would find no location in which to invest.

A simple zoning change could send the right message.

Albert Lea city leaders should take the following steps:

Assign an existing committee or organization to look into a location along Fountain Lake that would be suitable for commercial zoning, perhaps even the creation of a special lakefront commerce zone.

Begin steps toward building a wharf for boat parking along Bridge Avenue across from Walgreens. Boaters already park on the rip-rap there and walk to Lakeside Cafe, Fountain Warehouse Liquors and even all the way to McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza and Godfather’s Pizza.