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The parking lot of Zorbaz was full Wednesday night despite a detour and bridge work just outside. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

County Road 7 bridge work brings opportunity to adjacent business, grading delays due to permit issues

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

An old adage of making lemonade out of lemons has a local "twizt."

Zorbaz Mexican & Pizza Joint on Hubbard County 7 is weathering the nearby bridge construction just fine, thank you.

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The pizzeria threw a "hard hat party" last Saturday to capitalize on the detours and roadwork that could have made life a living hell for the business. Instead, the joint is hopping. Customers came in decorated hard hats, wearing tool belts, chatting on walkie talkies.

"Sales have been up," said Zorbaz manager Robb Swanson. "I'm sure there's some people from the north that choose to drive elsewhere, but the bridge work hasn't really seemed to impact us except for lack of parking."

Construction vehicles and workers' cars, all belonging to bridge contractor Central Specialties, Inc., line the roadway and restaurant parking lot.

"One Wednesday when we got hit, they moved all their vehicles up to Dorset to make space for customers," Swanson said. "For the most part they've been really considerate."

Swanson said the restaurant has been pleasantly surprised that the work, closing off the well-used north-south roadway, hasn't hurt the bottom line.

"We were hunkering down a bit ready to take what came," Swanson said. But customers came in droves.

Assistant Hubbard County engineer Jed Nordin said crews have finished driving the pilings and are now in the process of forming the bridge abutments. The plans call for 70 working days, so the bridge is projected to be finished in late October or early November, Nordin said.

One potential delay involves obtaining a conditional use permit for grading fill.

The contractor and/or a Hubbard County landowner will appear Sept. 8 before the Hubbard County Planning Commission to request a conditional use permit for dirt and fill material obtained earlier this month without a permit. The issue caused an uproar with county officials and environmentalists.

The board, the Environmental Services Office and concerned citizens will be scrutinizing the process until completion. Central Specialties graded back an area between Little Sand and Ida lakes in Henrietta Township to provide material for the slopes leading down to the bridge, in violation of the county's shoreland ordinances.

Both the company and property owner maintained they didn't realize they needed permits before digging. The work was immediately shut down by county officials.

It is likely issuance of any permit would be conditioned on restoring the site, a process that will be closely monitored.

"The contractor was concerned a bit about the conditional use permit but they're still able to work on the bridge," Nordin said.

The outcome of the permit could be fodder for yet another theme party, with patrons bearing, or wearing, sod to fill the holes.

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