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MINUTES-PLANNING COMMISSION-REGULAR MEETING- SEPTEMBER 18, 2007

The regular meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 18th day of September, 2007, by Chairperson Kuchenreuther in the Council Chambers of the Morris Senior Citizens/Community Center.

CALL OF THE ROLL:  Roll call was taken with the following members present:  Commissioners Johnson, Granger, Hoffman, Rudney and Chairperson Kuchenreuther.  Commissioner Carpenter arrived at 5:18, and Commissioner Stevenson was absent.  Also present were City Manager Hill, ex-officio Miller and Housing Director Fohl.

READING AND APPROVAL of 7/17/07 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:  Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Hoffman, to approve the minutes of the 7/17/07 regular meeting as submitted.  Motion carried.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:  None.

Ex-officio Miller welcomed new City Manager Blaine Hill to the meeting.  The Commissioners each introduced themselves.

OTHER BUSINESS:  Lights at Chizek Field:  Chairperson Kuchenreuther added this item to the agenda and requested that the new lights that are going up in Chizek Field be dark sky compliant.  Hill indicated the new lights are already installed and are energy efficient and geared toward focusing the light only onto the field.  He indicated he would check into whether or not they are dark sky compliant.

Review Recommendation to City Council Regarding Outdoor Furnaces:  The Planning Commission received a proposed ordinance regarding outdoor wood furnaces and a memo from Chairperson Kuchenreuther to the City Council explaining the Planning Commission’s rationale regarding the ordinance.  She indicated the memo discusses some of the items the Planning Commission considered, i.e. an outright ban on these furnaces, as well as an ordinance that would specify setbacks, chimney heights, etc.  Also in the memo she outlined what items are in the ordinance and why they are there.  She indicated the City Council will receive some of the background information the Planning Commission used in their discussions.  In the end, the Planning Commission recommends that a conditional use permit be required for installation of all new outdoor furnaces. 

Rudney asked if the definition of “dry wood” should be included in the ordinance.  Kuchenreuther indicated that would be included in the definition section of the ordinance.  She noted it would however, be somewhat subjective.  Hill indicated anyone that has an indoor wood burner knows what dry wood is.  Carpenter indicated she would be tempted to leave the ordinance as is and if there is a problem then call it a nuisance. 

Granger indicated she was not at the last meeting of the Planning Commission, but noted that several meetings ago the Planning Commission considered banning these furnaces altogether.  She states the proposed ordinance contains setbacks that are nearly impossible to meet in Morris and questioned if this is a chicken’s way of banning them.  Hoffman indicated he doesn’t feel it is a way of banning them, rather it requires that each request be looked at individually. 

Kuchenreuther indicated she feels they should send this to the City Council as is and let them decide if they want it to be more specific. 

Johnson asked how many complaints have been received regarding the outdoor furnace.  Kuchenreuther indicated there has been one complaint.  Johnson pointed out that boiler is being used constantly and is not used only for heating purposes.  Miller stated that even though it is used year around, it does not call for heat continuously. 

Carpenter indicated she feels the proposed ordinance has good flexibility.

Ex-officio Miller, Commissioner Granger, and City Manager Hill will speak with the owner of the outdoor furnace on East 7th Street regarding this.

It was the consensus to send Kuchenreuther’s memo and the proposed ordinance to the City Council.

Housing Study:  Melanie Fohl, Executive Director of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, was present.  She reviewed the Housing Study that was completed in March of 2007.

Fohl stated the number of households in Morris has increased a slight amount in recent years.   However, population has not increased as there are fewer people in households. 

Fohl indicated the study indicates a commonly used standard for affordable housing is that a household can apply 30% of gross income for housing expenses.  The County’s median household income in 2006 translates into $1,125 per month based on 30% of income. 

Three target neighborhoods were identified in the study.  The North Neighborhood is from 7th Street north to east of Atlantic; the Central Neighborhood is East of Atlantic to California from 7th Street to South Street; and the West Neighborhood is 4th Street to Crystal Lake north to the concrete plant.  Fohl indicated a lot of those areas are dilapidated and not being rehabilitated.  Many of them are considered functionally obsolete housing which is described as housing that is less than 900 square feet in size.    She stated the study recommends buying those properties as they become available

and trying to get them rehabilitated, or if several lots are available next to each other, making those available to adjacent property owners. 

Fohl indicated the Study indicates lot size is another issue that makes it difficult for houses that are functionally obsolete to be used constructively.  The City Code requires a minimum 75-foot lot width for residential parcels.  There are a great number of lots in the older areas of town that are not close to that size.

Fohl indicated a number of the recommendations from the Study are already being done.  She stated the County HRA does rehab grants.  She stated that is a difficult competitive process. 

The Study recommends developing a neighborhood revitalization program and consider a mobile home park improvement program.  It also recommends the City consider the creation of a rehab/purchase program and continue to coordinate with the Stevens County HRA to apply for Minnesota Urban and Rural Homesteading Program funds as they become available. The Study also recommends initiating employer involvement in home ownership programs.  Fohl stated HUD and the State of Minnesota have different ways to help provide grants, etc.

Granger indicated she was on the Housing Committee and feels the consultants were very good.  She indicated she is very interested in seeing the City pursue implementation on several of the recommendations of the Study.  She stated the Housing Committee has been dissolved and there is no body pursuing implementation at this time.  She stated during recent annexation proceedings there was discussion of people moving out of Morris because of a lack of housing.  She would like to see the City work on that.  She indicated it would have to be a phased project.  Johnson suggested having a Habitat for Humanity type program for home improvements. 

Hill pointed out that removing housing that is dilapidated will increase the value of nearby homes.  He feels it is in the best interest of the City to find and allocate funds to help with this and pointed out the City just has to be creative. 

Johnson asked how many houses have been taken off the list of rentals since the rental inspection program began.  Fohl indicated the Study indicates 118 have been removed since 1998.  Those have been removed for a variety of reasons, and not just because of the rental inspection program. 

Kuchenreuther questioned if there is any way to get different people from the community to start prioritizing which of the recommendations are most applicable to Morris.  Fohl indicated her office does not have the staff to take this on.  Granger indicated she doesn’t want this Study to just get lost.  She feels it is incumbent on the Planning Commission to get something done.  Kuchenreuther asked if the Planning Commission should think about the structure for a group to bring expertise to such a

 group.  Carpenter suggested the Planning Commission recommend to the City Council that they appoint a board to do this. 

Green Housing Component of the Elementary School Redevelopment:  Granger indicated the Elementary School Reuse Committee has come to the determination that the old elementary school building needs to be demolished.  They are seeking a redevelopment grant for removing the building.  She stated a green housing demonstration project is advised.  The group is working with Dovetail Partners, Inc., development consultants, who propose to make it a model green housing program.  Granger indicated the Housing Study recommends phased development of the 17.73-acre with 20 to 24 owner-occupied town homes / twin homes, 16 to 20 general occupancy twin homes / town house rental units, and 10 to 12 brownstone / town home student housing rental units for 30-40 students. 

Granger noted that to the north of the Elementary School property along 7th Street, the business uses should be phased out so another new large commercial or industrial use is not built there.   It is recommended that area be rezoned. 

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Commissioner Carpenter moved, seconded by Hoffman, to adjourn.  Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 6:30 p.m.

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