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MINUTES – PLANNING COMMISSION – SPECIAL MEETING – APRIL 9, 2008

The Special Meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 9th day of April, 2008, by Vice Chairperson Rudney 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 Carpenter, Granger, Johnson, Hoffman, and Vice chairperson Rudney.  Chairperson Kuchenreuther was absent.  Also present were City Manager Hill and Ex-officio Miller.

Greenwaldt Variance Request:  The hearing  is for a zoning variance request from Section 11.23, Subd. 2 D 5 (c) of the Morris City Code which requires a 10’ sideyard setback in a residential (R) zone.  This request is by James Greenwaldt, 4 Sunnyslope Road, legally described as Block 4, Lot 1, Highland Homes Addition, parcel number 20-1464-000.  This variance, if granted, would allow an addition to an attached garage within 4’ of the interior sideyard line.

Commissioner Carpenter asked what the largest variance is that the Planning Commission has granted.  City Manager Hill indicated a variance was granted on his property that allows him to build to the property line. 

Hill indicated the City will be doing construction on Sunnyslope Road next year and suggested Greenwaldt check with the City before doing anything with his driveway because new curb and gutter will be done with that project.

Rudney pointed out that if a structure is within 5’ of a property line, the wall needs to be made fireproof on that side of the structure. 

Granger indicated she feels allowing a structure 4’ from a property line is too close.  She feels this home is in a very nice neighborhood and it would be a shame to crowd the houses.  She stated she understands drainage would not be an issue with the addition.  She feels this would change the character of the neighborhood and so many parts of town are so crowded already.  She looked at other setbacks in the State and most places do not grant variances less than 5’.  She indicated there is the ability to make the addition to the back of the home and it would not require a variance.  She doesn’t feel this request fits the hardship requirement. 

Rudney indicated the lack of a hardship is his concern when looking at this request. 

Ex-officio Miller indicated he agrees 4’ is awfully close to the property line and feels the setbacks are there for a reason. 

Johnson pointed out that currently there are 30’ between Greenwaldt’s garage and his property line.  Rudney asked if it would be possible to construct a 26’ garage and move the outer wall of the current garage into the house and still meet the 10’ sideyard setback requirement.  Greenwaldt indicated the garage is 20’ now and even though it is possible to get two vehicles in the garage, it is very tight. 

Greenwaldt indicated the evergreens between his garage and the neighbor’s garage will be removed and they have discussed planting shrubbery there to create a buffer.  These two houses are garage to garage.  He stated with his requested addition there would still be 15-20’ of green space between the garages.  He stated with the design of his house it doesn’t work to add onto the back of the house. 

Granger indicated she does not feel the Planning Commission should grant variances unless it fits the hardship requirement.  She stated if the building is built 4’ from the property line, that does not provide enough room to put up scaffolding to paint the side of the building.  She feels when a person buys a home they are buying into a zoning district and its requirements. 

Rudney indicated the Code says the setback requirement is 10’ from the sideyard.  He stated to grant a variance the Planning Commission needs to do it for a reason and he does not know if a hardship can be determined. 

Hoffman indicated he feels the hardship is that the garage sizes of the 50’s and 60’ do not accommodate anyone now. 

Granger pointed out the addition could go out the rear of the home.  Greenwaldt indicated that is possible, however a different roofline is more expensive.  He stated their kitchen now is small and the new plan expands that space.  He stated the 26’ garage allows him easier access to his house.  He stated one of the goals of the addition is to make the home better accessible to them as they get older. 

Hoffman indicated maintaining the overall value of the neighborhood means maintaining the homes. 

Granger questioned the purpose of the setbacks.   She indicated she feels the Planning Commission should look at the reasons for setbacks and enforce them.  Hoffman indicated it is a 40 year old setback requirement.  Johnson indicated he feels the setback requirements are basically for new construction.  Carpenter indicated she feels there are setbacks for aesthetic purposes and to prevent houses from being on top of each other. 

Johnson pointed out that in the older parts of town the Planning Commission tries to grant these types of requests if it improves the property.  Granger reiterated that she feels 4’ to too close. 

Carpenter indicated this is garage to garage and there is tons of space between.  However, she feels it is the principle and there is not a hardship involved.  Hoffman indicated hardship could be interpreted a number of different ways.  He stated this is a functionally obsolete 20’ garage. 

Granger indicated the hardship has to be created by the physical surroundings, shape of the lot, topographical condition of the lot, etc. 

Carpenter asked if the hardship could be that the lot isn’t wide enough.  Granger indicated the lot is 100’ X 110’.  Carpenter indicated that given everyone thinks this is a sensible plan it could be argued there is a hardship because of the shape of the specific parcel of land and it will cost more to move the garage.  Granger questioned if that couldn’t apply to all lots.  Carpenter indicated she feels that depends on where the house is placed on the particular piece of land.  Johnson indicated he feels there is wiggle room on this request.  Carpenter indicated she feels this doesn’t have to be black and white.  She feels if this was not garage to garage and there wasn’t as much space between these two structures it would be a different story.  She feels that in black and white this cannot be passed, and indicated she is arguing for gray on this request.  Granger indicated one could say all variance requests would improve property value.  She indicated she feels the required 10’ sideyard setback is a lot different than the 4’ requested. 

Commissioner Carpenter moved, seconded by Granger, to call the question to grant the variance as requested.  With Commissioners Rudney, Carpenter and Hoffman voting in favor, and Johnson and Granger voting against, motion carried. 

Greenwaldt indicated he appreciates the Planning Commission’s review of this request.

ADJOURNMENT:  Commissioner Carpenter moved, seconded by Hoffman, to adjourn.  Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 6:10.

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