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MINUTES–PLANNING COMMISSION–REGULAR MEETING–DECEMBER 16, 2008

The regular meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 16th day of December, 2008, 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:  Commission members Gades, Johnson, Carpenter, Rudney, Hoffman, Granger and Chairperson Kuchenreuther.  Also present were City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill and Ex-officio Miller.

READING AND APPROVAL OF 11/18/08 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:    Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Granger, to approve the minutes of the 11/18/08 regular meeting as submitted.  Motion carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:  Stevens County Conditional Use Permit Request:  This hearing is on a request for a conditional use permit as provided in Section 11.23, Subd. 2 C 5 of the Morris City Code.  This request is by Stevens County.  The property is located at 400 Colorado Avenue, legally described as Block 70, Railway Subdivision, parcel number 20-0543-005.  This conditional use, if granted, would allow Stevens County to construct a jail/law enforcement center in a Residential (R) zone.

City Manager Hill indicated both the City Council and Planning Commission had discussions to determine if a conditional use permit would be required on this project because there is already a courthouse and jail at this site.  The City Attorney determined the jail was not a function being used and therefore a conditional use permit is required. 

Jim Thoreen, County Coordinator, introduced Mark Schneider, Project Coordinator with Klein McCarthy Associates (KMA), the architects on this project.  Thoreen indicated for the past 5 years the county has talked about the need for a jail and other needs for the County.  He indicated the courthouse is 52 years old and is in need of an upgrade.  They have coupled that need with a modern 21st century jail.  He indicated they informally met with the Planning Commission last summer and KMA presented a proposed plan at that time.  Because of the Planning Commission’s suggestions, KMA has significantly altered the plan, which in turn made the project more cost effective for the County. 

Thoreen indicated they feel the exterior will be an improvement on the look of the courthouse in that neighborhood.  He feels this plan is well thought through to provide services for years to come.  He indicated $15 million is their maximum budget on this project, and they are on budget now. 

Schneider indicated they will use aluminum windows and a sustainable type of roofing.  He stated the jail portion of the facility does not resemble a jail.  He stated they are just getting into the fine details on this project. 

Thoreen indicated the County will ask the City to vacate Colorado between 4th and 5th Streets so it can be used for parking, along with acquiring the house across the street to the southwest for parking.  They are also discussing the purchase of some property from First Lutheran to be used for parking.  He stated the entrance to the courthouse will be enhanced.

Thoreen indicated the law enforcement center (LEC) is on the 2nd floor on the east end of the facility.  There are not many windows on the jail side of the facility.  The sally port will be on the south side of the facility, which they feel makes it quite secure.   He feels this will be a 21st century state of the art facility to protect the employees, citizens and prisoners.  All ambient lighting, which is required, is from secured skylights. 

Schneider indicated the LEC has windows.  On the back side of the existing courthouse, there is a secure corridor and prisoners would go to the courtroom through that corridor.  There is an elevator in the back entrance to service all floors of the courthouse. 

Schneider indicated they will keep all the trees on the north end of the site, along with all the trees on 5th Street by the church parking lot.  Thoreen indicated some underground work is required on the south side and they will try not to damage or remove trees there.  They will be installing geothermal heating.

Rudney asked how much taller the LEC will be.  Schneider estimated at the west end it is about 7’ taller than the existing courthouse.  He indicated because the site rises so much the building is probably only 12-13’ out of the ground.  He pointed out there is a chase along the back side of the prisoner cells so that all maintenance can be performed from the back side of the cells. 

Based on the handout Schneider provided, Granger pointed out at least 13 trees will be removed on the north side of the facility.  Schneider indicated that is possible. 

Schneider indicated one of the City’s requirements is that the building have a 25’ setback from all sides, which they have met.  He stated that including the west side parking lot and the house they hope to acquire, they are at a ratio of 68.5% hard surface to grass surface.  They are meeting the requirement of percentage of lot that can be covered by buildings.  Another City request was that the existing alley between California and Colorado be kept open for plows and fire equipment, which they have done.  The church requested access from the east side of the church into the alley and they have also kept that open. 

Schneider indicated they have 11 more parking spaces than are required. 

Thoreen reviewed the jail section of the facility.  He stated the jailer/dispatcher can see all 20 cells. He feels KMA has set up the layout of the jail so the administration of the jail can be minimized.

Schneider indicated there is an Emergency Operations Center by the LEC, and the central area of the LEC is dispatch.  Thoreen indicated he thinks government will be operated differently in the future, and one of the things he sees is a central dispatch function to handle two or three counties.  This facility would be built to handle a central dispatch center. 

Rudney asked if the infrastructure would be affected by the increased load of this facility.  Schneider indicated they have engineers working on that.  Bob Johnson, 310 Montana Avenue, asked if the water and sewer would go into 4th Street because he feels that is shot.  Schneider indicated he does not know.  Johnson indicated there a lot of problems with the sewer in that area.  Ex-officio Miller suggested Johnson talk to City Manager Hill about that problem. 

Johnson commented on the exit of the upper level parking lot and its proximity to the 4th Street/Montana Avenue intersection.  Schneider indicated they will look into that.  Discussion was held on installing a stop sign or several stop signs at the intersection. 

Nels Enberg, 404 East 4th, stated he feels there would be a lot of congestion at 5th and California during a day when there was a funeral at First Lutheran, along with all the cars from the Courthouse.  Schneider pointed out they are over the maximum required number of parking spaces.  Enberg asked how many of these spaces will be occupied during the day by courthouse people.  Thoreen indicated a few years ago they did a 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. count on vehicles in their parking lot.  They found that on a typical day the lot is about 35% utilized.  He indicated their parking challenges now are when there is a jury trial and jurors are parking in the lot.  He estimates there are 8 jury trials a year in Morris.  He stated moving Human Services to the courthouse facility would add about 22 cars a day in the lot. 

Rudney asked if it would make sense to have some sort of sidewalk and stair access off Montana Avenue into the back parking lot.  Schneider indicated they want to encourage the general public to use the front lot.  Kuchenreuther indicated people could use the existing sidewalk to access the parking lot. 

LeRoy Aker, 3 North Court, inquired if there were enough handicapped accessible parking spaces.  Schneider indicated they met the requirements for handicapped accessible spaces.  Granger indicated she feels with the demographics of this area it would be wise to add more handicapped accessible parking spaces. 

Bob Johnson asked what the longevity is of this building.  Schneider estimated it to be 50 – 100 years.  Johnson asked if it was wise to put a flat roof on this building.  Schneider there will be a thick rubber membrane on the roof that works well. 

Granger asked about lights in the parking lot.  Schneider indicated they are working on that.  Granger indicated the Planning Commission is promoting full cut off dark sky compliant lighting in parking lots, along with on buildings. 

She indicated the plan shows 27 of 51 mature trees being removed.  She explained that mature trees absorb storm water to a huge degree.  She indicated the Pomme de Terre River by Morris is impaired, so the Planning Commission is trying to keep mature trees to absorb storm water.  She encouraged them to fill the site with trees. 

Granger suggested planting strips in the parking lots to break them up vertically.  She feels these would improve the looks of the west parking lot.  She also feels planting hedges along the outer perimeter of the front parking lot would not be high maintenance and would increase water absorption and screen the lot.  She suggested using overstory trees.  Kuchenreuther agreed and indicated she appreciates a lot of the things the architect has done in the redesign, but feels we have to be sensitive to the neighbors on the west. 

Kuchenreuther asked about storm water management.  Schneider indicated they are looking at four different options. 

Gades asked if traffic out of the LEC would be heavier than what it is currently.  Thoreen indicated this would be a 20-cell, 40-bed jail facility that would add six employees to operate the jail, however only 2 would be on site during the day.  The back parking lot is intended for squad cars, judges, clerks, and maybe some visitors for inmates.  He indicated visiting hours are after working hours and on weekends.  Gades stated there would also be some transporting of prisoners from other counties.  Thoreen indicated that may happen.  They intend to market the availability of jail beds. 

Hoffman suggested changing the speed limit on 4th Street.  Hill indicated the Safety Committee looks at those types of things. 

Kuchenreuther reviewed the criteria the Planning Commission follows in considering conditional use permits. 

Eric Klinger, 307 East 5th Street, indicated they are saddened by the change in the parking lot area, but feels the architects have almost met their concerns.  Hoffman agreed. 

Discussion was held on various conditions for the conditional use permit.  Kuchenreuther pointed out a landscape plan has not yet been submitted.  Schneider indicated they will have that when the final plans are ready in March.  Granger indicated it is hard to completely look at the impact this project has on the city and neighborhood

without a landscape plan.  Schneider indicated he can request the landscape plan be put on the front burner.  Granger indicated this is a large facility that will be here a long

time and feels it is reasonable to take some care in this as it has an impact on a large area. 

Kuchenreuther indicated she does not feel a jail is compatible in this area, but feels if it can be constructed so that it fits into the neighborhood she is comfortable with it.

Commissioner Hoffman moved, seconded by Carpenter, to recommend to the City Council that the conditional use permit be approved with the following conditions:

1.          Dark sky compliant full cut off lighting be installed.

2.          A landscape plan be approved by the City.

3.          Review and approval by the City of traffic on East 4th Street parking lot entrance and exits.

4.          Review and approval of the storm water removal plan by the City.

Motion carried unanimously. 

Kuchenreuther indicated that on behalf of the Planning Commission, they appreciate the architect’s attempts to take into consideration the recommendations of the Planning Commission.

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Commissioner Gades moved, seconded by Hoffman, to adjourn.  Motion carried unanimously and the meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

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