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MINUTES - PLANNING COMMISSION - REGULAR MEETING - APRIL 21, 2009

The regular meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. the 21st day of April, 2009, by Chair person 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 Carpenter, Johnson, Granger, Gades, Rudney and Chair person Kuchenreuther.  Commissioner Hoffman arrived at 5:16.  Also present were City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill and Ex-officio Miller.

READING AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES:  February 17, 2009 Regular Meeting:  The following changes to the minutes were recommended:  The first bullet in the last paragraph on the first page should read, “Make the property from Olson Implement on the South side of Highway 28 west to the road and the property past the marsh on the north side of Highway 28 Highway Business (HB)”;  the second sentence of the second bullet on the second page should read, “The reason for this change is because Farm Residence (RF) would not allow appropriate density to be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.”;  the last sentence of the last bullet on the second page should read, “The reason for this change is that views of the river in the designated  R and the rest is a logical area for HB.”; the last sentence of the fourth bullet in the third page should read, “The reason for this change is because this is an appropriate place for highway business.”; the first sentence of the fifth bullet on the third page should read, “Change the farm land to the South side of North Ridge Drive, which is owned by the University, from Farm Residence ……”; the last sentence of the fifth bullet on the third page should read, “To the south, the area should be HB because it’s by the highway.”; change the eighth bullet on the third page to “The quarter section south of West 8th Street right outside the city limits, along with the quarter section directly to the west should be Farm Residence (RF).  The reason for this is that the utilities have been extended out West 8th Street and this would be a good place for new homes.  The two quarter sections south of these should be Municipal Conservancy (MC) because this is a wetland.”  Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Carpenter, to approve the 2/17/09 meeting minutes with the above amendments.  Motion carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:  Stevens County Variance Requests:  This hearing is on a request for two variances as provided in Section 11.23, Subd. 2 D 3 and Section 11.23, Subd. 2 D 4 of the Morris City Code, along with a request to vacate a portion of a street.   These requests are by Stevens County.  The property is located at 400 Colorado Avenue, legally described as Block 70, Railway Subdivision, parcel number 20-0543-005.  These variances, if granted, would allow Stevens County to remodel and add on to the existing Courthouse building and exceed the height restriction of 30 feet by 1 foot, and the lot coverage percentage of 25% by 1.91% in a Residential (R) zone.  The request for street vacation is for that portion of Colorado Avenue between 5th Street and 4th Street in front of the Courthouse.  The vacation would allow for the utilization of the vacated property for sidewalks, mall frontage and parking lot. 

City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill explained the variance requests are based on the current plans for the courthouse remodel, law enforcement center, and jail. 

Garrett Hoyer sent an email regarding his concerns with the jail project. 

Hill indicated City staff does not have any issues with the variance requests or the request to vacate a portion of Colorado Avenue. 

Mark Schneider of Klein McCarthy Architects, the architects on the project, was present.  He passed out sketches of the project.  He pointed out that on the south end they are lowering the parking lot, so the building height will be at 30’ 8”.  They have applied for a variance of one foot which would allow their building height to be 31’. 

Rudney asked what would happen if the plan were to change.  Hill indicated the County would then have to re-apply for any required variances. 

There were no comments from the public on the building height.

Commissioner Hoffman moved, seconded by Rudney, to approve the height variance request of 1’.  Motion carried unanimously.

The variance request for lot coverage is for 1.91% over the 25% limit.  Schneider indicated the variance is for about 2,000 square feet.  He indicated originally they were going to acquire land from First Lutheran Church for this project, but that has fallen through, therefore the need for this request. 

Granger asked if there is anything they can do to get the building within the 25% limit.  Schneider indicated they have looked at all options and this is their best. 

Johnson asked if these numbers are based on the City vacating Colorado Avenue in front of the Courthouse.  Schneider indicated they are. 

Kuchenreuther asked if this plan reflects the landscaping plan required by the conditional use permit.  Schneider indicated he believes it is fairly close.  However, he indicated it does not show new shrubs and bushes.

Jerry Lesmeister, 502 East 4th Street, asked if there was a variance for the parking lot space.  Hill indicated they have met parking requirements so no variance is required.

Allan Saugstad, 1001 West 4th Street, stated that if the street vacation of Colorado Avenue is not approved, then this variance does not matter.  Hill indicated that is correct.  He pointed out that the Planning Commission holds the public hearing on the street vacation, but the City Council approves or denies the request. 

Commissioner Carpenter moved, seconded by Granger, to approve the variance request for 1.91% over the 25% lot coverage standard.  Motion carried unanimously.

Stevens County Street Vacation Request:  Stevens County has made a request for street vacation for that portion of Colorado Avenue between 5th Street and 4th Street in front of the Courthouse.  The vacation would allow for the utilization of the vacated property for sidewalks, mall frontage and parking lot. 

Hill indicated City staff has reviewed this issue and has no problems with the vacation. 

Jerry Lesmeister handed out a list of 22 questions he has with the project including parking lot issues, snow removal issues, garbage truck issues, traffic issues and sanitary sewer issues.  Hill indicated staff has addressed most of these issues.

Commissioner Carpenter asked if the law enforcement committee ever invites the public to their meetings in order to get public input on issues.  Hill indicated he does not know.  Hill pointed out the placement of stop and yield signs does not require Council action. 

Jerry Lesmeister asked if there is any room for overflow parking.  Schneider indicated City Code requires them to use a formula for parking that is based on the square footage of the building and its use. 

Allan Saugstad asked if the entrance/exit to the parking lot is designed for 1-way or 2-way traffic.  Schneider indicated it is designed for 2-way traffic.  Saugstad indicated the impact of the increased traffic on use of the alley is a concern to him. 

Hoffman indicated he feels a lot of Lesmeister’s concerns have been addressed, but the one unknown is how the expanded Courthouse would affect the traffic pattern. 

Kuchenreuther suggested that even though not legally required, it might make sense to put stop signs at the exit of the parking lot.

Jerry Lesmeister asked how the transition from the east parking lot onto East 4th Street would be designed.  Schneider indicated a civil engineer has completed plans for that and it meets all slope requirements. 

Commissioner Gades moved, seconded by Rudney, to approve the vacation of Colorado Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets.  Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Carpenter moved, seconded by Granger, to recommend that the law enforcement committee carefully examine the traffic controls and seek public input if and when actually implemented.  Motion carried unanimously.

OTHER BUSINESS:  School Reuse:  Kuchenreuther indicated Granger, Hill, Miller and she are all members of the school reuse committee.  She indicated it would be very useful for them to hear any comments on the school reuse information that was presented at the public meeting.  She indicated two subcommittees are meeting to address financing the demolition of the elementary school and a new zoning district. 

Earth Day Seminar:  Miller indicated there is an Earth Day Seminar tomorrow.

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Commissioner Carpenter moved, seconded by Rudney, to adjourn.  Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 6:25.

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