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MINUTES – PLANNING COMMISSION – REGULAR MEETING – JULY 21, 2009

The regular meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:16 p.m. this 21st day of July, 2009, 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 Gades, Carpenter, Rudney, and Chairperson Kuchenreuther. Commissioner Hoffman arrived at 5:20 p.m. Commissioners Granger and Johnson were absent. Also present was City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill and ex-officio Miller.

READING AND APPROVAL OF MINUTES: 5/19/09 Regular Meeting Minutes: Commissioner Gades moved, seconded by Rudney, to approve the 5/19/09 regular meeting minutes. Motion carried.

PUBLIC HEARINGS: Koehl Variance Request: This 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 Chris Koehl, 807 Park Avenue, legally described as Block 1, South 60’ Lot 3 & East 60’ and South 60’ Lot 8, Sutherland Addition, parcel number 20-0837-000. This variance, if granted, would allow an addition of an attached garage within 2’ of the interior sideyard line.

Zoning Administrator Hill stated notices were sent out to all affected property owners within 300’ and no calls or concerns were received. Hill indicated the property is not really marketable with a one car garage, but there would be no room to access the backyard. Hill explained there are some offset double car garages to the north but that would make snow removal more difficult. Hill pointed out the front yard setbacks are pretty standard and the garage wouldn’t be moved up any further. Chairperson Kuchenreuther stated it is already a nonconforming property.

Commissioner Gades asked if the tree in the front yard would be preserved. Kuchenreuther suggested it would be nice if there was a creative way to conserve the tree, but noted it was an elm so it may come down eventually anyway. Koehl agreed it would be nice to save the tree.

Rudney asked if the new garage would go in place of the existing garage. Koehl stated it would. The property is also for sale. Hoffman stated from a realtor’s perspective the project is needed in order to sell the house. Koehl explained with regard to access to the back yard, there is currently a drive through door in the rear of the garage.

Gades stated he had no problem granting the variance as it is currently nonconforming.

Koehl noted the current face of the garage is set back, but would be made even with the house. The eave would be to the front with room for a loft or some storage in the top. Kuchenreuther indicated it might be interesting to have the roof line back a little further, plus give more of an opportunity to save the tree.

Commissioner Gades moved, seconded by Rudney, to grant this variance request based upon a hardship of the property having only a 1 car garage. With all present voting in favor, motion carried.

OTHER BUSINESS: UMM – Potential Wind Generators: Lowell Rasmusson was present at the meeting for an informational presentation as to what they’re thinking about with plans for additional wind turbines. Rasmusson indicated originally there was a plan to help finance a wind turbine near Callaway by Detroit Lakes that would have been co-owned by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The proposed turbines are part of the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program and must be issued by December 31st.

Rasmusson stated since the Callaway project has fallen through they are moving to Plan B to salvage the CREBs bonds, which is to build a second turbine near the one operating at the West Central Research and Outreach Center and a third one on the north edge of the UMM campus. The Mille Lacs Band would remain a co-owner on the third turbine but would not receive power from it.

Rudney asked if Otter Tail Power was concerned about the additional turbines. Rasmusson noted they are currently waiting for a study from Otter Tail Power as to what the impact of three turbines would be on their power grid.

Rasmusson stated another turbine could not be placed at WCROC because each one submitted for CREBs funding had to have a separate address. The logical answer was then to put one on the UMM campus. Rasmusson indicated this one would certainly be much closer to the city than the one that is there but believes it meets all the site conditions. Rasmusson explained a letter was sent to residents on Line Drive informing them that if they go forward with the additional turbines a public meeting would be held to take comments.

Rasmusson stated they wanted the city to be aware of this because being a green campus is important to them. Rasmusson stated they hope to be one of first campuses to produce more energy than they use. This venture also coincides with the Stevens Forward initiative and meets UMM’s sustainable campus goals. Rasmusson explained because they would be producing more energy then they use, that also means they would be selling it. Rasmusson indicated one of the things that Morris is moving toward is understanding the area’s natural resources and the need to use those to replace losses from the state. Rasmusson stated UMM needs to hold down costs and figure out how to be more sustainable in an economic situation. Rasmusson noted they also understand they need to be a good neighbor and as they proceed down this path to hopefully do a good thing for the community.

Rasmusson suggested that the planning commission Google the town of Gussing, Austria. This country was on the verge of defaulting and now claims to produce more energy than they use. Rasmusson noted there is already a steady parade of people coming through the campus to look at what they’re doing.

Rudney asked about the downside to having the turbines. Rasmusson indicated noise is the most significant factor but they are confident they fall under the state limit of 50 decibels.

Carpenter asked why the University picked this particular site on the campus. Rasmusson stated it is the highest elevation the University has.

Kuchenreuther asked what the sound measurements were. Rasmusson stated they average right around 48.

Zoning Administrator Hill asked about the sewer ponds for a location. Rasmusson stated that would be a great location but the campus has it’s own distribution grid which is parallel to investor owned utilities who want it tied to UMM. Rasmusson stated if DENCO was up and running Morris would be very close to a community that produces more energy than it uses.

Rasmusson showed the commission a picture of the proposed turbines. Rasmusson stated the worst case scenario for noise from the turbines would be when the ground level is absolutely still. Then there isn’t the noise masking or background noise from other sources. If that becomes a problem, the University is open to mitigating that. Hoffman noted it may not be as noxious as some of the other noises, such as the trains.

Hoffman stated personally he doesn’t feel the area can afford not to do something like this. Rasmusson stated with regard to the CREBs, they are at risk of losing $3.6 million of 0% money which has to be paid back over 13 years. Rasmusson explained the turbines have to spin to generate revenue and would barely cash flow for the first 12-13 years until they are paid off. At that point the revenue streams should be in the neighborhood of $300,000 to $400,000 a year.

Kuchenreuther asked about the longevity of turbines. Rasmusson stated banks are comfortable with financing them for 20-25 years. Rasmusson stated they don’t exactly know the longevity because none have been running for that long.

Miller asked if turbine #2 would definitely be put up. Rasmusson stated that one would be done for sure, since it is only owned by the University. Miller indicated he thinks the city needs to be behind this as much as possible. Rasmusson asked that if the city received any feedback they pass the information along so any problems could be worked out.

Rasmusson stated if everything falls into place it would go to the Regents in September. Rasmusson explained there is a very narrow window of opportunity for when they can get the turbines. Rasmusson stated when the stock market melted, funds for the development of wind systems went south and all the development money dried up. Suddenly there were a bunch of cancellations, so since October of last year the companies have been contacting them. Rasmusson stated there are no fire sales but they are at least back in the price range where they feel they can make them cash flow. Rasmusson stated the bad news is that the stimulus money has a timeline and by January turbine prices will go up again.

Rasmusson stated he would keep the city updated as to what their next step would be.

 

Courthouse: Rudney asked about the lighting and landscaping for the courthouse remodel. Hill indicated that the county is still trying to figure out the plan up there. Rudney expressed concern that the sally ports would be off of 5th Street. Hill stated they would not be in that direction, they would be towards the parking lot. Rudney asked if the Planning Commission would see a revised plan. Hill anticipated that it would not have to come back to the commission but indicated he could get a copy of the final plans once they are completed.

ADJOURNMENT: There being no further business, Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Carpenter, to adjourn. Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 6:11 p.m.

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