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MINUTES – PLANNING COMMISSION – REGULAR MEETING – APRIL 20, 2010

The Regular Meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 20th day of April, 2010, 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 Granger, Hoffman, Rudney and Chairperson Kuchenreuther.  Commissioners Gades and Johnson were absent.  Also present were City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill and Ex-officio Miller.

READING AND APPROVAL OF 3/16/10 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:  Commissioner Rudney asked if the Commission was going to be updated on items discussed at the 3/16/10 meeting.  Hill indicated he would provide an update on several issues.  Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Granger, to approve the minutes of the 3/16/10 regular meeting as presented.  With all present voting in favor, motion carried.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:  Hentges Variance Request:  This hearing is for a zoning variance request from Section 11.23, Subd. 2 D 5 (i) of the Morris City Code which requires a 6.8’ sideyard setback in a residential (R) zone.  This request is by Peter J. Hentges, 13 Brook Street, legally described as Block 1, Lot 7, Elles University Addition, parcel number 20-1515-000.  This variance, if granted, would allow an addition to an attached garage within 6” of the interior sideyard line.

Hill indicated he has received no calls or correspondence regarding this request.  He noted 6” would make this a very tight sideyard.  He also noted the house next door to this request has a detached offset garage in the back yard.  Hentges’ property is 130’ deep, and the remainder of the land behind the lot line belongs to the City.  Hill’s biggest concern is fire control, but indicated all the homes along this street have access through the back yards. 

Rudney asked why the required sideyard setback is 6.8’ instead of 10’.  Hill indicated there is a section in the City Code that states if the lot of record has less than the width required (which in this case is 75’), the required side yard setback for a single family dwelling from the side yard property line shall be reduced to ten percent of the width of the lot, except that in no case shall an interior side setback line be less than five feet nor a side street setback line be less than 25 feet.  This lot is 68’ wide.

Rudney asked what the spacing is to the home to the east.  Hentges indicated that with the addition onto his garage, the distance would be about 8’ to the neighbor’s garage.  Hentges presented letters from his neighbors to the east and to the west.  Both letters support the proposed addition. 

Kuchenreuther asked Hentges if he had thought about building a detached offset garage in the back yard.  Hentges indicated he has thought about that, but would like to

keep his fenced in area in the back yard, and also feels a detached garage would take up most of the back yard. 

Granger asked what the chances are of the City vacating the property behind these homes and then homeowners could build garages with doors to the north.  Hill noted there is an alleyway with gravel about 3 houses down from Hentges.  He stated homeowners just drive over the grass now.  Hentges indicated he feels there would be  a lot of dirt work involved in putting an alley in, and also noted there would be no outlet on the east end of the alley.

Kuchenreuther indicated she worries about fire equipment getting around the back of the house.  Hentges indicated there is door access from the back of his house. 

Miller noted Hentges’ home is garage to garage with the neighbor to the east.

Hoffman indicated he would suspect a detached garage in the back yard would be bigger than what this garage would end up being.  Hentges indicated that is correct. 

Granger pointed out a 6” setback is unheard of unless it’s in a commercial neighborhood.  She feels that for aesthetics, access, painting, or planting, 6” is too small of a setback.  She questioned if a single car garage was really a hardship as she counted 40 in the Meadowbrook Addition. 

Hoffman indicated he remembers granting a variance for building right on the property line, so granting this would not be the first precedent.

Granger pointed out the Planning Commission always struggles with the hardship requirement for granting variances.  Kuchenreuther indicated she too is uncomfortable with how tight the space would be between the two homes with the addition to this garage.  Hentges presented a picture showing two houses in his neighborhood that are about 8’ apart.  Granger indicated she feels the zoning ordinance should be changed, or more stringent rules or goals should be implemented.  Hill noted that the consistent hardship is the single garage in this day and age. 

Rudney indicated he has mixed feelings on this request.  He indicated he hates to see something so close to the property line, even though it makes sense to put it there.  Hoffman indicated things have changed so much and questioned how the Planning Commission could not let people bring their homes up to today’s standards.  Granger indicated the 40 houses she saw in the Meadowbrook neighborhood are not blighted.  Hoffman indicated if the ordinance was changed to allow closer setbacks, the Planning Commission would have no control over the situations that are so close.  With variances the Planning Commission does have control over them. 

After some discussion, Commissioner Granger moved, seconded by Hoffman, to grant this variance as requested.  With all present voting in favor, motion carried.

OTHER BUSINESS:  Discussion of Potential Variance Request at 401 Washington Avenue:  The property at 401 Washington Avenue is for sale and there is a potential buyer.  That buyer wants to demolish the existing garage, build an attached garage, and add onto the house.  The City owns the land toward the lake. 

Kevin and Judy Flicker, who have a home at 404 West 4th Street just west of this property, were present.  Kevin read a letter they received some years back from City Attorney Glasrud addressing the area between the property at 401 Washington and 404 West 4th Street.  In that letter Glasrud lists three potential options for vacating that land:  1.  Forget about vacation and not run the risk of running afoul of any regulations because the middle lots do not have access to a street.  This would land lock some of the lots.  2.  Ignoring that vacation would make some lots landlocked.  3.  Rearrange lots 1-6 in a way that Lots 1-2 would become Lot 1 and Lots 3-6 would become Lot 2.  This way both lots would have frontage on the street. 

Judy Flicker indicated they have been told they have access to Wyoming Avenue which is actually the bus garage parking lot.  She indicated they do use access from Washington through 4th Street.  She stated Raasch thought he owned the property that extends from 4th Street. 

Hill indicated there is a row of trees on what would be a boulevard.  There is no road but it is platted.  There is a right-of-way.  He would not recommend that be vacated by the City.  He stated the issue is actually whether the potential buyer would be required to get a variance to add onto the home.  If there were a road where it is platted, there should be a 25’ setback.  Also if they add to the front of the house it would have to be in line with the other houses on the block, but Flickers house actually faces the alley.

Hill indicated if both the Flickers and the potential buyers of 401 Washington were to petition the City for vacation of that land, the City would probably vacate it.  Kevin Flicker indicated their primary concern is that they continue to have access to their property from West 4th Street.  Hoffman noted that if the property is vacated, the property owners would have to be sure to get a perpetual easement with the property and have it filed at the Courthouse. 

Kuchenreuther indicated she does not feel this requires a variance.  Granger indicated if this were considered a corner lot then they would need a variance.  A corner lot is described in the City Code as “A lot situated at the junction of, and abutting on two or more intersecting streets, or adjacent to or abutting unplatted or undeveloped property, or a lot at the point of deflection in alignment of a continuous street, the interior angle of which does not exceed one hundred thirty-five (135) degrees.”  Kuchenreuther indicated she feels the intent of the description of a corner lot is for developable land, which this is not.

It was felt that a variance is not required for this project.

Questions from Last Meeting:  Hill indicated City Attorney Glasrud has not yet responded to his question regarding annexation discussed at the March meeting. 

Hill indicated there is a County Planning Commission.  Kuchenreuther indicated she feels the City Planning Commission should meet with them regarding zoning.

Possible Variance:  Hill indicated an individual has applied for a zoning variance that would enable him to convert existing porches into bedrooms.  This conversion would make the home a 7-bedroom home.  Hill indicated neither he nor the building official feel this would be a good idea.  Hill will contact the applicant.

Planning Commission Vacancy:  The Commission was reminded of the vacancy on the Planning Commission.

ADJOURNMENT:  The meeting was adjourned at 6:30.

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