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MINUTES–PLANNING COMMISSION–REGULAR MEETING–SEPTEMBER 20, 2011

The regular meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 20th day of September, 2011, 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 Rudney, Hoffman, Granger, Livingston, Johnson, Gades, and Chairperson Kuchenreuther.  Also present were ex-officio Miller and City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill.

READING AND APPROVAL OF 8/16/11 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:  Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Granger, to approve the minutes of the 8/16/11 regular meeting.  Motion carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:  Volker Variance Request:  This hearing is on a zoning variance request from Section 11.23, Subd. 2 D 5 (e) of the Morris City Code which requires a 25’ sideyard setback in a residential (R) zone; and Section 11.23, Subd. 2 D 3, which requires buildings or structures may cover no more than 30% when lots are less than or equal to 7,000 square feet.  This request is by Dennis Volker.  The subject address is 100 East 3rd Street, and is legally described as Lot 7, Block 9, Morris First Addition, parcel number 20-0743-000.  This variance, if granted, would allow the construction of a home that covers 36% of the lot, and has a sideyard setback of 16’. 

City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill explained the Volkers propose to construct a rambler on a corner lot, which is something the Planning Commission has addressed in the past.  This is a corner lot which requires a 25’ setback on both street sides of the lot.  There is a house on this lot now, which the Volkers would tear down.  There are also 4 large trees – 1 elm and 3 ash – that may have to be removed for construction of the new home.  Hill indicated he recommends these variance requests be approved.  He feels there is really nothing else that can be done with a 50’ lot.

Kuchenreuther asked the rationale for having the driveway cross the sidewalk instead of going out the alley.  Volker indicated they want to put a patio and garden off the garage end of the home.  He also noted their plan has changed and they will not be constructing the 4-season porch on the north end of the home, and the location of the home will be slid north to where the 4-season porch would have extended, thus leaving more room by the garage.  He stated that by removing the 4-season porch, only 33% of the lot would be covered by structures

Joel Killoran, 102 Columbia Avenue, asked the size of the home.  Volker indicated it would be 28’ wide and 88’ long, 2,360 square feet including the garage, and they would live in the home.  Killoran indicated he feels this would be a positive addition to this neighborhood.  Commissioner Rudney and ex-officio Miller agreed that it would be a nice improvement to this neighborhood.

Commissioner Johnson moved, seconded by Rudney, to grant these variances as requested.  Motion carried unanimously.

Zoning Amendments:  Kuchenreuther indicated there are a number of amendments to discuss tonight.  She noted every property owner in Morris received a notice of this hearing.  Hill indicated that originally the city had authority to zone ½ mile outside City limits, but it was only just recently zoned.  The Planning Commission then looked at changes needed inside City limits, and that is what this hearing is for.  The Planning Commission will make recommendations to the City Council on zoning changes, and then the Council enacts changes by Ordinance. 

Bill Stewart, 401 West 9th Street, asked if the City could have an airplane scan the area to show the location of buildings on lots in the City to give an actual picture.  Granger responded that the City does have MNDOT aerial maps. 

Hill reviewed the proposed changes. 

1.    Change the Highway Business (HB) zone along East 7th Street from Columbia Avenue to Iowa Avenue near the old elementary school to Multiple Family Residence (RM).  Bill Stewart, 401 West 9th Street, asked if this area is along East Highway 28.  Hill indicated it is East 7th Street which was the old highway into Morris.  Bob Johnson of Johnson Grain asked if truck traffic would have to be changed on East 7th  Street with this proposed change.  Hill indicated East 7th Street is still a State Aid street, and there are no discussions on changing any road widths or construction levels.  He stated semis could still use East 7th Street.

2.    Leave the Morris Dental Building, Schuster Agency, and Raymond James Office on East 6th Street and the Professional Building on East 7th Street and California Avenue as Central Business District (CBD) and change the rest of the lots on those two blocks to Multiple Family Residence (RM).  Hill noted the zoning is being set for CBD where the businesses are, and then the rest of the area would be RM.

3.    Change the Mohr Plumbing and Melchert properties along Hwy 28 from Highway Business (HB) to Single and Two Family Residence (R).  Hill noted that Mohr Plumbing is the only business in that area.  He stated there is a residential subdivision next to this, along with the areas to the north, northeast and northwest.  Hill indicated he received a telephone call from the property owner of the majority of the residential property in that area.  There is a piece of MC that extends to the west that is now farmland, and the owner would rather that be R instead of MC.  Hill indicated Mohr Plumbing would be grandfathered in.

4.    Change all Morris Public School Property near the University to Single and Two Family Residence (R).  Hill indicated all the property where the new schools is is zoned RF.  It is recommended that zoning be changed to R.

5.    Change the area along Iowa Avenue near the Iowa Avenue Townhomes from Highway Business (HB) to Multiple Family Residence (RM).  This includes the apartment to the northwest of the Townhomes and the small triangular lot to the east of Iowa Avenue near 7th Street. 

6.    Change area north of the Elementary School from Farm Residence (RF) to Single and Two Family Residence (R).  This includes the small triangular area east of the Columbia Avenue and South Street corner.

7.    Change the zoning for all railroad property northwest of the DENCO II plant from Heavy Industrial (I2) to Light Industrial (I1).  Hill indicated he has received 3 telephone calls on this proposed change this week.  He indicated the owner of the concrete plant feels the City is making a mistake rezoning this out of Heavy Industrial (I2) because there is a rail spur there.  Hill noted that presently, concrete plants, along with grain elevators, are conditional uses in both I1 and I2 zones.  Jay Morrell, owner of the concrete plant on Pacific Avenue, indicated he feels his property would be devalued by changing the zoning to I1.  He indicated the rail spur onto his property is a very vital piece of their operation.  He is requesting that area be left I2.  He indicated he has found it is much easier to get a conditional use permit in an area zoned I2.  He also feels it would be more valuable to be able to sell his property with the rail spur if it were zoned I2.  Morrell further stated most I1 businesses do not need a rail spur, and rail becomes a real asset to anything that is moved in bulk.  He stated he has explored running a rail spur onto property that does not have one, and has found it would cost about $2 million per mile, which is very cost prohibitive. 

8.    Change the lots from West 5th Street south to West 4th Street on the west side of Pacific Avenue from Heavy Industrial (I2) to Highway Business (HB).

9.    Change the lots from West 6th Street south to West 5th Street on the west side of Pacific Avenue from Heavy Industrial (I2) to Central Business District (CBD).

10.Change the area around Riverview Townhomes First Addition up to the rear lot lines from Single and Two Family Residence (R) to Municipal Conservancy (MC) coming up to the property lines.  Bob Johnson of Johnson Grain asked what the MC zone is, and if the City owns all MC property.  Kuchenreuther read the explanation of MC from the code book, and explained it is not necessarily owned by the City.  She stated the Planning Commission has mainly zoned the river corridor and obvious wetlands as MC. 

11.Change the small triangular area north of Riverside Addition and east of the Highway 59 bypass, plus the small open area immediately across the Highway 59 bypass from Single and Two Family Residence (R) to Municipal Conservancy (MC).

12.Change the triangular parcel shown Light Industrial (I1) on the zoning map along South Highway 9 in the southeast part of the map to Highway Business (HB), along with a 600’ wide strip (from the front property line) extending diagonally to the southeast. The area north and east of this Highway Business (HB) strip should be Single and Two Family Residence (R). 

13.Change the Municipal Conservancy (MC) zoning in the southeast corner of the zoning map to include a Single and Two Family Residence (R) zone extension extending southeast along the area just east of the newly created Highway Business (HB) zoning area to the ½ mile line of authority.  Hill indicated the Planning Commission determined this would be a good place to bring some residential properties in.  Josh Kurpiers, 9 East 2nd Street,  asked where HB starts on the northwest corner and the northwest corner of the new residential area.  Hill indicated the Planning Commission tried to use ¼ section lines and designated a length in order to describe the lines.  Kurpiers asked if there is current access to the new R area.  Hill indicated there is not, and in zoning the area, access is not considered.  Bob Johnson of Johnson Grain asked if land descriptions are more accurate on the east side of town as opposed to the west side of town.  He had some surveying done on property he owns on the west side of town, and his surveyor indicated some properties there are 30’ off.

14.Change the newly acquired school property near the water tower from Farm Residence (RF) to Single and Two Family Residence (R).

15.Change the single-family homes on the south side of Thomas Street from Multiple Family Residence (RM) to Single and Two Family Residence (R), leaving the multi-family complex the same.

16.Change the south side of North Ridge Drive from Farm Residence (RF) to Single and Two Family Residence (R), except that a 600’ strip (from the front property line) in the southeast corner should be changed to Highway Business (HB) and should run in a line equal to another line of Highway Business (HB) property for the adjacent properties.  Hill noted this is probably the biggest change when one looks at development and the future of Morris.  It is proposed that 600’ in will be HB and behind that will be R.  The City does provide water and sewer in this area.  Bill Stewart, 401 West 9th Street, asked what is going to happen with the Coborn’s property.  He asked if a renewal group could acquire that property.  Hill indicated the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission is working on that. 

17.Change the land designations to Highway Business (HB) along a line east of and parallel to Highway 9 from the northwest line of authority running southeast to the east west line of the Highway Business (HB) property designation, which is northwest of Highway 28 as presented on the updated Zoning map.

18.Zone the Fairgrounds area Highway Business (HB) and add as a permitted use.

19.The area between Pacific Avenue and the Burlington Northern right of way north of 7th Street should be Light Industrial (I1) all the way north to Park Avenue.  The area between Pacific Avenue and the Burlington Northern right of way between 7th Street and 5th Street should be Central Business District (CBD).

20.Move residential single family homes from a permitted use to a conditional use in a Highway Business (HB) zone.

Josh Kurpiers asked the purpose of the little finger of residential area south of the cul de sacs by the townhomes on East 7th Street.  Hill indicated that area is outside City limits and has already been zoned.  Hill further pointed out the City has no authority to zone University land as they have separate powers to designate their land use. 

Hill indicated that the change to I1 starts northwest of DENCO II, but doesn’t include them.

Commissioner Granger indicated the Planning Commission did take the Comprehensive Plan into consideration and it talks about enhancing livability by separating uses and encouraging business by providing good business sites.  She stated the central core of Morris has dilapidated housing, and one of the reasons for that is there is that spine of I2 right down the center of town.  She believes the shift of I2 is helping support the renewal of the inner part of the City.  Granger calculated that with the proposed zoning, 15% of Morris will be I2, 7% will be I1, 15% will be HB, and 3% will be CBD, which makes a total of 39-40% available for businesses.  Also, 4% will be RF, 42% will be R, and 16% will be RM, for a total of 57-58% Residential.  Jay Morrell of the cement plant indicated he disagrees on the I2 versus the I1.  He feels Morris was built from the railroad out.  He stated having his property changed to I1 does not make sense to him.  He disagrees that revitalizing involves trying to get people to build in the core of the City.  He feels changing his classification from I2 to I1 will not help build new houses in downtown Morris.  He asked this his zoning be left I2. 

The hearing was closed at 6:25 and brought back to the Planning Commission.  It was felt the Planning Commission would like to take this under consideration.  Commissioner Johnson moved, seconded by Gades, to table the Zoning Amendments until the October meeting.  Motion carried unanimously.

NEW BUSINESS:  None.

ADJOURNMENT:  Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Johnson, to adjourn. Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 6:26.

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