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MINUTES - PLANNING COMMISSION - REGULAR MEETING - OCTOBER 15, 2013

The Regular Meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m .this 15th day of October, 2015, 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, Gades, Kurpiers, and Chairperson Kuchenreuther.  Commissioner Livingston was absent.  Also present were ex-officio Miller and City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill.

READING AND APPROVAL OF 9/17/13 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:  Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Kurpiers, to approve the minutes of the 9/17/13 regular meeting as presented.  Motion carried.

PUBLIC HEARINGSEast 7th Street Rezoning:  This hearing is to consider an official request from the Morris City Council to amend the City of Morris Land Use Regulation (Zoning) map to change the zoning on the northwest side of East 7th Street from Columbia Avenue to Iowa Avenue from a Multiple Family Residence (RM) District to a Highway Business (HB) District, reversing a change that was made in December of 2011.  This amendment, if adopted, would allow the properties located in this area to continue as Highway Business properties as they were previously. 

Chairperson Kuchenreuther opened the public hearing at 5:20 p.m.  City Manager/Zoning Administrator Hill indicated the Planning Commission is required to hold a public hearing, take input, and decide on a recommendation back to the City Council regarding this zoning.  He pointed out the Planning Commission only makes a recommendation to the City Council.  The City Council makes the final decision.  Hill indicated the State of Minnesota recently passed a law that requires any change in zoning from residential to another zone requires a 2/3 affirmative vote of the Council to be approved. 

Hill indicated notices were sent to all property owners within 350’ of the area to be rezoned.  He has received no questions or comments regarding this.

Grace Geier, 116 East 8th Street, Unit #1, indicated she would like to see that area rezoned to allow for a 24-hour community space that students and community members could to go.

Kathy Wilcox asked how long the rezoning process would take.  Hill indicated the Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the City Council.  The Council meets next Tuesday, October 22, and will take the recommendation under consideration.  If the City Council decides to rezone the property, they hold the first reading of the ordinance next Tuesday, and set the public hearing and second reading for November 12th.  If adopted at the November 12th meeting, the ordinance would be published November 16th, and it takes effect 30 days after publication.

Troy Goodnough, 901 Park Avenue, indicated his interest in this lies with the old Elementary School property across the street from this area.  He indicated he is excited about that property and what development may take place there.  He is interested in how this plays out long term.  He noted if there is heavy traffic on 7th Street, it will impact the area right across the street.

Chairperson Kuchenreuther indicated the purpose of the RM District is to provide a district of medium density housing in multiple family structures and directly related complimentary uses.  She read the permitted uses and conditional uses in this zone.

Commissioner Hoffman indicated this area was zoned HB until recently when it was rezoned RM.  The Planning Commission is looking at this now because the existing business owners are unable to do what they want with their property.

Sid Wilcox, 210 Montana Avenue, indicated he owns a building on East 7th Street.  He indicated if the zoning remains RM, apartment buildings would not be allowed on the old elementary school property across the street  because the RM zone doesn’t allow businesses, and apartments are businesses.  Kuchenreuther indicated that in the City Code, apartments are considered dwellings, not businesses. 

Kathy Wilcox stated if the zoning remains RM with an eye toward development of the old school property, that benefits the City, and she would consider that a “taking”, which devalues their property.  Granger indicated she does not think State law says rezoning is a taking.  She pointed out the impetus for the rezoning was not for the old elementary school property, rather the entire City was reviewed.  Hill indicated zoning laws do not allow Cities to zone people out of their businesses.  He stated that in this case, the Planning Commission is not doing anything with regard to the City, and pointed out the City won’t even own the old elementary school property in the end. 

Joey Danowitz, 113 West 5th Street, indicated he feels the Planning Commission should make a recommendation based on the start up of small businesses along 7th Street. 

Wilcox indicated that with the current zoning, the only thing he can do with his building is tear it down and build a 13’ house on the lot.  He feels the Planning Commission is destroying all the businesses on the north side of 7th Street. 

Granger indicated that at the Planning Commission meeting in September, the Commission discussed the development of a new zone that would permit small businesses and be more compatible with R and RM zones.  It would not allow big industries.  She would like to see the Planning Commission study such a zone. 

Wilcox indicated he thought the City Council mandated the Planning Commission to change it back to HB.  Hill pointed out the Planning Commission does not change the zoning – they make a recommendation to the City Council, and the City Council changes the zoning.  If the City Council wants the zoning to change, the Planning Commission is required to hold a public hearing and then make a recommendation to the City Council.   

Kuchenreuther indicated that in developing a new zone, the Planning Commission is trying to come up with a compromise.

Jack Ascheman, 6499 White Oak Road, Lino Lakes, is Vice President of Operations of Brown Wilbert at 513 East 7th Street.  He reviewed the history of Brown Wilbert.  He indicated they have plants in several cities, and are considered light industrial in most of them.  He indicated they have 10 employees that spend their money in Morris.  He indicated as a result of the rezoning, they can no longer add on to their building, which they would like to do.  Kuchenreuther explained that their business would most likely be considered an allowed use in a heavy industrial zone, so they couldn’t even expand in the HB zone.  Ascheman indicated if the City chases them out of town, they might not stay in the area.  He feels the City has a responsibility to keep employment here.

Commissioner Kurpiers indicated he is the newest member of the Planning Commission, and his understanding is that the purpose of zoning is to establish a long term vision of an area.   

Grace Geier expressed her support for a zone that would be a mix of business and residential areas.  She feels it would be a good idea to have some businesses here to support the area.

Don Werk, 615 East 7th Street, indicated he has owned his property on East 7th Street for 40 years and considered this to be their retirement.  He feels there are sneaky little comments in the Code that prevent owners from doing what they want with their property.  He feels it would be simplest for the Planning Commission to change the zoning to HB.  He asked if the public would be able to hear what would be allowed in the proposed new zone.  Kuchenreuther indicated the Planning Commission could make a recommendation to the City Council that no action on zoning take place until the Planning Commission can craft language for this new alternative district to make it friendly to existing businesses.  Granger listed some of the things that are allowed in such a district in other cities.  Ascheman said he didn’t hear anything on the list that would fit their industry.  Kuchenreuther indicated currently in the City’s Code, Brown Wilbert would only fit into the I2 zone.  She noted the list is not final, and indicated the City values their business and does not want to chase it out of town.   Ex-officio Miller indicated the new zone would exclude any businesses with high traffic that produce a lot of noise, and have a lot of lights. 

Joey Danowitz thanked the Planning Commission for their work and for looking into this. 

Hoffman indicated he feels the key to this whole thing is that the Planning Commission is only making a recommendation to the City Council.  He indicated there was no opposition to the zoning change 2 years ago, and now feels the Planning Commission is stuck in the middle of the disagreement.  He feels the zoning should be changed back to HB.

Ascheman indicated their Fargo plant is by a church, golf course, and park.  He noted they are in a light industrial zone in Roseville.  He pointed out they do not have ready mix trucks at their plant in Morris. 

There being no further comments, the hearing was closed at 6:19 p.m.

Commissioner Rudney indicated he is in favor of creating a new district to make various businesses viable.  Hoffman noted his only concern is the amount of time that would take.  He suggested the zoning be changed to HB with the caveat to look at other things that come up as he doesn’t feel it’s fair to tie these property owners up.  Granger feels the City Council should be able to hear the alternative idea.  She indicated this is a central part of town, and this should be done right and thought through.  Kuchenreuther indicated an alternative district could be created that is thoughtful and considers the needs of the surrounding area.  Granger read out of the Code that the HB zone is intended to provide a district of centralized areas for service oriented enterprises, and for quasi-industrial and wholesale enterprises that do not require an industrial setting but have considerable contact and a dependence on transient trade and traffic.  She pointed out East 7th Street is not a highway anymore.

Kurpiers indicated it is important that the City Council knows the Planning Commission doesn’t think changing it to HB solves all the issues either.  Miller indicated the City would want to restrict huge industrial businesses in the new zone. 

Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Gades, to recommend that instead of immediately rezoning to HB, the City Council recommend that the Planning Commission explore the establishment of a new zoning district that would take into account existing and future small businesses as well as the residential character of that neighborhood.  With five Commissioners voting in favor, one Commissioner absent, and Commissioner Hoffman abstaining, motion carried. 

Wilcox asked if the Planning Commission meets at other times besides the regular meeting time.  Kuchenreuther indicated they do not, unless there is a work session.

OTHER BUSINESSSign Question – Zion Lutheran Church:  Don Munsterman was present representing Zion Lutheran Church.  He indicated the church is contemplating installing a new sign on the boulevard at their Church.  The Code indicates no illuminated signs are allowed in an R zone.  He questioned what illuminated means.  They are considering an LED sign.  Hill noted his interpretation is that illuminated would include LED signs.  Gades asked if the sign would have scrolling messages.  Munsterman indicated it would not have scrolling message.  He indicated it would be double sided, and wouldn’t face the street.

Kuchenreuther asked the rationale for the sign.  Munsterman indicated presently they have no identification sign.  He noted a lot of churches have signs like the one they are interested in installing.  He indicated they would like to request a variance or a code change.  Kuchenreuther indicated the Planning Commission cannot give a variance for something that is not allowed. 

Kuchenreuther indicated she feels the Planning Commission would have to recommend a change to the Code in order to allow or recommend this.  Hill indicated an attorney on a webinar he watched recommends approving an amendment to the Code prior to allowing the use. 

Munsterman indicated they can wait a few months for this.  Kuchenreuther recommended putting this on the November Planning Commission agenda, and having Hill craft something for the Planning Commission to consider at that time. 

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Commissioner Gades moved, seconded by Rudney, to adjourn.  Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 7:02 p.m.

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