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MINUTES - PLANNING COMMISSION - REGULAR MEETING - MARCH 17, 2015

The regular meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 17th day of March, 2015, in the Council Chambers of the Morris Senior Citizens/Community Center by Chairperson Kuchenreuther.

CALL OF THE ROLL:  Roll call was taken with the following members present:  Commissioners Granger, Livingston, Rudney and Chairperson Kuchenreuther.  Commissioners Gades, Kurpiers and Hoffman were absent.  Also present were Ex-officio Miller and City Manager Hill.

READING AND APPROVAL OF 2/17/15 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:  Chairperson Kuchenreuther asked if, in the 4th paragraph of the second page, Hill was commenting on the lighting at the new Hotel in Glenwood and not the new car lot as noted in the minutes.  Hill indicated he was talking about the car lot.  Kuchenreuther asked about the wording in the first sentence of the sixth paragraph.  That sentence reads, “Granger doesn’t feel it is a neighborhood sign, and if they at least turned it off at night it wouldn’t be as intrusive into the neighborhood.”  She asked if the term “neighborhood sign” should be changed to “a sign that is compatible in a neighborhood.”   It was the concensus this would be more clear.  Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Livingston, to approve the minutes with the noted change.  With all present voting in favor, motion carried.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:  None.

OTHER BUSINESSSign Ordinance – Signs in Residential Areas/Sign Illumination:  Vicki Dosdall and Jana Koehler were present representing Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM).  Dosdall indicated they received a letter from City Manager Hill requesting that they turn the lights on the LCM building off at night until the City can address this.  They have complied and the lights are not on at night.  She stated that not getting a sign permit for the sign on their building was a complete oversight on their part, and not intentional by any means.  She indicated they hope to find some middle ground with the City for a solution. 

Dosdall contacted City Manager Hill to see if any neighbors had complained about the lights and he has indicated he has not received any complaints from neighbors.  Chairperson Kuchenreuther noted most of the homes around the LCM buildings are rentals.  Dosdall noted that the renters that live at the LCM have indicated the lights do not bother them.

Cindy Riedner, representing Assumption Parish, stated they have heard there are concerns about the lights on the back of the St. Mary’s school.  She indicated she doesn’t feel St. Mary’s lights are that bright.  Kuchenreuther indicated the concern with the LCM sign is that it went up without them getting a permit.  Riedner asked about the hospital that has 3 large signs on their property.  Rudney indicated the hospital’s new signs by the emergency garage are really bright. 

Granger indicated Morris’ sign ordinance is very outdated and inconsistent.  She has researched sign ordinances of different cities and noted Alexandria’s is 26 pages.  Hill pointed out Alexandria has a zoning department, and Morris does not.  He indicated the Planning Commission needs to look at what is reasonable and acceptable, and noted the LCM is a religious center-It’s not a church or a rental house.  He feels the biggest issue is illumination and how it affects neighbors.  Granger indicated Northfield’s ordinance is only 6 pages and it seems to cover a lot of different instances. 

Dosdall noted the lights on their new sign are on a timer and they can set it so the lights are on for only an hour at night.  She also noted they would be willing to compromise and remove the brick sign at the front of their property.  Kuchenreuther indicated she feels they can wait to make any changes until the Planning Commission figures out what to do about illuminated signs. 

Kuchenreuther explained there was a church that wanted to put up an electronic sign and the Planning Commission wouldn’t allow it.  She said it’s very hard for the Planning Commission to defend saying no to them and then letting LCM keep their sign because they didn’t get a permit.  She said the Planning Commission has to enforce the Codes and be fair to everyone.

Ex-officio Miller asked if the LCM light can be dimmed.  Dosdall did not know if it could be dimmed.  Dosdall asked if there are restrictions on the churches that do have lighted signs.  Kuchenreuther indicated that when St. Paul’s requested their lighted sign, the Planning Commission did put restrictions on it.  Dosdall pointed out their sign is close to the road also.

Hill asked if LCM could turn the lights on their sign on for an hour at night until this issue gets resolved.  Granger indicated she feels they should leave it off until this is all figured out. 

Dosdall indicated a property having long grass or junk in the yard would irritate her more than a lighted sign.  Kuchenreuther indicated the Planning Commission’s goal is to have compatible uses in the City.

It was the consensus that the Planning Commission needs to work on this issue, and Granger will provide the sign ordinance from Northfield that she has researched.

OTHER BUSINESS:  Hill indicated there will probably be a hearing at the next meeting to change the zoning on the old Heartland Motors property at East Highway 28 and Iowa Avenue to I2. 

Hill indicated he attended a conference last week regarding solar power.  He will be suggesting that the City change all its street lights to LED.   

Kuchenreuther asked if the Planning Commission needs to think about anything with regard to the transport of oil out of North Dakota and those trains coming through town.  Hill noted the Planning Commission would not be responsible for anything in that matter.  Livingston indicated the railroad has response teams and there is good preparedness for situations that may arise.

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Livingston, to adjourn.  Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 6:05.

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