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The Regular Meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 19th day of September, 2017, by Chairperson Kuchenreuther in the Council Chambers of the Senior Citizens/Community Center.

CALL OF THE ROLL:  Roll call was taken with the following members present:  Commissioners Granger, Kurpiers, Wulf, Brands, Rudney, and Chairperson Kuchenreuther.  Commissioner Gades was absent.  Also present were ex-officio Gullickson, Building Official/Zoning Administrator Jacobson, and City Manager Hill.

Introductions were made to new commissioner Brands.

READING AND APPROVAL OF 5/16/17 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:  Commissioner Granger moved, seconded by Rudney, to approve the minutes of the 5/16/17 regular meeting as written.  With all present voting in favor, motion carried.


OTHER BUSINESSCentral Business District (CBD) Zoning:  Hill noted that at the last meeting the Planning Commission discussed the Purpose in the CBD, along with allowed uses.  He indicated the City Code can be changed by public petition, the Planning Commission can recommend a change, and the City Council can recommend a change.

Commissioner Rudney asked Zoning Administrator Jacobson if a lot of people come to him with things they can’t do because it is a restricted use in the CBD zone.  Jacobson indicated the most common request is first floor apartments.  Section 11.31, Subd. 2A.11 of the City Code indicates that apartments and condominiums, provided they are located above the first floor, are a permitted use in the CBD.

Rudney, who also serves as the City’s Rental Inspector, indicated he can think of 3 places in Morris that have apartments on the first floor in the CBD. 

Kuchenreuther indicated one of her concerns is what is keeping businesses from locating downtown.  Jacobson noted there are a number of small towns that are reinventing their downtowns with boutiques and eateries.

Ex-officio Gullickson asked if there are resources to help people start a business.  Hill noted the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission is a great source, and they recently held a workshop on starting businesses.  There is also a local loan pool for this purpose.

Jacobson, who is also the Building Official in Benson, indicated the City of Benson has renovated a building and is allowing incubator businesses to use it so they don’t have to own a building in the downtown area.  He suggested that may be a good idea for the City of Morris to try.

Discussion was held on ideas for drumming up businesses in the downtown area.  Brands noted that University of Minnesota Extension does studies on the economics in small communities that may help to find out what people want.  Wulf indicated he serves on a Bank board and he finds that lending typically gets tighter when a town isn’t growing, and Morris’ growth is projected to be pretty flat.

Jacobson noted Morris has some really good industries that have good paying jobs, and yet those businesses are advertising for workers.  Rudney noted that 40% of people that work in Morris don’t live in Morris.  Jacobson also noted there are a lot of rental properties in town. 

Granger indicated she feels downtown Morris is hopping after suppertime with downtown eateries.  She suggested Morris maybe isn’t doing as badly as some places. 

Granger asked if Jacobson feels the off-street parking requirements in the CBD discourage any businesses.  Jacobson replied that he does not think it is an issue.

Granger suggested allowing apartments on the main floor in the back of buildings in the CBD, and keeping the fronts of the buildings for businesses.  Kuchenreuther feels that is something to think about. 

Apartment Lighting:  Granger indicated she has been contacted regarding the lighting across the street from the new apartment building on College Avenue.  The lights in the parking lot at the apartment building shine into their homes.  Hill noted that the light on the south side of the building is not lit, and a light on the street light pole on College Avenue has been removed.  Kuchenreuther indicated the light on the other side of the garages interior to the apartment complex is very bright and is bothering the homeowners on 5th Street. 

Jacobson indicated he will talk with the owners regarding the lights.  He feels the lights are for security in their parking lot. 

Railroad Depot:  Granger asked if the City could plant trees in front of the Depot to screen the area.  She feels the railroad has made that into exterior storage and it’s a growing pile.  Hill noted the railroad has been doing major projects in the area and they may be using that space for their supplies. 

Granger indicated the Tree Board planted 5 trees along there and 2 of them have died because of the chemicals the railroad has sprayed there that stays in the ground for years.  She questioned how the Planning Commission can justify requiring the K-Bid site across the street to clean up their property but the railroad isn’t required to clean up their property. 

Commissioner Wulf pointed out the railroad has re-done their tracks from Benson to Wahpeton and Morris was their headquarters.  He indicated those employees spent a lot of money in Morris.

Hill will contact the railroad regarding this concern.

ADJOURNMENT:  There being no further business, Commissioner Rudney moved, seconded by Wulf, to adjourn.  Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 6:19.

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