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MINUTES-PLANNING COMMISSION-REGULAR MEETING-AUGUST 18, 2020

The Regular Meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 18th day of August via Zoom by Chairperson Kuchenreuther. 

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

READING AND APPROVAL OF 2/18/20 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:  Commissioner Granger moved, seconded by Brands, to approve the minutes of the 2/18/20 meeting as written.  With all voting in favor, motion carried.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:  None.

OTHER BUSINESS:  Replacement for Steve Rudney on the Planning Commission:    Commissioner Granger moved, seconded by Kurpiers, to send a letter of recognition to Steve for his service on the Planning Commission because he was a very valuable member for a long time.  Motion carried.  The Commissioners were encouraged to try think of someone that may be interested in serving on the Planning Commission. 

New Flood Plain Map:    City Manager Hill explained the old flood plain map was from 1975.  A lot of banks check on the flood plain when they are looking at loans for home purchases.  It appears the flood plain pretty much follows the wetland areas, and Pomme de Terre Park is in a flood plain.  Commissioner Granger asked what the purpose is of the map.  Hill responded the purpose is to prevent building in a flood plain.  If someone builds there, they would have to buy flood insurance.  There are a lot of properties in a flood plain in Breckenridge and they flooded out because they were built next to a river.  Commissioner Kuchenreuther indicated that at least twice she was told her home was in a flood plain, and she is way above lake level, so it's good to have this.  Hill indicated the map is determined by elevation.  Granger indicated that according to the key it looks like most of Morris is in an area of minimal flood hazard.  Commissioner Wulf indicated he is happy the City got a new map that is approved and it makes life easier for people getting loans.  Hill asked that the Commissioners to let him know if they see anything that may be off on the map.  He also noted it's good to know where the flood plain is when the Planning Commission is zoning.  Commissioner Brands commented it appears that part of the University baseball complex and compost pile are in the flood plain.  The flood plain would not have any effect on the new softball complex at UMM.  Commissioner Granger commented that parks are a good use of the land in a flood plain. 

Solar Energy Systems: Chairperson Kuchenreuther commented that the City needs to encourage solar systems while also protecting trees and properties.  City Manager Hill explained that there are some local citizens looking at putting together a cooperative purchasing group through which they would install solar systems on their properties. 

There would be a non--profit organization that comes in and facilitates the information process.

Right now solar is a permitted use in all districts in Morris except the commercial zone, but our zoning code indicates it requires a CUP in each one of those districts and that's conflicting information.  If someone walks in today and wants to put solar on their house Hill doesn't think the City could prohibit that.  The Fergus Falls ordinance is fairly simple as to what is allowed.  Solar is a permitted use in their zoning districts.  Solar farms are a different story - they aren't allowed here because Otter Tail Power controls electricity. 

Chairperson Kuchenreuther indicated she feels Morris needs some good performance standards regarding solar.  She wants to make sure trees are protected.  She said Wisconsin has a pretty robust State code that says what municipalities can do in regard to allowing solar.      

Hill indicated there's nothing in the City's ordinances that would allow a property owner to take any action on a neighbor with their property and trees just for their own solar.

Hill indicated he doesn't feel it's necessary to include something in a new ordinance that is already prohibited.  Kuchenreuther is afraid someone may install solar and then expect a neighbor to cut their trees down so the solar is effective.  Hill thinks adding language would be going down a path that would make things more confusing.   Kuchenreuther feels the City should be explicit about the fact that a person doesn't have exclusive access to the sun.  Hill said to prohibit something that's already prohibited doesn't make sense to him.  Kuchenreuther asked if the new Sustainability Coordinator could look into this.  Hill indicated he is already working on it.   Commissioner Brands suggested that instead of putting the issue of trees into the ordinance, perhaps a solar guide would make more sense.  Hill indicated he feels that would work.  Hill just wants to make sure when someone comes in and wants to do a solar project, the City is prepared.   Commissioner Granger indicated she likes the idea of the ordinance coming from the Planning Commission and since Hill knows how our ordinances are written, she thinks he is the logical person to draft something.  Commissioner Kurpiers likes the idea of having a solar brochure to hand out so there are no misunderstandings of what is allowed.  Commissioner Granger agreed with Kurpiers.  Hill indicated he would be comfortable drafting an ordinance addressing solar projects.  Commissioner Kurpiers feels the Planning Commission should look to the future regardless of what the local utility landscape looks like currently.  Hill noted that once the Sustainability Coordinator comes on board, he could look into this too. 

Chairperson Kuchenreuther will share information she has gathered on solar systems.

Commissioner Wulf feels comfortable having Hill and the new Sustainability Coordinator draft something and then have it reviewed by the Planning Commission.

ADJOURNMENT:   There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 6:10.

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