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MINUTES - PLANNING COMMISSION - REGULAR MEETING - SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

The Regular Meeting of the Morris Planning Commission was called to order at 5:15 p.m. this 15th day of September, 2020, via Zoom by Chairperson Kuchenreuther. 

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

READING AND APPROVAL OF 8/18/20 REGULAR MEETING MINUTES:

Commissioner Gades moved, seconded by Wulf, to approve the minutes of the 8/18/20 regular meeting as presented.  Motion carried.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:  None.

OTHER BUSINESSReplacement for Steve Rudney on the Planning Commission:  City Manager Hill indicated that Melanie Fohl is interested in serving on the Planning Commission.  Commissioner Brands has also talked to the current Housing Inspector about serving.  It was the consensus to have the City Council appoint Melanie Fohl to fill the unexpired term of Steve Rudney on the Planning Commission.

Solar System Ordinance:  Hill has been working on a draft solar ordinance and has contacted our new Sustainability Project Coordinator, Chris Watkins, to assist him.  Hill shared a Solar Access and Urban Forestry in Wisconsin, Laws, Conflicts and Potential Solutions publication with the Planning Commission.  He thought it was interesting that property owners had the right to the sun and the wind, which was something he hadn't heard of before. Hill looked at our Code and there is information in our zoning code that needs to be addressed regarding solar because it lends itself to the general discussion of a neighbor's trees not being allowed to grow large enough to infringe on the other neighbor's solar system.  The City does have a shade tree ordinance that addresses shade trees and trees in general.  Hill noted that he plans to draft an ordinance and have it reviewed by the Planning Commission.   Hill feels solar systems and trees can be compatible.  There is a cooperative group of property owners working with a non-profit to be able to put solar on their properties.  It's a regional effort and not necessarily just in Morris.  Right now putting a solar system on a house in Morris is permitted.  Hill noted the City wants to make it as easy as possible for people to be able to put solar on their property as it's part of the strategic plan that has to do with sustainable renewable energy.   Kuchenreuther feels once an ordinance it adopted, it would be good to put together a public information brochure for those considering installing a solar system. 

Gullickson stated the biggest concern the Tree Board has is that a person would have to cut trees down because their neighbor installed a solar system.  Hill feels the City needs to make sure that doesn't happen, and he doesn't think the solar co-op people want that to happen either.  Coverage, height, setbacks, and location will be considered when writing the ordinance.

Commissioner Gades asked if the solar system projects could be added into the building permit process.  Hill indicated he doesn't think it should require any kind of permitting.

Vacant Buildings Rendered Useless:  Hill indicated there are two buildings in town that are almost rendered useless because of their zoning.  Those buildings are the now empty old school bus garage on West 5th Street, and the old Salvation Army Thrift Store on East 7th Street.  There have been several potential buyers for these properties, but the current zoning of the buildings has prohibited them from being purchased. 

Hill stated that when the Planning Commission worked on the Neighborhood Commercial zone, grandfathering in of businesses was discussed.  Once those businesses go away, so does the use.  The bus garage is in a Residential zone, so there is very limited use.  The old Salvation Army building is in the Neighborhood Commercial zone, and also allows limited use.  He is trying to figure out how to make these buildings more usable.  Commissioner Wulf asked if a variance could be granted.  Hill indicated variances are more for things like setbacks. 

Considerable discussion was held.  Spot zoning or a conditional use that pertains to the building itself were both discussed as options.  Hill will check with the League of Minnesota Cities for ideas also.

Flood Plain:  Hill indicated the City will be required to adopt a floodplain ordinance next year.  Morris doesn't have a lot of area affected.   

ADJOURNMENT:  Commissioner Gades moved, seconded by Kurpiers, to adjourn.  Motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 6:05.

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