December 12, 2012 Planning Commission Minutes

1. CALL TO ORDER - Chair Hoffman called the meeting to order at 7 p.m.


3. ROLL CALL - Mason, Struck, Sippel, Erickson, Hoffman

4. ADOPT AGENDA - Erickson makes a motion and Sippel seconds to adopt the agenda. Hoffman states the public hearing notice says 7:30 p.m. so the sign applications will be moved in front of the public hearing to accommodate the start time. All votes ayes, motion carries.

a. Planning Commission Meeting Minutes from November 14, 2012 - Sippel makes a motion and Mason seconds to approve the minutes. All votes ayes, motion carries.


Lewin explained she received a phone call from a representative of the Tonka Ventures building stating they wanted to change the blue neon lighting strip at the top of the tower. The caller said the neon was problematic and high maintenance. He said they were looking to change to LED and would potentially change the color from blue to red. Lewin said she told the caller they would check if there were ordinances governing this and get back to the caller. Lewin said she referred this to the city planner after not finding anything that dictates to this request. Brixius said the existing lighting is considered legal non-conforming and there is a change proposed in the non conforming condition being it neon to LED lighting. Erickson wondered about the candle watt power restrictions and Brixius said it’s within the allowed lighting requirements. Struck asked if the lighting was decorative and it’s decided that’s what it is. Sippel likes the landmark lighting. Brixius said LED is fine and it is ribbon styled and doesn’t exceed allowable limits. Mason said for the record he likes the blue as that is the city’s color scheme. Hoffman disagrees with dictating the color choice and Sippel agrees. Hoffman makes a motion to approve the verbal application for sign change but does not want a color preference specified. Discussion: Struck wonders what if in the future someone wanted to have multiple colors or running strips of light or flashing lights. Brixius said it would have to follow the dynamic sign ruling which has rules in place for flashing lights. All votes ayes, motion carries.

Sippel said he and Hoffman have wondered about the continued review of permanent sign permit applications when they are considered fully conforming and whether is it necessary to go in front of the PC. Brixius said in other communities it’s typically a standard issue over the counter. Hoffman makes a motion to recommend to the council that if signs are conforming, staff could make the approval. Erickson seconds. Sippel wants to clarify staff and wonders if that includes the planner. It’s agreed that the planner should review this permit application but would not have to generate a detailed report. Widmer agreed that’s the way it used to be and if it was clear-cut it was just issued. Widmer thought the change may have stemmed from wanting the PC being more involved and have input but she agrees with Sippel that it doesn’t seem necessary. Widmer is concerned about the sign that is being moved in from elsewhere. Sippel said he likes seeing the applications and knowing whose coming into town but doesn’t need the report from Brixius. Erickson said it's a lot of paper and he agrees it doesn't seem necessary to generate all the paper waste for obvious legally conforming and acceptable signage. All votes ayes, motion carries. Hoffman asks that Widmer presents this to the council.

a. Variance Application - Hoffman opens the public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Brixius said tonight there is a public hearing for a variance application for Anne Marie Borne at 2473 Black Lake Road. (Brixius refers to various documents displayed for viewing.) Brixius points to a survey performed of the property showing the existing house, retaining walls and a tree. He explains the applicant has contacted the city several times wondering if her plans would be doable. He said they have met at the site. Brixius said at the site meeting the applicant indicated she would like to enclose her outdoor stairs as it’s her primary entrance. He said the applicant is retirement age and she would like to stay in her home. She would like to enclose the stairway and leave an option for an elevator at a later date.

Brixius said they were given a tour of the inside of the applicant's home. He said the home is considered to be legal non-conforming. Brixius said right now there is about 5’4” from the street to the house. He said the street line is illustrated on the survey and the changes would bring it to within three feet 8 inches. He said the house was built in 1930 and a building expansion had been added since that time. He said the applicant now wishes to enclose and rebuild the stairwell and add two bedrooms above the existing garage. He said further complications are a utility pole and a fire hydrant. He said the dash lines illustrate the retaining walls. Brixius said at the site meeting concern was expressed about future snow storage. Brixius said the applicant submitted a letter explaining her reasoning about remaining the home. Brixius said state statute stipulates if this is a reasonable use. He said the criteria is practical difficulties, not hardship.

Brixius referred to the City's comprehensive plan and said residential goals are for providing for lifestyle changes and to maintain single family homes. He said the plan encourages investment in homes. He said in that respect, he believes the applicant's plans address this. Brixius said with this being a 1930’s home and the primary access being on the second floor, this is a reasonable request and consistent with the comprehensive plan. He said the property is zoned R-1 and it meets lot area and lot width but the front yard setback is not compliant but complies with the lake setback. Brixius said practical difficulties are the property proposes to use the property in a reasonable manner and R-1 is a permitted residential use. Brixius said the plight is unique and not created by the property owner as is illustrated on the aerial map.

Brixius said if the variance is granted, site plans would have to be presented for typical construction stages. Sippel asked about existing easements and infrastructure to the applicant’s residence. Brixius said there are no easements on the property that they are aware of. Brixius said these materials were sent to the Fire Department for their review. The review stated the hydrant was not placed in a compromising area and would be accessible for fire access. Brixius said Xcel energy commented about the power pole and had some requests but is not opposed to the request. Brixius said snow storage should be a consideration. Brixius said when calculating green space it’s slightly below the 30% hardcover requirement.

Brixius said based on the review of the application they believe the applicant's request is consistent with the comprehensive plan, with zoning and has a unique lot configuration. He doesn't believe the variance with this exception is out of character. He said they don’t believe the variance will negatively impact the surroundings. He also said this is not automatically precedent setting in nature. He said each circumstance is evaluated on individual merits. Brixius said he recommends requesting building permit construction drawings, excavation plans and proposed methods for protecting the water main and power pole. He said the city would inspect for proper excavation techniques.

Sippel asked where the primary entrance to the residence is now. Brixius said the primary entrance enters up the exposed staircase into a low ceiling entry. Struck is curious about the condition of the home. Brixius said the new addition interior for the second floor is contemporary and modern in design. Struck is interested in how the home is maintained and feels a well maintained home is an indicator as to how it will continue to be maintained. Brixius explained the applicant is interested in a future elevator so space is being accommodated for that. Struck asked about the current flat roof above the garage and wonders if runoff from the new roof should require guttering to direct runoff to a pervious place. Struck also asked about other requests. Lewin explained there were a couple of phone calls, more curiosity related as to what is being proposed. Sippel said he’s nervous about granting any variances on that street but he realizes it’s an improvement to what is currently there. Hoffman said from a health safety and welfare standpoint there would better access to the hydrant. Widmer asked about a potential fire or a new owner who wants to start over on a new build. She wonders if they could build off the terms that are being established tonight. Brixius said there is an 80 foot setback from the lake and any new build would likely build closer to the lake. Widmer wonders about building on the existing footprint if they choose to rebuild but Sippel thinks it’s such an odd footprint that the likelihood of rebuilding on that footprint would be minimal if non existent. Erickson said what bothers him is moving closer to the road than what is already existing but it does make the utility access better.

Hoffman said on item number four of the recommendations, he wonders about inserting language about no hardcover in that area to accommodate for runoff.

Hoffman said if there is no further discussion he will close the public hearing. Hoffman closes the public hearing at 8:14 p.m. Brixius asked if the motion can agree with the findings of the planner's report. He said he wants to avoid precedent and he wants to endorse the findings. He also is looking for Sippel’s comments about allowing for better access to utilities along with five recommendations outlined in the planner’s report. Hoffman makes the motion to recommend to the council approval of the variance application for 2473 Black Lake Road agreeing with the findings of the planner's report. Sippel seconds. Struck wonders if the gutter systems needs to be addressed. Brixius said he will insert language as such. Roll call vote – Mason, yes; Struck, yes; Sippel, yes; Erickson, yes; and Hoffman, yes. Motion carries. Hoffman said, for the record, the commission wants it noted that they recognize the challenges of Black Lake Road.

b. Bell Mortgage Sign Application - Brixius explained this sign request is merely a change of the original lettering already in place. He said a differently-worded tag line is being requested beneath the original Bell Mortgage sign. Erickson makes a motion and Sippel seconds to approve the sign request. All votes in favor, motion carries.

c. Fantastic Sam's Sign Application - Brixius reads off the specifics of the sign. Sippel asked if they will be moving this sign from a different location because he remembers reading that somewhere. Brixius said this sign is from a different location that has since closed. Mason moves to approve and Erickson seconds. All votes in favor, motion carries.

a. City Council Minutes – November 5, 2012
b. City Council Minutes – November 19, 2012
c. Work Session Minutes – November 26, 2012
d. City Council Minutes (Draft) – December 3, 2012
e. Planning Commission Attendance YTD Report

It’s recognized that this is Widmer’s last planning commission meeting after 14 years on the city council. Widmer said prior to her 14 years Carl Widmer, her husband, was on the council. She said he also did a stint on the planning commission as well.

8. MISCELLANEOUS - Hoffman said at the November meeting he requested the commissioners think of agenda items they would like to see addressed in 2013.

• Struck said she thinks the parks discussion needs to be continued. She said moving forward with the park plan is necessary. She said there were issues, repairs and improvements that were identified and she thinks it should not get dropped. She suggests repairs be made now or as soon as they can be.
• Struck said she would like to see outside storage addressed. She said she thinks the quantity should be specified. She said it’s difficult when there are rental properties and it becomes a dumping or storage ground for items no longer in use. She understands a person should be allowed to do what they want on their property but other people look at it as well and it should be a consideration.
• Struck said she wants to discuss the parking area on the west end of Northern Avenue. She said there are enough challenges on her street. She said there is grass and black top and rocks and she wonders what this area really is. She said if it’s not SP’s property, maybe the city could make it look better. She thinks the signage is confusing and she thinks it’s dangerous. Struck said considering beautification on the trail – more trees – even though it’s not SP’s.
• Hoffman asked if the PC is also the Parks Commission. Tolsma said yes and to be added to the park plan could be concerns about Emerald Ash Borer. He said they are treating the trees right now but the threat is real and the ash trees are going to be devastated. He would look for some planning to be put in place for this future problem. Widmer wonders about regulating the sale of firewood in Spring Park. Sippel said it’s difficult to regulate. Mason thinks it has to do with education and once the word is out, people understand it.
• Mason said solar and wind energy is coming and he thinks standards need to be set for this. Struck wondered about geothermal being allowed.

Tolsma said for the commissioners information, the council approved the reduction of the planning commission from seven to five.

8. ADJOURNMENT - Sippel makes a motion and Mason seconds to adjourn at 8:27 p.m. All votes ayes, motion carries.