March 13, 2013 Planning Commission Minutes

1. CALL TO ORDER – Jeff Hoffman called the meeting to order at 7 p.m.

2. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

3. OATH OF OFFICE - Pete Kaczanowski is sworn in as Planning Commissioner.

4. ROLL CALL - Mason, Struck, Kaczanowski, Erickson, Hoffman

5. ADOPT AGENDA – No additions. Mason makes a motion and Erickson seconds to adopt the agenda. All votes ayes, motion carries.

6. APPROVAL OF MINUTES -
a. Planning Commission Meeting Minutes from February 13, 2013 – Erickson makes a motion and Struck seconds to approve the minutes. All votes ayes, motion carries.

7. APPOINTMENT OF CHAIR AND ALTERNATE CHAIR – Erickson makes a motion to approve Jeff Hoffman as Chair and Mason as alternate chair. All votes ayes, motion carries.

8. PUBLIC HEARING - Amending the Ordinance Regarding Variances – Brixius said this is a housekeeping item from last fall as it got left off a previously adopted ordinance.
a. Beck Memo Dated September 8, 2011 – Brixius said this reflects the new state statute. The term hardship is being taken out. There is a new definition of variance. This is mainly to be consistent with state statute. Hoffman said the city attorney has prepared this draft document.
b. Draft Ordinance and Checklist – Brixius explains the checklist will be used by staff.
c. Open Public Hearing – Hoffman opens the public hearing at 7:20 p.m. Nothing received in writing or verbally. No one in attendance for the public hearing. Noted proper publication in newspaper was done.
d. Close Public Hearing – Struck makes a motion and Hoffman seconds to close the public hearing at 7:21 p.m. Struck makes a motion and Mason seconds for approval and to move this to the council level. All votes ayes, motion passes.

9. CONSIDERATION/DISCUSSION ITEMS
a. Alternative Energy Regulations – Brixius said the PC has been introduced to other cities’ alternative energy source materials and is tasked to decide whether the city should look at an ordinance. Brixius explains typical Spring Park lots are very close to one another so the question is where can these alternative energy sources be placed. He said a roof structure is probably the most common placement. Brixius said something to consider is there is concern about noise and maintenance factors. Mason asked if this is strictly related to residential and Brixius said the ordinance can be written whatever way. Brixius talked about solar panels and where on the site they can be located. He said they can be less obtrusive if they are on the roof ground mounted panels are more noticeable. He said tree removal should be discouraged when it comes to solar energy. Kaczanowski asked how high the wind turbines typically go and Brixius said it’s something to be determined and regulated. Brixius said geo thermal energy source is another possibility. (Underground geothermal is illustrated and discussed on the overhead.) Erickson asked about square footage. Brixius said it depends because one alternative is horizontal and the other is vertical where they drill the wells deeper. Brixius refers to examples of other cities but stated the lots are typically larger than Spring Park lots. Kaczanowski asked about statistics on how many cities have adopted ordinances about this. Brixius said they're starting to see a lot more of this and explained it’s come to discussion because the City of Orono is dealing with this now. He said it’s important to get ahead of this problem versus trying to deal with something that just shows up. Hoffman said he thinks an outline should be created in order to determine the framework of the draft ordinance. He said they should look at setback requirements, roof-top allowed, front yard/rear yard placement.

Wind Energy: Brixius said if there is a decision to accept these, he believes they should be vertical axis. Brixius also believes it should be roof top mounted and not free standing. He said view obstruction can be critical. Struck said she looks more from a safety concern. She wonders if this is something that can injure someone. Brixius said if rooftop is allowed, engineer recommendations would be mandated for structure accommodation. Mason wondered how efficient rooftop turbines really are. He is concerned about a gable end mount similar to an antennae. Brixius said if there are concerns about locations on the roof, that can be crafted in the ordinance. Hoffman said if there is a height requirement, that could dictate the type used. Brixius said he thinks it’s important to be very clear. There is a major concern about tree removal because of turbulence and solar access. Struck wonders if this can be stipulated in the ordinance. Hoffman said he finds it difficult to pick one over the other because technology changes and what is the best choice this year may not be the best choice in the future. Kaczanowski asked about definitions of wind turbines and wonders about decibel levels. Brixius said the MPCA defines decibel levels and that would have to be maintained. Hoffman said he’s in favor of allowing both horizontal and vertical. He wants to make sure they regulate the height however. Everyone in agreement. Setbacks: if it’s freestanding there should be 8-10 feet of clearance. If it’s rooftop a height restriction will be necessary. Rear yard setbacks and whether it’s allowable due to lakeshore. Hoffman believes if setbacks are satisfied, they should be able to place an energy structure within. Brixius said there is concern about site lines. Hoffman said he is against any energy structure being placed on the street side and is also opposed to installing them in the side yard setback. Everyone agrees no structure should be allowed in the sideyard setback due to the predominantly narrow lots. Also, nothing allowed in the 50’ Shoreland setback. Height and size is discussed and whether a free standing wind turbine 30 feet tall from the base be allowed. Brixius said he will research size standards for operation in order to craft further.

Hoffman said right now alternative energy sources are not cost efficient for a homeowner. He said what they typically see is someone that installs something like this, they are usually making a statement. But, technology is changing everyday and at some point they will be cost efficient and there will be more who want them. Hoffman said there are solar and wind powered boatlifts. He wondered if this should be addressed. Erickson wonders about fencing around ground mounted turbines. Struck wondered if these could be mounted on a garage or a shed. Brixius said it’s up the PC to decide. He said some accessory buildings are non conforming so it might not meet proper setbacks.

b. Park Plan Discussion – Brixius said they would like to continue with previous Commission's plans and suggestions. Struck said with Thor Thompson she thinks better signage is needed. She likes the idea of picnic shelter because it might become a destination experience. She said she likes the path idea but thinks the garbage containers need to be replaced and the wooden surround needs to be replaced. She said there is a portable toilet and she thinks it needs to be fenced. Struck wonders who the playground is actually serving. She refers to a consumer protection safety standards put out by the League of MN Cities. She wondered if a certified playground assessment might be needed. She also wonders about ADA accessibility. Bren thinks a picnic shelter would be nice and the walking path. She said the grills and garbage containers need to be examined. She said the dugouts are attracting water and Mason wonders if this has settled or the pad needs to be raised. Kaczanowski said he really likes the new basketball court and is wondering about a full court or a future expansion someday. Hoffman would like an outfield fence. Hoffman said he wants water management as he still doesn’t feel the park drains very well. He said perimeter drainage needs to be addressed. Mason asked about funding and Tolsma said they would look to put together improvements and cost them out and submit to the council for a yearly budget. Hoffman said this is meant to prioritize and have an agenda.

c. Community Garden Discussion - Wilkes Park – Hoffman wondered about Wilkes Park being underutilized and perhaps the city should consider selling it. He said then those funds could be dedicated towards Thor Thompson. Brixius said park sale depends on how it was acquired in the first place. Struck said that the park might be underutilized because there isn’t anything to draw people to. She is concerned about what would happen with that property if it was sold. Erickson is not in favor of selling any parks. Tolsma said accessibility could be improved. Hoffman said he believes community gardens can be high maintenance and can sometimes be a nightmare. Hoffman would like to table this until spring when they can take a look at other community gardens and see how others handle this. Brixius said there are a number of things that need to be investigated. Trash, water, governance.

10. COMMUNICATIONS
a. Work Session Minutes – February 25, 2013
b. Kaczanowski Interview Minutes - March 4, 2013

11. MISCELLANEOUS - Nothing.

12. ADJOURNMENT – Struck makes a motion and Mason seconds to adjourn at 9:01 p.m. All votes ayes, motion carries.