- DRAFT -
SUNFISH LAKE PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING – MAY 20, 2015
7:00 P.M. - ST. ANNE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Chair: Andrea McCue
Commissioners: Ginny Beckett, Shari Hansen and Dan O’Leary
City Planner: Michelle Barness
City Clerk: Cathy Iago
Commissioner Tom Hendrickson was absent
1. CALL TO ORDER: Chair McCue called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
2. ADOPT AGENDA: Chair McCue asked if there were any additions to the agenda and there was no response.
Commissioner Hansen moved to adopt the agenda as amended, seconded by Commissioner Beckett and carried. (4-0)
3. APPROVE MINUTES MARCH 18, 2015: Chair McCue asked if there were any additions or corrections to March 18, 2015 Planning Commission minutes.
Commissioner O’Leary questioned if techny arborvitae, referred to on page 3 of the minutes, was a specific species and the Planner responded yes.
Commissioner O’Leary referred to page 5 of the minutes, paragraph 3 and asked that a hyphen be inserted in the word “engineer’s” making it grammatically correct.
Chair McCue asked if there were any further corrections and there was no response.
Commissioner Hansen moved to approve the March 18 2015 Planning Commission minutes as corrected, seconded by Commissioner O’Leary and carried. (4-0)
4. Major Site and Building Plan Review and Variance, 325 Salem Church Road, Tom & Michelle Schlehuber: Chair McCue asked the Planner to review the application for the property at 325 Salem Church Road. She advised that after the Planner’s presentation the floor would be open to the public for questions or comments. She asked that anyone wishing to speak at the public hearing state their name and address for the record.
Planner Barness introduced applicants Tom and Michelle Schlehuber and their contractor Bob Moser who were present to respond to questions. She stated that the applicants are requesting approval of a Major Site and Building Plan review and a Variance to allow the construction of a replacement garage with a second floor living pace on the property located at 325 Salem Church Road. She advised that the property is located between Salem Church Road and Sunfish Lake and is subject to both the R-1, Single Family Residential District and the Shoreland Overlay District standards of the Zoning Ordinance.
The Planner explained that the applicants propose to replace the existing attached garage that is 864 sq. ft. with an attached structure measuring 1,250 sq. ft. She advised that the structure would be accessed from the south and would accommodate three vehicles. The living area above the garage would include two bedrooms, a recreation room, a bathroom and laundry area. She noted that the applicants wish to re-locate the garage entrance from the west side to the south side of the structure and to modify the driveway to allow for a circular driveway. She explained that a portion of the proposed circular driveway would encroach 32 ft. into the required 200 ft. shoreland setback and would require a variance from the 200 ft. Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL) setback. She advised that the applicants’ preference would be for the circular driveway to allow more flexibility to access the front of the home and to provide access for emergency vehicles to the site. She explained that an alternative set of plans for the driveway was also submitted in the event the variance is denied. She further commented that a raingarden would be included with the circular driveway installation to provide for runoff and treatment of storm water.
Planner Barness referred the Commission to the R-1, Single Family District Standards as listed on page 2 of the Planner’s report dated May 13, 2015, and stated that the application meets all standards for compliance as they relate to net lot area, lot width, setbacks, maximum building coverage and building height. She explained that the net lot area is met and the building coverage proposed is well below the 10 percent building coverage allowed. She stated the proposed garage structure at 1,250 sq. ft. meets the size requirements and all setbacks. She commented that only the circular driveway, if allowed, would not meet the 200 ft. OHWL setback. She advised that the lot width at the building setback line does not meet current standards, however, the property is considered legally non-conforming in terms of lot width. She further advised that the building height does not exceed 30 ft. and the impervious surface at 6 percent is well below the 30 percent allowed for the site.
The Planner stated that the proposed building materials on the exterior of the home would be lap siding and shingles and would conform to materials on the existing home. She advised that the materials should conform to ordinance standards since they were approved for the existing home. She stated that lighting would be minimal and must meet ordinance requirements so as not be exceed one foot candle as measured from the edge of water abutting the subject property. She advised that the lighting plan would be required as part of the building permit.
Contractor Bob Moser explained that the lighting fixtures would be consistent with City Code requirements.
Planner Barness advised that the site plan showed the location, type and size of existing trees on the site and only one 36-inch Oak tree south of the proposed garage was identified for removal. She explained that a condition of approval was included that the City Forester provide comment and recommendation in regard to the proposed tree removal.
The Planner stated that the City Engineer’s first report dated April 30, 2015, contained questions relating to grading, storm water calculations, and the raingarden design. She noted that the engineer also suggested that more information on the well pump relocation be provided by the applicant. She noted that the septic system may need to be increased with the addition of two (2) bedrooms in the renovated garage structure and a location for a secondary septic field should be submitted and would be included as a condition of approval.
Planner Barness explained that the applicants had submitted a revised grading plan to the City Engineer and the engineer’s response was received by staff today. She noted that the engineer still had some questions relating to the drainage on site and continued to recommend the application not be approved until the questions had been answered by the applicants. She pointed out that the contractor, Bob Moser, expressed his opinion that all questions had been addressed. She commented that normally the City Engineer would recommend approval if the applicant provides the information for his review prior to the application being heard by Council. She indicated that the City Engineer had delegated the review to one of his staff and that person may not be aware of past practice. She suggested that the Commission could table the application until their June meeting or could allow them to proceed.
Commissioner O’Leary suggested that the Commission could recommend approval that allows the application to proceed with the condition that the engineer’s questions and review are completed prior to the Council review of the application.
Chair McCue asked if there were any comments from the applicants at this time.
Tom Schlehuber stated he was excited to proceed with the home expansion and that his preference would be for approval of the circular driveway to accommodate traffic flow and emergency vehicle access on the property. He commented that there are several properties on the lake that have a circular driveway and that he personally counted eight (8) properties that contain a circle driveway.
Chair McCue asked if those counted by Mr. Schlehuber were within the required setback.
Mr. Schlehuber stated that some appear to be closer than the setback, but he was unsure if they had been “grand-fathered” in due to the age of the properties.
Sarah Pennie-Thompson, 335 Salem Church Road, explained that she has a circle drive on her property and that she finds it very useful for general flow of vehicles and especially for large trash removal trucks.
Dick Bancroft, 100 Windy Hill Road, stated his objection to the statement that there are eight (8) circular drives and pointed out that he knows of only one on the lakeside of a home on the lake.
Commissioner O’Leary stated he counted seven (7) circular driveways on homes around the lake and noted that several of them have the home situated between the lake and the driveway, but he did see one that was on the lakeside of the home.
Chair McCue asked Sarah Pennie-Thompson where her driveway was located and she responded that her home is between the driveway and the lake.
Mr. Bancroft asked to see the alternate plan for the driveway location and he asked if the parking area on the alternate plan was larger than the one on the circular driveway plan.
Planner Barness stated the parking area in front of the garage stalls is the same size on both plans and the only difference on the two plans is the size and location of the walkway from the garage to the home.
Mr. Bancroft stated he is comfortable with the variance being granted and commented that because of the inlet, the water would be located far from the home. He noted that his concern relates to establishing precedence since there are three other properties for sale around the lake and it is his opinion that once a variance is granted others “hitch-hike” on its approval.
Planner Barness suggested that the Commission review the practical difficulties related to granting a variance.
Tom Schlehuber stated that in his opinion the practical difficulties are apparent because it would be difficult for a vehicle to move around the site if more than one vehicle is parked and it would be very difficult for large emergency vehicles to maneuver the driveway area if it is not circular.
Bob Moser explained that the setbacks on the property make it impossible to expand the home in any other location but above the garage and there are no other areas suitable for placing a circular driveway due to the topography of the lot.
Chair McCue asked if the current property owners had issues with vehicle access and Mr. Schlehuber stated he does not know the current owners nor has he had conversation with them about the issue.
Mr. Moser explained that when the applicants originally entered into an agreement to purchase the home, the survey showed that a circular drive could be added in a compliant manner. However, the recent survey information prepared for the property revealed that the home was not placed on the lot as originally planned. He indicated that the home was designed to be compliant with the setbacks from the water and noted that the water is approximately 400 ft. from the home. He commented that he recalled only once since 2006 that the water reached the OHWL mark. He advised that if the circular driveway was permitted, the applicants would be willing to install a landscaping buffer to lessen any visual impact on lakeside properties.
Commissioner O’Leary pointed out that the engineer mentioned there would be less runoff to the lake if a circular drive was installed and that it would be treated through the raingarden before entering the lake.
Mr. Moser agreed and showed the area where the raingarden would be located and sized to the engineer’s recommendation.
Tom Hall, 329 Salem Church Road, stated his concern relates to the fact that the lights from traffic using the circular drive would shine into his home. He asked that if the circular drive was approved, there be some mitigating conditions in place to prevent the traffic lights from imposing into his property.
There was discussion relating to options for the driveway placement to prohibit the lights from affecting Mr. Hall’s property.
Chair McCue suggested that a row of Fir trees could be installed to deflect the lights from Mr. Hall’s home.
Mr. Schlehuber stated he would be amenable to install landscaping sufficient to block the lights from the adjacent property.
Mr. Hall also commented that the applicants should check to determine if area where the circular driveway is proposed was re-classified as a wetland area and to insure they are not infringing on a wetland.
Mr. Moser explained that he had researched the matter and that he was aware of the fact that a raingarden cannot be placed in a wetland.
Chair McCue asked if there were any further comments from the audience and hearing none she closed the public hearing.
Planner Barness suggested that the Commission review the information relating to the variance requested and as listed in the staff report dated May 13, 2015 relating to factors to determine “practical difficulties” that would prohibit reasonable use of the property, use of the property in a reasonable manner, or alters the essential character of the locality.
Commissioner O’Leary pointed out that there may be more comments from the audience after this discussion.
The Planner explained that the applicants believe that practical difficulties result from the unique configuration of the lot in that it contains an inlet which is not navigable. The applicants also noted that due to the containment of the inlet, limited area exists upon the site for the proposed driveway. She explained that the circular driveway proposed is considered relatively common in the City, however, compliance with the 200 ft. shoreland setback would not deny the property owners reasonable use of their property. She commented that although there are other homes on the lake that have circular driveways, she was unsure if variances were granted for their installation and setting precedence may also be a consideration. She further stated that the 200 ft. shoreland setback is most commonly applied to vertical buildings or structure and in this case, a driveway that would not be visible from the navigable area on the lake is proposed. She explained that approval of the driveway is not anticipated to alter the character of the area and would not result in the loss of any trees. She also explained that the City’s DNR Hydrologist recommend that as a condition of variance approval, the City mitigate potential impacts by placing plantings on the shoreland side of the proposed driveway and the applicants are willing to do so. She commented that other properties nearby have driveways closer to the lake and that the proposed driveway would not impact view sheds.
Planner Barness stated that she drafted two documents, both dated May 20, 2015, for either approval or denial of the requested variance and she reviewed the findings for approval listed as a through e and the four (4) conditions, and also the three (3) findings for denial listed as a through c in the draft documents.
The Planner stated that staff recommends approval of the Major Site and Building Plans based on the findings of fact as listed in the draft document dated May 20, 2015, and subject to the conditions and final recommendations from the Engineer’s report received on May 20, 2015.
Chair McCue asked if there were any further comments from the floor.
Mr. Moser explained that he was confident that all the issues mentioned in the engineer’s report dated May 20, 2015 could be resolved prior to Council review of the application. He stated that in his opinion there would be no grounds for establishing a precedence by granting the variance since the configuration of the lot with the inlet is so unique.
Mr. Schlehuber agreed that this is the only lot on the lake that contains an inlet and should not set a precedence for future requests.
Mr. Bancroft stated he wished to correct the statement that there are eight (8) circular drives on the lake side of the Sunfish Lake.
Commissioner O’Leary agreed with Mr. Bancroft and explained that he was unsure if the driveways were on the lakeside of the eight (8) properties.
There was discussion relating to whether or not emergency vehicles would have difficulty accessing the property.
Mayor Park commented that the staging for the fire trucks would not occur on the circular driveway, but pointed out it may be easier to leave the property via the driveway.
Chair McCue asked if there were any further comments and there was no response.
Commissioner O’Leary stated that he also has concerns relating to setting a precedence, but commented that in his opinion that is why the Planning Commission was established to review each application individually. He commented that he currently serves on another commission that must make decisions based on individual merit and after review of all mitigating factors and unique circumstances. He noted the narrowness of the existing driveway and that he personally witnessed the difficulty of vehicles accessing the site this evening. He recommended that additional screening on the southwest portion of the site to deflect headlights from vehicles onto Mr. Hall’s property should be included as a condition of approval along with the final recommendations from the City Engineer as outlined in his report dated May 20, 2015. He stated that in his opinion the variance makes sense as it relates to this property.
Commissioner Beckett agreed that the parcel is unique and that no other request would be based on the same lot configuration.
Commissioner O’Leary pointed out that in his opinion the applicants lose some of the driveway due to the inability to expand the home anywhere else on the site and by replacing the driveway in the area proposed with the circular driveway, the applicants regain the driveway in a location that is safer for family and emergency vehicle access.
Commissioner Hansen agreed and pointed out that if the circular driveway were moved to a different location to accommodate the setbacks, it would impact more people; she commented that the proposed location was the least obtrusive to the neighboring properties.
The Planner advised that the Commission should take action on two items this evening, the Major Site and Building Plan and the Variance request. She reviewed the findings of fact and conditions listed in the report dated May 13, 2015 for the Major Site and Building Plan request.
Chair McCue asked if there were any further comments and there was no response.
Commissioner O’Leary moved to approve the Variance for property located at 325 Salem Church Road based on the findings of fact and conditions as listed in the Planner’s report dated May 13, 2015 and with the additional condition to add screening to the southwest portion of the site to protect the neighboring properties from vehicle headlights, to adhere to the City Engineer’s recommendations as contained in his report dated May 20, 2015, and contingent upon fulfilling all the Engineer’s recommendations prior to Council review of the application, seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (Ayes: 3-O’Leary, Hansen, Beckett; Nays: 1-McCue)
Planner Barness explained that since the Commission recommended approval of the variance request, they would be considering approval of the Major Site and Building Plan and conditions related to Exhibit B, and that the applicants should submit information on the proposed siding materials, fulfill the City Engineer’s recommendations dated May 20, 2015, and obtain final comments from the City Forester on the Oak tree removal prior to Council review of the application. She noted that the well pump location and secondary septic location could be addressed with issuance of a building permit. She also noted that the applicants should submit information on the lighting fixtures and the foot candle measurements could be resolved during the required pre and post site visits.
Chair McCue asked if there were any further questions and there was no response.
Commissioner O’Leary moved to approve the Major Site and Building Plan for Exhibit B for property located at 325 Salem Church Road based on the findings of fact and conditions as listed in the Planner’s report dated May 13, 2015 and with the additional condition to add screening to the southwest portion of the site to protect the neighboring properties from vehicle headlights, and amending Condition 4 to adhere to the City Engineer’s recommendations as contained in his report dated May 20, 2015, and contingent upon fulfilling all the Engineer’s recommendations prior to Council review of the application, seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (4-0)
MISCELLANEOUS: Clerk Iago distributed information on Land Use Planning Workshops offered to Planning Commissioners by Government Training Services (GTS) and explained that funds are available for their attendance at the workshops. She offered to contact GTS and request they mail information on the classes to each commissioner.
ADJOURN: Chair McCue asked if there was any further business and there was no response. She explained that the commissioners would be meeting the Building Inspector at Menard’s in West St. Paul to hold a brief review on new building materials that may be incorporated into the City’s Zoning Ordinance.
Commissioner O’Leary moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:15 p.m., seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (4-0)
Catherine Iago, City Clerk