SUNFISH LAKE PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING – SEPTEMBER 16, 2015
7:00 P.M. - ST. ANNE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Acting Chair: Tom Hendrickson
Commissioners: Ginny Beckett and Shari Hansen.
City Planner: Michelle Barness
City Clerk: Cathy Iago
Chair Andrea McCue and Commissioner Dan O’Leary were absent.
1. CALL TO ORDER: Acting Chair Hendrickson called the meeting to order at 7:15 p.m. in order for a quorum to be present.
2. ADOPT AGENDA: Acting Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any additions to the agenda and there was no response.
Commissioner Beckett moved to adopt the agenda, seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (3-0)
3. APPROVE MINUTES August 19, 2015: Acting Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any additions or corrections to August 19, 2015 Planning Commission minutes and there was no response.
Commissioner Hansen moved to approve the August 19, 2015 Planning Commission minutes as presented, seconded by Commissioner Beckett and carried. (3-0)
4. Major Site and Building Plan Review, 2165 Charlton Road, Margaret Gehrig and Shannon Werb: Acting Chair Hendrickson asked the Planner to review the application for the property at 2165 Charlton Road.
Planner Barness stated the applicants are requesting approval of Major Site and Building Plans to construct an in-ground pool and pool terrace at their property. She explained the property is zoned R-1, Single Family residential and is subject to the Shoreland Overlay District standards of the Zoning Ordinance. She advised that the pool would be approximately 576 sq. ft. in area with a concrete pool deck, a patio area, rock retaining walls and new landscaping. She explained that due to the fact the project requires re-grading and the site alterations exceed 1,000 sq. ft. in area, a major site and building plan review by staff, Planning Commission and Council is required.
The Planner stated that the City Engineer requested the applicant identify the size of the trees on the landscape plan and therefore, a new landscape plan was provided by the applicants; she displayed the new plan for Commission. She advised that swimming pools are a permitted accessory use in the R-1 Zoning District provided they are located below ground, constructed with a protective safety feature, and meet accessory structure setbacks. She stated that the proposed plan meets all setback requirements for both the R-1 District and the Shoreland Overlay District. She further advised that the pool is compliant with the impervious surface requirements at 10 percent coverage.
Planner Barness stated that accessory uses must be screened from abutting properties and public ways and that there is significant tree coverage on the north and south side of the project area. She pointed out that there is also vegetative screening west of the project area along the rear property line that is not shown on the plan since it is located on neighboring land. She advised that the neighbors are present to express their concerns relating to the screening. She stated that the Commission should discuss whether screening of the accessory area from neighboring properties is sufficient or whether any additional screening should be required. She pointed out that approximately 4 trees would be removed and the applicants propose to plant a variety of trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials.
The Planner explained that no lighting is permitted with the exception of safety lighting in the pool itself and that the applicants do not propose any other lighting at this time; she stated that if additional lighting is requested, the applicants must submit a plan for review and approval.
Planner Barness stated the City Engineer reviewed the grading, drainage and erosion control plans and requested additional information from the applicants prior to approving the plans. She explained that the applicants provided the additional information to the Engineer that address his concerns relating to the items listed on page 3 of the Planner’s report dated September 9, 2015 and now recommends approval of the request. She advised that the Engineer included conditions of approval that are outlined in the draft Findings of Fact dated September 16, 2015 and relate to recording the condition of the driveway prior to construction, meeting axle load limits with construction materials, installation of erosion control before sod is established, and revision of drainage and grading plan. The Engineer also requested the applicant provide retaining wall plans for any wall over 4-ft. in height.
The Planner explained that the Forester had reviewed the landscape plan and approved the species and types of trees proposed for removal and planting. She also noted that the pool location would not impact the existing septic system or well and therefore, no comments were received from the Septic Inspector.
Planner Barness stated that staff reviewed the application as it relates to site and building plan evaluation criteria and found that the proposed improvements meet criteria to insure compatibility with existing structures and does not negatively impact the community or surrounding properties; she referred the Commission to the items listed on page 4 of her report dated September 9, 2015. She explained that the westerly portion of the site is currently screened by vegetation on the neighboring property and the neighbors indicated that the area may not be screened if they removed invasive species plantings on their property and if the applicant would be required to screen that area. She advised that staff cannot predict what the sight lines would be if vegetation were removed on the neighboring property and could only review the proposal with the existing conditions; staff found the screening to be sufficient at this time.
The Planner stated that staff recommends approval based on the draft Findings of Fact dated September 16, 2015 and the conditions as listed. She noted that the applicants should be aware that there is a condition requiring pre- and post-construction site visits as one of the conditions of approval. She offered to respond to questions.
Acting Chair Hendrickson thanked the Planner for her presentation and asked if there were any comments or questions from the applicant or from the public.
Martha Norton, 2148 Delaware, stated her concern regarding screening in the pool area closest to her property. She commented that it appears to be adequate at this time, but she will be removing buckthorn from her property and that may open the view of the pool area.
Acting Chair Hendrickson explained that the view maybe affected if she removes the buckthorn from her property, however, the Commission may only require screening under current conditions on the site.
Planner Barness pointed out that there are significant trees on the site and she was unsure if removal of the under-growth would affect the view.
Tim Johnson of Southview Design spoke on behalf of the applicant and explained that there are only two or three buckthorn shrubs on the property and that removal should not impact the view of the pool area. He explained that the existing trees to be removed do not assist with screening as they are silver maple that have high branches. He also noted that there is not much room on the applicant’s property to plant trees in the area being discussed.
Commissioner Beckett noted there were significant trees on the Norton property and asked if any of those would be removed.
The Planner stated that Ms. Norton did not indicate any trees would be removed, only underbrush.
Shannon Werb, applicant, stated that he purchased the property due to the privacy it provides and if any changes to the screening occur either by him or the neighbor, he would work to address the issue with the neighbors. He explained he wishes to maintain privacy just as much as the neighbors do.
Acting Chair Hendrickson asked if the Commission could require screening by the applicant for future removal of screening.
Planner Barness advised the Zoning Ordinance does not address this issue. She commented that the Commission could encourage the applicant to add screening if the sightlines are altered, but they cannot require them to do so.
Acting Chair Hendrickson stated that in his opinion the screening is sufficient at this time and meets criteria outlined in the ordinance. He commented that in his opinion it appears the applicant is willing to work with the neighbor to insure both have privacy and that would be the best way to resolve future screening issues. He asked if there were any further comments or questions.
Commissioners Beckett and Hansen concurred that there appears to be a reasonable discussion with the applicant and neighbor to work together to resolve any future screening issues.
Acting Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further questions and there was no response.
Commissioner Beckett moved to recommend approval of the Major Site and Building Plan Review based on the Findings of Fact and subject to conditions as listed Planner’s report dated September 16, 2015 and encourage the applicant and neighbor to work together to insure that both properties have sufficient screening for privacy in the future, seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (3-0)
5. Alternative Energy Systems Ordinance Review and Discussion: Acting Chair Hendrickson recommended that those present briefly review the information provided in the Planner’s memorandum and then table the matter until next month when all Commissioners are present.
Clerk Iago advised it may be more appropriate to delay all discussion until all Commissioners are present. She suggested the Planner could instruct Commissioners by email to review the information forwarded for discussion at the September meeting, and send her their preferences for incorporation into a draft ordinance to discuss at the October meeting.
Planner Barness stated that there are a few items for discussion and she would like to gain a consensus by the Commission prior to drafting an ordinance, such as the height limit for wind turbines and also setbacks.
Commissioner Beckett asked if the Planner had determined if the City has the legal authority to deny requests for alternative energy systems such as the wind turbines. She also noted that shoreline setbacks should be addressed.
Planner Barness stated she researched Geo Thermal legality but not the wind turbine or solar panels.
Acting Chair Hendrickson stated that if the City is unable to legally deny the request for a wind turbine, it may be feasible to include language that states the turbine must be similar to a specific type of product.
Commissioner Hansen stated that there are noise issues related to the wind turbines that should also be discussed. She asked if the Commission could visit another city or a site to hear the noise level of an operating turbine and to see the height and visual impact.
Planner Barness stated she would attempt to set-up a site visit so that the Commissioners could determine what alternative energy systems would be appropriate for residential use and what regulations would be best to include in the ordinance.
Clerk Iago explained that the City has the ability to regulate the placement of the certain alternative energy systems by limiting the zoning districts where they are allowed, such as the Institutional district.
The Planner further explained that the City has the ability to impose stricter regulations than the State of Minnesota, but the City may not be able to prohibit installation altogether. She stated she would check with the City Attorney to determine if the City may limit where the systems could be installed.
Planner Barness agreed it would be better to delay this matter so that she may do further research and also to allow additional time for the members to review the materials and submit any questions or comments to her. She stated she would attempt to set-up a site visit to view the wind turbines.
Clerk Iago stated there may be a retail distributor that the Commission could visit to view the product.
Acting Chair Hendrickson asked if there was any further discussion and there was no response.
Commissioner Hansen moved to table discussion of this matter to the next Commission meeting when all members are present and to direct the Planner to set-up a site visit in another city or with a manufacturer to view the wind turbine operation, and to further request that the Planner send a request to the Commissioners to submit any questions or comments to her prior to the next meeting so that she may prepare a draft ordinance, seconded by Commissioner Beckett and carried. (3-0)
ADJOURN: Acting Chair Hendrickson asked if there was any further business and there was no response.
Commissioner Beckett moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:53 p.m., seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried.
Catherine Iago, City Clerk