Chair: Tom Hendrickson

Commissioners: Ginny Beckett, Shari Hansen, and Alan Spaulding.
City Planners: Michelle Barness and Ryan Grittman

City Clerk: Cathy Iago

Commissioner Dan O’Leary was absent.

1. CALL TO ORDER: Chair Hendrickson called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

2. ADOPT AGENDA: 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 (4-0)

3. APPROVE MINUTES FEBRUARY 17, 2016: Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes.

Clerk Iago explained that Commissioner Hansen found a few typing and grammatical errors, but nothing that changed the intent of the minutes as submitted. She advised she would correct the errors as noted.

Commissioner Hansen moved to approve the February 17, 2016 Planning Commission meeting minutes as corrected, seconded by Commissioner Beckett and carried. (4-0)

4. PUBLIC HEARING: A. MAJOR SITE AND BUILDING PLAN AND VARIANCE REVIEW, 5865 South Robert Trail, Brian and Joyce Birch: Chair Hendrickson opened the public hearing to consider the application of Brian and Joyce Birch and asked the Planner to review the proposed application for a Major Site and Building Plan and Variance review.

Planner Barness explained that the Planner’s report dated April 14, 2016 was prepared by the new planning consultant, Ryan Grittman, with her assistance. She advised that she would present the report in order to show Ryan the procedure, but that Ryan was present to also respond to questions pertaining to the application.

Planner Barness explained that the subject property is a legal non-conforming parcel that has Lake Frontage on Horseshoe Lake. She noted that the Birch’s intend to demolish the existing home and build a new home at approximately the same location on the site. She stated that the proposed home would be located entirely within the shoreline setback of 200 ft. and would also encroach onto the side yard setback on the north and south sides of the property. A variance is being requested for these three set back encroachments; a shoreland setback of 48.5 ft.; a south side yard setback of 40.3 ft.; and, a north side yard setback of 23.0 ft. She further explained that the lot size is approximately 1.3 buildable acres due to the steep slopes and unique lot configuration, while the required minimum lot size is 2.5 acres. She explained that the lot does not meet the minimum required net lot area and the applicants are also requesting a variance to permit redevelopment of a substandard sized lot with a home that does not meet set back requirements.

The Planner stated that the existing home is setback 47 ft. at its closest point to the lake and advised that the unique shape of the lot and the steep slopes posed constraints as to where the home could be constructed. She explained that the best option was to rebuild the new home in the same location so that it was not placed closer to the lake and also to limit the amount of trees that must be removed. She stated the proposed new home would be a 2400 sq. ft. two-story design which would be set into a hill. She explained that the applicants wish to construct a new garage to the south side of the single-story portion of the structure. She advised that the height of the home would be 27 ft., which is below the 30 ft. maximum height requirement. She stated that a new primary septic system would be installed and a secondary/alternative septic location identified on the site. She noted that the Septic Inspector had approved both locations and requested that a permit be obtained prior to the application being considered by Council.

Planner Barness stated that there is currently a detached deck that sites to the east of the existing home and no additional accessory structures are proposed. She asked the applicant’s representative to confirm this statement.

Sean Doyle and Bob Schmidtz were present on behalf of the applicants.

Sean Doyle, builder for the project, explained that the applicants propose to remove the existing deck and have no plans to replace it at this time.

The Planner explained that if the deck is removed, the applicant would have to apply for a variance to replace the structure, therefore, if they plan to do so in the future it should be included as part of this application.

Sean Doyle asked if a patio would require a variance application.

Planner Barness stated she was unsure and would research that matter.

The Planner stated that the driveway would be asphalt and is currently 10 ft. wide. She noted that the Fire Chief recently advised that a 20 ft. wide driveway is required for emergency vehicle access and that the applicant would need to demonstrate that a 20 ft. wide area could be provided to accommodate the fire trucks. She further advised that the Fire Chief would have to approve the driveway.

Sean Doyle presented the Planner with a set of revised plans dated April 20, 2016 that showed the location of the turnaround; the revised plans were also distributed to the Commissioners. He explained he had met with the Fire Chief to discuss installation of a turn-around area on the property which would allow the fire trucks to back-up for access purposes. He advised that the turn-around area would be constructed with a Class 5, 10-inch base that would be covered with soils and would support the weight of the trucks.

Planner Barness asked if any additional landscaping would be removed for the placement of the turn-around and Mr. Doyle responded no.

The Planner explained that the new home is similar in size with a 16 ft. expansion to the home proposed on the south side for a third garage stall. She noted that the only other area that would accommodate a garage expansion was near a steep hill and would have required substantial grading. She commented that the applicant advised the smaller garage stall would function as a work space.

Planner Barness stated that because the buildable area for the home is so close to the lake, several significant trees would be removed. She referred to the diagram showing that nine (9) trees would be removed on the north side of the property and three (3) on the south side. She advised that the Forester had walked the site and discussed tree removal and replacement with the applicant; she noted that the applicants would work with the Forester after development of the home to address the health of site trees and to further discuss which trees should be a priority for removal or preservation. She also explained that the City ordinances only allows removal of alternation of vegetation within two-hundred feet of the ordinary high water mark on the lake with certain conditions. Otherwise, existing natural or mowed areas near the shoreline are to remain undisturbed. She advised that the landscape plan submitted for the project appears to meet all requirements, but that should be confirmed by the City Forester.

The Planner reviewed the Single Family Residential (R-1) Standards listed on page 3 of her report. She explained that if the proposed home could meet the required setbacks, the application would be considered a Conditional Use Permit. However, because the new home cannot meet the required setbacks, the applicants are seeking a variance.

Planner Barness stated that applicants are required to provide samples of building materials that are not identifying as permitted in the City Code. She asked if Mr. Doyle had brought samples of the LP siding material and stone that was proposed for construction of the new home.

Mr. Doyle explained that he did not since he thought the materials were to be reviewed by the City Council.

The Planner explained that both the Commission and Council must review these materials. She noted that staff would be recommending tabling consideration of this application until all requirements for submission have been met by the applicants; therefore, she noted that Mr. Doyle should bring samples of the siding and stone to the next Commission meeting.

Planner Barness reviewed the lighting plan and noted that lights would be placed on the garage side of the home, with only one light on the lake side. She advised that the lighting must meet the 1-foot candle measurement and that this would be checked upon installation of the lights. She further advised that the exterior lighting on the garage must be downcast and hooded.

Chair Hendrickson explained that a light on the lakeside of the home is required by Ordinance near doors.

The Planner explained that the City Engineer reviewed the application and recommended the stormwater runoff be recalculated in his report dated March 31, 2016. She explained that the Engineer initially recommended denial of the request, but the applicants are currently working on a revised plan to address the Engineer’s comments. She advised that the applicants would be improving grading, installing silt fence protection around the construction site, with heavy-duty silt protection in some areas, and protection around the well and septic areas. She further advised that the applicants are proposing to install three (3) bio-retention basins, which are similar to rain gardens, with overflow directed to the lake. She stated that approval of the major site plan review would be contingent upon the Engineer’s approval of a revised grading, drainage, and stormwater plan.

Commissioner Hansen asked if the heavy-duty erosion control would be in place only during construction.

Chair Hendrickson explained that erosion control remains in place until vegetation is installed.

Planner Barness stated that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was notified of the proposed variance request and was provided a copy of the site and building plans due to the proximity of the home to the lake. She stated that she spoke to the Hydrologist and explained the constraints for building on the lot. The Hydrologist asked that the applicants submit a narrative explaining the necessity for placing the home in close proximity to the lake.

The Planner advised that the steep slope to the lake is not in the area of impact during building, but she advised that the applicants cannot add additional lawn in that area and that it must remain natural.

Mr. Doyle stated that the applicants have no plans to add any additional lawn area that close to the lake and prefer to leave the natural plantings.

Planner Barness stated that the property is well screened from house to the north and south by tree coverage. She commented that tree coverage on the site is also heavy along the shoreline and the street side of the property. However, in response to the Forester’s comments, staff recommends that some of the trees required for replanting be placed on the north side of the home to provide additional screening from that property.

The Planner stated that a proposed retaining wall does not require approval as it does not exceed 2 ft. in height.

Planner Barness explained that the Major Site and Building Plan applications meets all other requirements with the exception of the Fire Chief and City Engineer’s approval of the revised plans. Staff recommended that the application be tabled until the necessary approvals are received.

The Planner stated that staff recommends approval of the variances due to the uniqueness of the site with its steep topography and lot configuration that narrows in the middle portion of the site. She noted that the requested variances appear to be reasonable as the setback variances relate to a proposed third garage stall which several properties around the lake have on their properties. She also noted that the home is similar in size and placed in the same location as the existing home so that it only slightly encroaches in to the setbacks. She commented that the design of the home and placement of the home was well thought out in response to what could be done to improve the site with additional height and attempting to blend in with the locality and other home designs around the lake. She further noted that the applicants propose to provide screening to adjacent properties and recommended that additional plantings be placed on the lakeside of the site if feasible. She concluded by stating that the variances raise no safety issues.

Planner Barness asked if Planner Grittman had any additional comments.

Planner Grittman responded no and commented that Planner Barness had covered all the issues.

Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any questions or comments from the Commissioners.

Commissioner Spaulding asked how much screening exists between the home and the lakeside view.

Chair Hendrickson explained that the lakeside of the property was fairly steep which would provide some screening to the home.

Planner Barness advised that there are six (6) large trees on the lakeside of the property and also substantial shrubby growth to provide screening. She commented that the healthy large trees in this location should provide screening on the lakeside of the property.

Commissioner Spaulding stated that the proposed new home is a larger structure than the existing home and may visually impact the properties with views from across the lake.

Mr. Doyle stated the north portion of the site is steep due to the grade and that limits what could be placed in that location. He also corrected the Planner’s statement that the third garage stall would be a 16 ft. expansion and explained the corners of the garage would only slightly encroach into the north and south setbacks.

Commissioner Spaulding calculated that the two areas of expansion at 3.6 ft. and 3.8 ft. bring the expansion closer to the adjacent property.

Mr. Doyle noted that the expansion to the northeast portion of the site would not be seen by the neighbor.

Commissioner Spaulding noted that the expansion would still be crowding the neighboring property slightly more.

Mr. Doyle stated that the applicant is attempting to build a usable home that is similar to the neighboring homes in this area with minimal impact to the adjacent properties.

Commissioner Hansen pointed out that if trees are removed as identified, there appears to be a visual gap on the south side of the property and she suggested that some of the nine (9) replaced trees be installed in this area.

Planner Barness advised that the neighbors were sent notice of the application and only one neighbor contacted her to ask about screening. She asked if the applicant would be consider installing some trees to screen the south proeprty.

Mr. Doyle explained that the applicant would agree to do so and that he was unsure if all nine (9) of the replacement trees could be installed on the north side of the parcel.

Commissioner Spaulding pointed out that the requested variances with encroachment closer to two property lines would increase a non-conforming use.

Commissioner Hansen stated that in her opinion the placement of the home on the site appears to make sense and that the request is reasonable.

Commissioner Beckett explained that she lives next door to the site and that she would be delighted to have the existing home removed and the propose new home constructed. She commented that in her opinion the existing home is an eyesore and the only other option would be to leave the lot vacant.

Mr. Doyle advised that the existing home was an earth home and was constructed with no footings. He explained that the applicants are attempting to build a reasonably sized home with as little expansion as necessary. He commented that this is a difficult site due to its configuration and that he worked with the applicants to limit the impact on surrounding properties.

Commissioner Spaulding pointed out that the expansion still encroaches 3 ft. closer on two property lines and commented that he would be supportive of the plan if no expansion was proposed.

Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further questions or comments from the Commission and there was no response. He opened the public hearing for comments from the floor

Dave Money, 76 Woodridge, stated that he was initially concerned about an expansion of the home, but he commented that the lot has restrictions and the only other option would be to leave the lot vacant. He indicated that the home cannot be seen from the lake and that in his opinion the proposed design looks great. He explained that he canoes on the lake and described the limited visibility from different areas. He commented that he detests the fact that his home can be seen from the lake and he wishes he could screen it.

Mr. Doyle stated there does not appear to be sufficient room to plant large trees on the lakeside of the home for screening.

Planner Barness recommended that the variance request also be tabled so both applications may be considered at the same time. She suggested that the applicant take photos of the site lines from the lake side of the property to determine the visibility of the home.

Mr. Money further suggested that the applicant take pictures from other adjacent properties.

Commissioner Beckett suggested an adjacent neighbor that would be willing to allow the applicants onto their property for this purpose. She asked Mr. Money if the existing home can be seen from a canoe.

Mr. Money stated the south side of the property is somewhat exposed and he described areas where portions of the home are visible.

Mr. Doyle stated he would research the matter and determine if plantings could be installed for screening. The Planner suggested Mr. Doyle work with the City Forester on this matter.

Commissioner Beckett stated she only sees the roofline of the existing home in the winter months. She pointed out that the removal of the Oak trees on the north side of the property could make a difference in the visibility. She commented that in her opinion it makes no sense to leave the lot empty and anything else would be better than the existing home on the property.

Bob Schmidtz, representing the applicants, advised that his clients wish to maintain lake views for their enjoyment.

Chair Hendrickson asked if the stone boulder walls would be removed and Mr. Doyle stated his clients are trying to save the structure.

Chair Hendrickson asked Mr. Doyle to reiterate that the applicants have no plans to replace the existing deck and Mr. Doyle stated that was correct.

Chair Hendrickson stated he agreed with the neighbors comments that any redevelopment of the lot would be an improvement. He stated that in his opinion the proposed home is well designed given the issues related to the topography and unique lot configuration. He agreed that granting a variance would be expanding a non-conforming use, however, attempting to fit the home into the setback constraints would not be practical.

Commissioner Hansen stated in her opinion the proposal is a great solution for a site that it tough to develop.

Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further comments from the audience and hearing no response closed the public hearing.

Chair Hendrickson pointed out that it would be appropriate to table the application until the revised plans are approved by the City Engineer and Fire Chief and a revised landscape plan is submitted that addresses the concerns raised on the south side of the property and the lake views. He stated he would support a motion that tables both requests one month and explained that it is his opinion both applications should be considered at the same time.

Commissioner Hansen moved to table the Major Site and Building Plan and Variance Review for the property located at 5865 South Robert Trail, Brian and Joyce Birch, to the May Planning Commission meeting to allow time for receipt of approval from the City Engineer and Fire Chief on the revised plans, to receive a response from the DNR Hydrologist, to receive a revised landscape plan addressing the screening issues and planting locations as discussed this evening, and to request that the applicant provide samples of the siding and stone material for Commission to review, seconded by Commissioner Beckett and carried. (4-0)

OTHER/NEW BUSINESS: Chair Hendrickson asked if there was any other business and there was no response.

Chair Hendrickson extended sincere thanks to Planner Michelle Barness for her excellent service to the Commission and the City of Sunfish Lake. He stated that in his opinion she had gone above and beyond the duties of her position to research information so that the Commission could make informed decisions. He wished her good luck in her new job and move to Iowa and stated he would also miss her as a good friend.

ADJOURN: Commissioner Hansen moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:05 p.m., seconded by Chair Hendrickson and carried.


Respectfully submitted,


Catherine Iago, City Clerk