SUNFISH LAKE SPECIAL JOINT CITY COUNCIL & PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING - April 5, 2016

 

 

SUNFISH LAKE SPECIAL JOINT CITY COUNCIL & PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING

 

APRIL 5, 2016

 

5:30 P.M. - ST. ANNE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH

 

 

 

Attendants:

 


Mayor: Molly Park

 

Councilmembers: Mike Hovey, JoAnne Wahlstrom, Steven Bulach and Richard Williams

 

Planning Commissioners: Ginny Beckett, Shari Hansen, Dan O’Leary and Alan Spaulding
City Attorney: Tim Kuntz

 

City Planners: Michelle Barness and Ryan Grittman

 

Engineer: Eric Ekman

 

City Clerk: Cathy Iago
City Engineer Don Sterna arrived at 5:45 p.m. and Planning Commissioner Tom Hendrickson was absent

 

 

 

1. CALL TO ORDER: Mayor Park opened the meeting at 5:30 p.m.

2. INTRODUCTIONS: Mayor Park asked those present to introduce themselves.

3. OVERVIEW OF SITE AND BUILDING PLAN PROCESS: Mayor Park asked the Planner to review the documentation she sent to the group relating to the Site and Building Plan procedures.

Planner Barness distributed the documentation that outlined the timeline and review activities on Major Site and Building Plan applications that are submitted to the City. She explained that the Planning Commission had discussed increasing fees for the Major Site and Building Plan applications due to the increased costs for staff time to review the applications. She advised that the size of the projects and recent change to stormwater management requirements for cities had contributed to the increased time for staff review of major projects. She also pointed out that the fees had not been increased for several years.

The Planner explained that major projects are discussed with applicants one to three months preceding a formal application. She advised that recently she asked the City Engineer to attend the pre-application meetings in order to identify any issues with stormwater requirements for the proposed building site. She referred to the application checklist that she reviews to determine if all application information submitted is complete and could move forward. She stated that the application is then forwarded to staff for their review and comments. She noted that this year she extended the review schedule one week in order to give staff an additional week to review the documentation and provide their response. She pointed out that this also provides an additional week for her to prepare a report for the Planning Commission meeting.

Councilmember Hovey asked if one additional week was sufficient time or if additional time should be used for the review.

 

Planner Barness advised that she was unsure how additional time may affect the application process.

Attorney Kuntz pointed out that State Statutes require that the City respond to the application within 60 days of its submission, however, he noted that the City may extend the review an additional 60 days by notifying the applicant.

The Planner indicated that when she calculated the time-frame she found that one additional week did not affect the timeline. She suggested that it remain at one week and could be reviewed in the future if necessary.

Engineer Sterna arrived at 5:45 p.m.

Councilmember Bulach asked how many projects staff could handle at one time.|

Planner Barness indicated that in 2014 she had four (4) projects to review during one month and that due to the size of the projects it was difficult to manage; however, she noted that does not occur on a regular basis.

Commissioner O’Leary commented that there is a vacant parcel of land that could support 9 potential lots for development and that could be a huge project. He asked if that type of project could be extended beyond the 120 day period for review.

The Planner pointed out that she does have support staff at her company that could assist if that type of development occurs.

 

Attorney Kuntz explained that the project could not be extended more than 120 days without the applicant’s permission.

Engineer Sterna commented that in his experience a large development of several lots usually requires a community drainfield and they are difficult to manage. He noted that in Sunfish Lake the stormwater is managed on individual lots with items such as rain gardens, etc. He advised that the Grieve Glen plat was the last large development that required establishing ponds.

Planner Barness referred to the application time frame and advised that after the submission of a major application, such as she must send notices to adjacent property owners and publish a public hearing notice. She explained that one week prior to the Commission meeting she sends an agenda packet of material with a reduced set of plans. She noted that she also sets up a site visit prior to the Planning meeting and indicated that Council is welcome to attend or that she could setup another visit to the site if Council wishes to view the property. She noted that the public hearing is held at the Planning meeting and then staff prepares findings of fact to support the Commissioner’s recommendation to Council. She noted this is usually done within a 2-week time period between the meetings. She advised that she prepares an abbreviated information packet for Council review since they also received the planning packet.

Councilmember Williams indicated it may be appropriate for Council to view the site.

Mayor Park stated that she tries to attend the site visit prior to the Planning meeting and that it is most helpful when reviewing the plans for the project.

The Planner noted that occasionally there are conditions attached to Council approval and staff works with the applicant to insure that all conditions are met prior to the post-construction site visit. She explained that some applications require additional site visits to insure all erosion controls are operating properly. She noted that all conditions, including site visits, are placed in the formal resolution approving the application. She further noted that she asked the Building Official to notify staff as the project comes to the end so that the Engineer, Planner, and Forester may insure all conditions are met before issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy.

Commissioner O’Leary noted that a resident complained that proper materials were not used during construction of a home near their property and asked if there are enforcement methods included in the City ordinances. He questioned enforcement for items such as landscaping and construction materials.

Attorney Kuntz explained that any conditions included in the resolution of approval are enforceable; he noted that conditions that are not recorded do not have methods for enforcement in the City Code. He advised that the application process requires an escrow account for such purposes but he explained that delays for items such as installation of landscaping may impact the process. He pointed out that prior to issuance of the certificate of occupancy staff conducts a site visit to insure all conditions have been met. He noted that occasionally there are issues with plantings due to weather, but the City has had a relatively good response with requiring escrow funds for this purpose.

Planner Barness explained that there are a few projects that will be ending prior to planting season, but she is somewhat hesitant to require an escrow for the plantings as the applicants have advised they will install the plantings as soon as the roadway load limits are removed.

Commissioner Beckett asked if there is follow-up by staff to insure the plantings are installed.

The Planner responded yes and stated she sends an email or calls the applicant as a reminder.

Councilmember Williams asked what happens if correct materials are not used and suggested that there should be protocol in place to insure that approval lists the correct materials.

Planner Barness explained that the complaint relating to building materials was due to the fact that the applicant indicated they would use a "stone" on their home; however it was a stone veneer not actual stone. She noted that in the future she would require samples of the building materials for review.

The Planner referred to the procedures for Minor Site Plan review and noted that this requires a three to four week time period and only adjacent properties are notified of the application for their comments. She indicated that staff usually approves this type of application and may add conditions of approval.

 

Councilmember Bulach asked if a project less than 900 square feet is considered a minor site plan.

 

Planner Barness explained this would be discussed later.

The Planner reviewed her responsibilities related to the Minor Site Plan review and advised that she recently asked the applicants to copy the City Engineer with the application so that his review may begin early in the process. She noted that she works with the engineer to determine if there are any drainage issues associated with the request that would require it be moved to the Major Site review status.

Planner Barness reviewed the other staff procedures. She explained that the Building Official receives an initial set of plans at first and then more detailed plans when an application is approved. She stated that she provides guidance on timing for staff site visits. She advised that the Septic Inspector was initially sent the application and performed an inspection of the property when they applied for a septic permit, however, she now requested the Septic Inspector visit the site when an application is submitted and provide a formal report prior to the meeting. She further explained that she requested the Inspector verify the fact that there are two locations identified for septic installation on the property.

Engineer Sterna explained that identifying septic locations could change the design of the home and that this inspection should be completed early in the process.

The Planner agreed and noted that the City may have to address other types of septic installations in the future due to the fact that some properties may not support two drain field locations.

Councilmember Williams commented that this appears to be an issue of protocol and should be placed in the application requirements.

Planner Barness explained that previously the inspector did not provide a formal report however, she now has asked the Septic Inspector to submit a formal report for inclusion with the meeting packets.

The Planner explained that the City Forester review the application materials and provides a recommendation to staff. She noted he attends the Council meeting to address any questions on the project and also may attend either or both pre and post construction site visits. The Forester also provides follow-up conditions for addressing issues with the plantings.

Planner Barness advised that previously the Fire Chief was only contacted if there was an issue with access to a site, however, as of March 2016, she will forward all applications to the Fire Chief and request a response with a recommendation for fire access.

Councilmember Williams commented that fire access is a big issue in the City since there are no fire hydrants.

The Planner agreed and noted that the City also has issues with private roads and shared access driveways.

Attorney Kuntz noted that the City has been experiencing tear-downs and rebuilding of larger homes on certain properties. He explained that this may raise issues with the following items; 1) managing storm water on-site; 2) fire access; 3) septic locations; and, 4) tree preservation. He pointed out that these issues should be identified at the beginning of the application review process so that the applicant may make an informed decision and be able to submit all necessary plans for staff review early in the process.

Councilmember Williams agreed and noted that water quality is more of an issue now and this may require changes to storm water management on-site.

Planner Barness pointed out that sometimes it is difficult to explain to applicants the significance of the pre-application process.

Engineer Sterna agreed and noted that it is also difficult to educate builders that the City has more extensive requirements than other communities.

 

The Planner noted that recent information from the Fire Chief relating to requirements for emergency vehicle access to properties may also raise issues with future applications. She explained that this matter will be discussed with the Fire Chief and staff in the coming months to determine what must be done to accommodate access.

Planner Barness explained that the Planning Commission conducts the site visits and holds the public hearing on the applications. She noted that the Commission normally adds conditions that must be met prior to the Council review and may request additional information from the applicant if deemed necessary. She noted that if Council wishes they could direct the Commission to table an application if all the necessary documentation is not provided at the time of their review.

 

Councilmember Hovey agreed that plans should be complete prior to Council review.

 

Councilmember Wahlstrom also agreed.

Commissioner O’Leary asked if the application approval is usually contingent upon the City Engineer’s final approval

 

Councilmember Williams indicated that setting up protocols in the application process may fix the problem versus amending the City Code. He suggested advising applicants up front what the application process involves and what is required from them.

 

Planner Barness pointed out that when reviewing larger projects she deals with several issues. She suggested that all staff should be present when reviewing Major Site and Building Plans and pointed out that larger cities have all staff present for the review process prior to preparing reports for Commission or Council review. She commented that if all staff are present it may increase the City’s costs for staff time, however, it may save costs on larger applications by eliminating additional reviews later in the process.

Councilmember Williams commented that it may be possible to change the fee structure to include these initial costs for full staff review.

Commissioner O’Leary agreed that it could save money at the other end of the process.

4. DISCUSS TOPICS OF CONCERN FOR CURERENT REVIEW PROCESS: Planner Barness explained that most of the items listed below had been discussed as part of the application process and could be discussed in more detail by the Commission during the year:

 

a. Classification of Major and Minor Reviews

 

b. Information Submittal Requirement

 

c. Special Issues: 1) Stormwater and Grading; 2) Fire Access; 3) Septic Systems

 

d. Post-Approval Inspection and Review

 

e. Consistent Application of Standards and Imposed Conditions

The Planner indicated that projects under 1,000 sq. ft. is size are usually considered a Minor Site Plan review, but on occasion other issues arise which cause the project to be moved to the Major Site Plan Review process. She noted that this fact was the basis for staff to recommend pre-application visits for Minor Site Plan review to determine the extent of the project and identify any issues that could require a more extensive review.

Councilmember Williams asked the City Engineer if any new requirements should be included as relate to water quality issues.

Engineer Sterna advised that the City does not review regional ponding since most applications pertain to single lots versus a larger development. He noted that the City could research grants for regional ponding if a larger development is submitted for review.

The Planner also pointed out that there are some lots in the Shoreland Overlay district on the lakes that only have a small area of buffer near the shore; she explained that these lots were grandfathered in and that it may be appropriate to look at amending the ordinances to address the buffering issue.

Commissioner O’Leary noted that during a recent application review he found that 46% of the lots around Sunfish Lake do not meet the 200 ft. setback requirement. He indicated that the courts advise that cities should not be granting large numbers of variances and that it may be more practical to amend the ordinance by reducing the setback requirement.

There was discussion regarding review of screening to insure that it is properly installed and that it is replaced if it does not survive after the first year. It was determined that it may be possible to require the Forester to add review of the plantings over a longer time period.

Mayor Park explained that staff only meets once per month since they are not working in the same building. She noted that it is important for the Council, Commission and staff to be "on the same page" and send out the same message to applicants and residents. She stated that in her opinion Council should take the lead to set up the hierarchy for how the projects work and provide support to the Commission and staff to accomplish this end.

 

Mayor Park thanked the Planner for her presentation.

Commissioner O’Leary noted that the costs for minor and major site plan reviews are quite different and questioned if the full staff review could reduce the costs for the minor site plan review.

Mayor Park explained that her lot division was a minor item, but quite costly due to the fact they had to submit a lot survey with easements. She noted that some issues may arise with the minor reviews that are more costly than anticipated.

Commissioner Beckett agreed with Councilmember Williams that it would be beneficial for Council to attend site visits and would show the applicant the City support of the projects.

5. DISCUSS PRACTICES OF ADDRESSING CURRENT REVIEW CONCERNS: Attorney Kuntz thanked the Planner for her structuring of the joint meeting agenda. He referred to information presented on pages 21 thru 34 of the informational materials and indicated the staff recommendations could be part of an on-going agenda for discussion at the Planning meetings for recommendation to Council.

The Planner agreed that these items could be placed on upcoming Planning agendas and do not require any formal action.

6. OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SITE AND BUILDING PLAN REVIEW IMPROVEMENTS: No discussion at this time.

7. ADJOURN: Mayor Park thanked the Planner for her presentation. On behalf of the Council, Commission and staff she offered best wishes to the Planner as she embarks on a new job and a move to Iowa with her family. She thanked Michelle and expressed the fact that it was a pleasure to work with her during her tenure as planner.

The Mayor also welcomed Ryan Grittman as the new planning consultant and also Eric Eckman as part of the engineering staff.

Mayor Park asked if there were any further items for discussion and hearing none, called for adjournment.


ADJOURN: Councilmember Williams moved to adjourn the meeting at 6:50 p.m., seconded by Councilmember Hovey and carried (5-0)


____________________________ ________________________________

 

Catherine Iago, City Clerk Molly Park, Mayor