- DRAFT –
SUNFISH LAKE PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING – MAY 18, 2016
7:00 P.M. – ST. ANNE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Chair: Tom Hendrickson
Commissioners: Ginny Beckett, Shari Hansen, Dan O’Leary and Alan Spaulding.
City Planner: Michelle Barness
City Clerk: Cathy Iago
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 Hansen moved to adopt the agenda, seconded by Commissioner O’Leary and carried (5-0)
3. APPROVE MINUTES APRIL 20, 2016: Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any additions or corrections to the
April 20, 2016 minutes.
Commissioner Hansen referred the Clerk to two minor typing corrections; 1) change the word “propose” to “proposed” on page 4; and, 2) change the word “it” to “is” on page 5.
Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any other corrections and there was no response.
Commissioner Beckett moved to approve the April 20, 2016 Planning Commission minutes as corrected, seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (5-0)
4. CONTINUED PUBLIC HEARING: Major Site and Building Plan Review and Variances, 5865 South Robert Trail, Brian and Joyce Birch: Chair Hendrickson opened the continued public hearing and asked the Planner to review his report. Planner Grittman referred to his report dated May 11, 2016 and explained that review of this application was conducted at the April 20, 2016 meeting and the public hearing was continued to allow the applicant time to address the issues relating to landscaping, engineering and tree replacement on site and to revise the plans. The Commission also requested the applicant address the issue of driveway with for access and a possible turnaround for emergency vehicles on the site. He stated that the applicant was also requested to bring samples of the siding and stone for the exterior of the home for Commission review.
The Planner stated the applicants propose to tear down an existing home and construct a new home on the property which requires a variance from shoreline setbacks, both side yard setbacks and construction of a home that does not meet setback standards on a substandard sized lot.
Planner Grittman stated that the applicants submitted revised plans showing the fire access driveway area widened from 10 feet to 20 feet and would be constructed to withhold the weight of a firetruck. He noted that a 90-degree turnaround pad would also be installed on the site which requires a 9-point maneuver to turn the fire truck around.
Commissioner O’Leary asked if the diagram on the revised plan shows the number of maneuvers it will take to turn around the emergency vehicles.
The Planner responded yes and advised that the Fire Chief had acknowledged that the maneuver can be accomplished.
Planner Grittman explained that the revised landscape plan addresses the request for nine (9) trees to be planted along the south and north property lines. He noted that there appears to be an issue with one of the trees planted on the turnaround pad and recommended this tree be placed elsewhere on the property. He further noted that a condition should be included that requires the applicants to keep the turnaround area clear at all times from storage, landscaping and snow removal in order for the area to be effective.
Commissioner O’Leary commented that it appears as if two (2) trees should be removed from the turnaround area and moved to another location, possibly on the north side of the property.
Commissioner Hansen agreed there should be screening on the north portion of the property.
There was discussion regarding whether or not the trees could be moved to the west or south sides of the property. The Planner and Chair Hendrickson explained that the topography drops off significantly on the west portion of the property so the plantings would not provide screening in that area.
Commissioner O’Leary commented that the property appears to be well screened and it may be appropriate to have the applicants just remove two trees from the fire turnaround area to insure it remains unobstructed.
Planner Grittman advised that the City Engineer provided a new memorandum dated April 29, 2016 which states that he reviewed the revised plans and finds them to be in compliance with City requirements. The Engineer recommended approval of the project with three conditions; 1) the addresses of adjacent properties be placed on the plans; 2) the contractor adhere to the axel load limits when delivering materials to the site; and, 3) any damage to South Robert Street shall be repaired to the City’s satisfaction by the applicant prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy. The Engineer recommended that the builder take photos of the roadway prior to construction to document the condition of the road and that the photos be taken at a wide angle to verify the location.
The Planner stated that staff recommends approval of the Major Site Plan and Variances subject to the conditions as listed in the Planner’s report dated May 11, 2016.
Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any questions from the Commissioners.
Commissioner O’Leary asked if the applicant brought the exterior building materials for review.
Sean Doyle, Builder for the applicants, displayed the stone and LP siding proposed for the home construction.
Commissioner Spaulding commented that the siding does not appear to be LP siding and that it is more fibrous. He questioned if the wrong sample was provided.
Sean Doyle stated he would verify that the sample presented is the LP Smartside siding proposed for the home construction.
Commissioner Hansen asked if the sample was real stone.
Mr. Doyle explained it is a stone veneer. In reference to the tree placement discussion, Mr. Doyle explained that the property is heavily screened to the south and he was struggling with area to install nine (9) replacement trees given the topography and installation of the emergency vehicle turnaround.
Commissioners Spaulding and Beckett agreed that it is a heavily treed site. Commissioner Beckett noted that she lives adjacent to the property.
Commissioner Spaulding suggested that two of the trees be removed from the required nine to be planted.
There was discussion and the Commission concurred that the number of trees to be installed be reduced from nine to seven, with five to be planted on the north side of the property and two be planted near the well location on the site. The Commissioner further concurred that the two trees to be removed would be the southeasterly ones located near the proposed turnaround area.
Sean Doyle stated that he met on site with the Fire Chief who advised that although it is a tight turnaround area it would work for emergency vehicle access.
Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any comments from the public.
Brian Birch, owner of the property, advised that the siding displayed this evening would not be placed on his home and that he is confident Mr. Doyle would bring the correct LP siding to show Council. He displayed photos of the tree coverage on the site in the fall/winter months that shows the home can hardly be seen by the adjacent properties or from across the lake. He noted that only one home that is on the hill next to the property may see the new home.
Commissioner Beckett stated that is her home and that she does see the property somewhat in the winter months.
Mr. Birch commented that in his opinion he is unsure that there is a need for the home to be 100% non-visual from adjacent properties.
Commissioner O’Leary explained that Sunfish Lake is a Tree City and that residents value the fact that they see more vegetation than adjacent homes.
Commissioner Spaulding agreed that screening is appropriate. He stated that he researched the fact that there is precedents for the City not allowing expansion of lakeshore properties. He noted that residents enjoy all types of recreational activities on lakeshore properties and it is his opinion that approving this request would set precedent. He further stated that in his opinion by approving the variance request it would impact all property owners on the lake.
Commissioner Hansen pointed out that there are pros and cons associated with expansion of this property and in her opinion the proposed variance request is a substantial upgrade on the property from the existing home.
Chair Hendrickson agreed and pointed out that the existing home was approved for the requirements at the time it was built and then the shoreland setback requirements became more restrictive. He noted that he was unable to find rationale for the arbitrary shoreland setback number that was placed in the zoning regulations. He stated that he understands the concerns expressed by Commissioner Spaulding, however, he agreed that the proposed new home would be a small footprint on the property and should have no negative visual impact on the lake. He further noted that there were no objections from the neighboring properties and, there was support from some of the neighbors. He stated in his opinion there would be no reason not to allow the variance as the topography of the site support extraordinary circumstances to support the request.
Commissioner Spaulding noted that the required shoreland setback is 200 ft. and commented the applicant may be able to expand further away from the lake side of the property, which he would support. He pointed out that the side yard setbacks are not close to the current regulations. He indicated that the applicant may not be the only possible purchaser of the lot and someone else may show interest in building a smaller home on the site.
Commissioner O’Leary pointed out that from a legal point of view if the existing home were destroyed, the property owner could rebuild on the same footprint and he agreed that there appears to be minimal visual impact on the lake with the variance.
Commissioner Spaulding stated that there are only three lakes within the City and they are national treasures that should be preserved in their current state.
Chair Hendrickson explained that many homes on the lake were constructed prior to the new regulations for shoreland setbacks and those existing homes were not poor planning decisions. He pointed out that the buildable area of the lot is minimized by the topography.
Commissioner Spaulding indicated that the 3.6 ft. additional portion of the home could be reduced if the home was reconfigured on the lot.
Commissioner Hansen stated that it appears the applicant was trying to minimize the impact on the remainder of the lot with the placement of the home. She noted that there is a large hill on the property and the builder appears to be working within the buildable area on the property with minor disruption of the site.
Sean Doyle advised that the main floor of the home is only 1,600 sq. ft.
Commissioner Spaulding suggested that another buyer may wish to build a smaller home.
Commissioner Beckett pointed out that was speculation and explained that the property in its current condition is ripe for crime and dangerous due to its dilapidated condition. She pointed out that the existing home had been vacant for two years and that there had not been an owner living in the home for 11 years prior to the vacancy. She commented that it appears everyone present wishes to improve the property for the community.
Brian Birch asked to display a model of the home that he proposes to build on the property. He explained that it would impact the neighboring properties more if the home were placed in a different portion of the site and that he worked with the builder to make the home esthetically pleasing from the lake and adjacent property views. He showed the Commission the interior floor plan of the home and stated he designed it to enhance the area. He advised he met the neighbor to the south of the property and she expressed her excitement for the removal of the existing home and for the new home. He referred the Commission to the retaining wall and abandoned septic system located on the hill and advised that he reviewed all aspects of the site before choosing a design that would enhance the area with the least disruption to the site.
Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further comments from the public and hearing none, closed the public hearing.
Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any comments or questions from the Commission and there was no response.
Commissioner Hansen moved to recommend approval of the Major Site and Building Plan and Variances for 5865 South Robert Trail, Brian and Joyce Birch subject to the conditions as listed in the Planner’s Report dated May 11, 2016 and as amended to eliminate two (2) of the nine (9) trees shown on the landscape plan southeast of the well location near the turnaround area, for a total of seven (7) trees to be installed, seconded by Commissioner Beckett and carried. (Ayes: 4-Hansen, Beckett, O’Leary, Hendrickson Nays: 1-Spaulding)
5. PUBLIC HEARING: Minor Site and Building Plan Review and Variance, 331 Salem Church Road, Sena Kihtir: Chair Hendrickson opened the public hearing and asked the Planner to review his report.
Planner Grittman referred to his report dated May 11, 2016 and explained that the applicant wishes to add an addition to the home above an attached garage which would include a bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, and workout room. He noted that because the addition would be less than 1,000 sq. ft. in size it would be considered a Minor Site and Building Plan review and does not require approval by the Commission or Council, only staff. He explained that a variance is necessary as the project does not meet the side yard or Shoreland Overlay District setbacks and the variance request requires review by the Commission and Council.
The Planner explained that the parcel is 4.24 acres, but the buildable area on the parcel totals 1.7 acres once the lake area is removed. He noted that construction on the lot would not be possible without a variance.
Planner Grittman explained that the proposed project would not impact existing vegetation on the site and would not increase drainage as it will be constructed above the existing garage. He stated that a set of drainage and erosion control plans were reviewed by the City Engineer and the applicant proposes to install a silt fence around the project area which would also serve as tree protection fencing for trees outside of the construction zone. He advised that a small portion of the driveway would be removed during construction and would be replaced with matching pavement.
The Planner stated that the site is already landscaped and no new landscaping or tree plantings are proposed at this time. He noted the property is heavily wooded with mature trees and adjacent properties are not expected to see the proposed expansion.
Planner Grittman explained that the existing septic system and well are located on the south side of the home. He stated that the septic system was replaced in 2015 with the building expansion project in mind. The City Septic Inspector was provided a set of site and building plans for the project and had no comments at this time.
The Planner stated that the proposed exterior building material would be wood and painted to match the current siding on the home. He explained that the applicant would install two (2) lights on the garage that would be hooded at a 90-degree downward angle; the lights shall not exceed one-foot candle as measured from the property line.
Planner Grittman reviewed the Variance Criteria listed in his report and noted that the expansion of the home still maintains a 100 ft. setback from the adjacent home to the southwest. He explained the addition is not expected to increase fire danger and the same access will remain as review of the access is not required with a Minor Site and Building Plan review. He advised that the DNR was contacted regarding the drainage and had no comments.
The Planner explained that the subject lot is a legal non-conforming lot that does not meet the minimum requirements for buildable lot space. He advised the topography of the lot includes a hill on the west side of the property and factoring in the location for the septic system and drain field, the only feasible location to expand is above the garage. He stated that due to the irregular shape and the limited buildable space on the lot, the variance appears to be necessary. He further noted that the request is a setback variance and not a use variance.
Planner Grittman stated that staff recommends approval of the variance request based on the findings as listed on page 9 of his report and subject to the five (5) conditions as listed in his report.
Chair Hendrickson asked if the Septic Inspector had verified that the new septic system was designed for this expansion and recommended that this be done prior to Council review.
The Planner stated that no formal memorandum was received from the Septic Inspector, but he would notify him that it should be submitted for Council review.
Commissioner Spaulding asked where the drainage goes from the impervious surface.
Commissioner Beckett pointed out the drainage area on the plans.
Erick Rockstad, contractor for the applicant, explained that the drainage goes through a 15 x 30 ft. rock-bed prior to reaching the lake and that there is an uphill area where it ponds.
Commissioner Spaulding commented that it is important to filter the drainage prior to it entering the lake. He stated that in his opinion it is a good design and he would support the request.
Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any comments from the audience.
Sarah Pennie-Thompson, 335 Salem Church Road, explained that her home is on the hill above this property and stated that she is not thrilled about the additional height increase on the garage. She noted that the applicant’s property is currently nested in the vegetation, but with the heights increase it may be possible to see into the windows of the addition. She suggested that she would be willing to work with the applicant on installing some plantings or screening to maintain privacy. She also noted that although there is 50 ft. from the lot line between the parcels, the addition would be pushing out more on the side closest to her home. She commented that she was sorry to speak negatively against the project, but wanted to express her concerns.
Sena Kihtir, applicant, explained that she measured from the lot line with the construction of the addition and it would remain at least six to eight feet more than the required setback. She noted that it is a very heavily wood area, but the density of the evergreens may be less in some areas and may provide sightlines between the properties. She stated she was unsure what type of planting could be installed that would maintain privacy in the area.
Erick Rockstad stated that he had been on the sight since last fall and that there are some visible sightlines when the leaves are gone, but hard to see when the leaves are full. He noted that the problem is that the neighbors are looking downhill onto the proposed construction area.
Commissioner O’Leary commented that he understands the concerns expressed by the neighbor, however, the proposed addition meets the 30 ft. height requirement.
Sena Kihtir stated that she would be open to suggestions for screening solutions.
Commissioner O’Leary suggested the two neighbors work together and contact the City Forester for his advice. He pointed out that when he built his home, he planted numerous trees and placed fencing around them to prevent the deer from eating them.
Wayne Thompson, 335 Salem Church Road, explained that as neighbors they were not trying to be contentious, however, the views from the proposed addition impact only one room for the applicant and three rooms for his home. He commented that living “uphill” from the site would not be advantageous in this case.
Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further comments and hearing none, closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Hansen asked if it is possible to make recommendations relating to the Minor Site and Building Plan review.
Chair Hendrickson explained that legally the Commission may only make a recommendation on the variance request, but could encourage the applicant to work with the neighbor on screening issues.
Commissioner O’Leary moved to recommend approval of the Minor Site and Building Plan and Variance to permit a home addition at 331 Salem Church Road, Sena Kihtir, subject to the conditions and the Findings of Fact to support the variance as listed in the Planner’s report dated May 11, 2016, seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (5-0)
Sena Kihtir explained that the Planner stated she would paint the siding the same color as the existing home, however, she had not been able to find the same color. She asked if she would be able to paint the addition a matching color to blend with the existing home.
Chair Hendrickson advised that the City cannot regulate color, but could encourage the applicant to blend the color for the addition with a neutral, earth tone.
Chair Hendrickson asked the Planner if there would be a meeting in June and/or July, due to possible vacation schedules.
Planner Grittman advised there are no applications for June, so that meeting would be cancelled. He explained that an application for a Conditional Use Permit was submitted for review in July.
Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further comments and there was no response.
ADJOURN: Commissioner O’Leary moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:00 p.m., seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (5-0)
Catherine Iago, City Clerk