Chair: Tom Hendrickson

Commissioners: Ginny Beckett, Shari Hansen, and Dan O’Leary
City Planner: Ryan Grittman

City Clerk: Cathy Iago

Commissioner Alan Spaulding 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 O’Leary moved to adopt the agenda, seconded by Commission Hansen and carried (4-0)

3. APPROVE MINUTES JULY 20, 2016: Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any additions or corrections to the July 20, 2016 Planning Commission Minutes.

Commissioner Hansen referred to page 6 of the July 20, 2016 minutes and recommended that the word “to” should be inserted before the word “consider” in line 4 of paragraph 4 of the minutes.

Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further corrections and there was no response.

Commissioner O’Leary moved to approve the July 20,2016 Planning Commission minutes with the correction as recommended by Commissioner Hansen by inserting the word “to” before the word “consider” in paragraph 4, line 4 to clarify the sentence, seconded by Commissioner Beckett and carried. (4-0)

4. PUBLIC HEARING: A. Conditional Use Permit for Second Accessory Structure, 55 Salem Church Road, Luis Escoto: Chair Hendrickson opened the continued public hearing and asked the Planner to review the request.

Planner Grittman explained that at the July 20, 2016 Planning Commission meeting the request from Luis and Irma Escoto for a Minor Site and Building Plan and a Conditional Use Permit to allow a second accessory structure on their property was tabled to allow the applicant time to address the issues raised by the City Engineer and also to hear comments that were emailed to City staff relating to the request. He stated that on August 8, 2016 an updated site plan and landscaping plan was submitted to staff by the applicant. He noted that the revised plan submitted now shows the updates as requested by the City Engineer in his report dated June 21, 2016 and as outlined in the Planner’s report dated August 10, 2016. He advised that the City Engineer provided a final report dated August 9, 2016 that states all items raised in his original report have been addressed and satisfied and recommended approval of the request.

The Planner advised that the applicant was also asked to submit a shingle and siding sample for inspection at the August 17, 2016 Planning Commission meeting and staff has samples available.

Planner Grittman stated that staff recommends approval of the site and building plans and conditional use permit with the two (2) conditions as listed in the Planner’s report dated August 10, 2016. He also noted that in response to comments from the public hearing in July, staff recommends the additional conditions as listed:

1. That a one year time limit to complete the project be included as a condition of approval; and,

2. That the applicant must provide screening from adjacent properties with evergreen trees for year round screening.

The Planner pointed out that although it is not a condition of approval, no business may be conducted from the accessory structure as part of the Conditional Use Permit regulations.

Commissioner O’Leary asked if samples of the shingles and siding are available to review.

Commissioner Hansen asked what would happen if the structure is not completed within the one-year time period.

Planner Grittman showed the siding material and explained that the shingles do not exactly match the shingles on the existing home. He indicated that the structure would have to either be removed if not completed within the time period allowed or the applicant would have to re-submit the application.

Chair Hendrickson pointed out that he was unsure if the Commission can stipulate that the shingles match those on the existing home since the home is 15 years old. He pointed out that the Commission could request the shingles match as close as possible to the existing home.

Commissioner Beckett asked if the Commission can stipulate the color of the shingles.

Planner Grittman explained that with the CUP request the Commission may ask that the shingles be a complementary color to match the existing home.

Commissioner Beckett asked what the structure would be placed on and what would anchor it in place.

The Planner responded that the structure would be placed on Class 5 gravel and Chair Hendrickson stated that the weight of the building would anchor it in place.

Commissioner Hansen asked if the siding was an approved building material.

Chair Hendrickson pointed out that the siding was not listed on the approved building materials list but that it is a “sister” material similar to lap siding that had been previously approved for use on other projects.

Commissioner Beckett commented that this siding would be installed with metal strips that had not previously been approved.

Chair Hendrickson explained that although the siding uses metal strips for installation, it is still a similar to a product that has been previously approved.

Commissioner Beckett asked if the screening could be installed prior to issuing the building permit.

Planner Grittman advised that the Commission could require the installation of the screening prior to issuing the building permit.

Commissioner Hansen asked if there were any other structures in the City that were a purchased “kit” like this one.

The Planner stated that the only structure he recalls that is similar would be a gazebo.

Commissioner Beckett asked if the Commission would identify how much screening is necessary or if that would be left to the property owner.

Clerk Iago suggested that the Commission recommend the City Forester review the property to insure that sufficient screening is installed.

Chair Hendrickson agreed and suggested that the Forester could stake out the areas where landscaping would be required. He recommended that the structure be screened from adjacent properties and also be screened from view along Salem Church Road.

Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further questions for the Planner and hearing none, he opened the public hearing for comments from the audience.

Virginia Coss stated that she has been a resident of the City since 1993 and owns property at 273 and 295 Salem Church Road, and her existing home is at 273 Salem Church Road. She explained that when she applied to construct a second garage structure at 273 Salem Church Road the City required that the materials for the structure match exactly with the home. She questioned if the City has now relaxed the standards for building materials. She noted that she had to hire an architect and that she could not have water, electric or gas attached to the garage structure so that it could not be used as a guest house.

The Planner explained that the difference in the requirements may have been due to the size of the structure and the fact that it was a garage versus a garden or utility shed.

Commissioner O’Leary agreed that the application did not specify this as a garage structure.

Brent Baskfield stated that the notice sent to neighbors stated it was a garage.

Mayor Park asked if the structure would be large enough to accommodate a vehicle.

The Planner responded no and explained that the doors swing open and he was unsure if a vehicle would be able to fit within the opening.

Commissioner Beckett stated she did not recall the application specifying the structure as a garage.

Planner Grittman explained that the Public Hearing notice was sent prior to his meeting with the applicant to review the application and receive all the details of the request and he was unsure if the notice listed a garage.

Chair Hendrickson explained it is a shed and not a garage and because it is a CUP application the Commission may regulate some aspects of the request, but not the architectural design of the structure. He pointed out that if it meets the parameters of the regulations for a shed, the Commission must recommend approval of the request. He further explained that the Commission cannot recommend denial unless there is some aspect of the request that does not meet code regulations. He advised that the Commission has the ability to require certain building materials are used and that screening is provided.

Brent Baskfield, 90 Salem Church Road, asked if the City knows what will be stored in the shed.

Planner Grittman advised that Mr. Escoto told him he wanted to store “stuff” in the building.

Mr. Baskfield asked who received copies of the notice and commented that Mr. Escoto made a comment at the last meeting that only two percent of the population complained about his property.

The Planner advised that he did not have the list of residents who received copies of the notice, but any comments received from property owners were included in the Commission packet and would be placed in the record.

Clerk Iago listed the emails and/or letters received from the following:

Brent and Florence Baskfield, 90 Salem Church Road, email dated July 9, 2016

Virginia Coss, 295 Salem Church Road, letter undated but attached to email dated July 14, 2016

John Draxton, 85 Salem Church Road, email dated July 11, 2016

M. Kispert, 115 Salem Church Road, email dated July 11, 2016

David & Maria Wight, 5 Roanoke Road, email dated July 11, 2016

Mr. Baskfield stated that at the last meeting the Chair stated that if staff approves and Mr. Escoto doesn’t place the structure over the road, the City has to approve it.

Chair Hendrickson reiterated that the Commission cannot deny the request if it meets all the requirements in the City Code.

Mr. Baskfield commented that the applicant had not finished his home that was approved 15 years ago and, in his opinion, it appears that the City would be rewarding people for not doing what was supposed to be done if this is approved.

Commissioner Hansen questioned if the issues raised by Mr. Baskfield should be addressed separately and Chair Hendrickson agreed that those issues should not be part of this request.

Mr. Baskfield commented that the foundation of a house in his neighborhood collapsed and indicated that there is no one in the City to police properties and insure they are correctly constructed and finished. He pointed out that another home was constructed with plastic brick instead of stone. He suggested that there are no “teeth” in the City Code for enforcement and that residents would not get away with these issues in other cities such as Edina, North Oaks, or Bear Path. He commented that most residents have invested millions of dollars into this community and some others are riding on those values. He questioned what could be done with the “jungle” that is growing on the road right-of-way on this property and noted that it is annoying to drive by this home. He commented that the owner planted cucumbers along the roadway and left a gas can in the driveway. He stated that if the Commission approves the request, he would recommend that additional screening be required and he would prefer to see a plan for the willow trees and lilac bushes removed from the road right-of-way. He further commented that he was unsure what would be stored in the building or if the other items would be cleaned up in the yard, but he recommended that the City enforce the conditions imposed. He asked who he should call to complain about the issues relating to the blighted house, how many people are living there, the six cars parked in the driveway. He commented that the condition of this home on a street that is the gateway to Sunfish Lake impacts all of the City values and reiterated that more “teeth” are needed in the regulations for enforcement. He also noted that this home is only 2500 sq. ft. in size and suggested that the City not be so nice to allow smaller homes.

Virginia Coss stated that the City should have a definition of a garage versus a shed. She commented that she never parked her cars in the second garage constructed on her property and used it for storage.

Commissioner Beckett pointed out that the letters received by residents reflect concern relating to the condition of this property, however, the Commission is only charged with reviewing the request for the storage shed. She agreed that the issues raised are major concerns for the neighbors, but they should not be addressed by the Commission.

Mr. Baskfield commented that this type of property will devalue homes.

Commissioner Beckett commented that in an ideal world, neighbors take care of one another and asked if Mr. Baskfield had attempted to discuss his concerns with Mr. Escoto.

Mr. Baskfield explained that he had not contacted Mr. Escoto and that he was told Mr. Escoto had run the previous City Forester off his property when he approached him about some clean-up items.

Commissioner O’Leary pointed out that Edina, North Oaks and Bear Path may be willing to pay the costs related to hiring staff for enforcement of the regulations; he noted that St. Paul and Minneapolis pay millions of dollars on enforcement issues. He commented that residents may not be willing to spend the tax dollars required to hire fulltime staff for enforcement. He further commented that residents have differences of opinion as to what they wish to place on their property and that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Mr. Baskfield stated he would be willing to get residents to support strengthening the regulations.

Commissioner O’Leary explained that strengthening the regulations would only work with enforcement and that would be costly for the City.

Florence Baskfield suggested that covenants could be adopted.

Commissioner O’Leary explained that the Supreme Court ruled that covenants cannot be retro-active and therefore would not apply to the properties in Sunfish Lake.

Mayor Molly Park explained that there may be different restrictions for Statutory Class A cities versus gated communities. She recommended that the City could review the Nuisance Regulations in the City Code to determine if the regulations apply to the issues raised for this property.

Commissioner O’Leary stated he drove past the property and took photos of the site. He explained there was a horse trailer, van and trucks parked on the property and asked if there were parking regulations that would address vehicles parked on a property.

Commissioner Hansen recalled that no more than two (2) vehicles could be parked in a driveway for more than 72-hours within a 15 day period of time.

Planner Grittman explained that the regulations do not specify what types of vehicles may be parked on a property.

Mr. Baskfield commented that there is no limit on the minimum size of a home to be constructed within the City.

Chair Hendrickson explained that he recalled the minimum size home to be approximately 1,000 sq. ft.

Mr. Baskfield suggested that the City start by increasing that number and that he would prefer a larger minimum size be required.

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

Commissioner Hansen stated her hesitation relates to the structure on a gravel base. She supported the additional conditions recommended by staff for screening and a one-year time limit for construction to be finished. She asked again what would happen if the structure is not completed within one year.

Commissioner O’Leary explained that if it is not finished in one year, whatever had been constructed would have to be removed.

Mayor Park explained that she asked the City Attorney if screening to provide a buffer from adjacent properties would be appropriate and he advised that screening could be included as a condition with a CUP applications . She agreed that the Forester should approve the areas and plants to be installed and that the Commission should require the installation prior to construction. She noted that the plants should provide screening year-round and should buffer the view around the entire structure from adjacent properties and Salem Church Road. She noted another issue would be maintenance of the plantings and recommended that the Forester could establish an inventory of what is installed so that in 10 years the inventory could be reviewed and replaced if necessary.

Chair Hendrickson recalled that there was a requirement that the landscaping must be maintained for one-year from the date of installation.

Virginia Coss stated that she was required to install screening last year after 10 years since the initial plantings did not survive due to the over story trees. She also advised that she had to have this information on record so that it is declared upon sale of the property that the landscaping must be maintained.

Chair Hendrickson asked if there were any further comments or questions and there was no response.

Commissioner O’Leary moved to recommend approval of the Conditional Use Permit for a Second Accessory Structure on the property at 55 Salem Church Road, for Luis Escoto, based on the Findings of Fact as listed in the Planner’s report dated August 10, 2016 and subject to the following conditions:

1. The five (5) conditions as contained in the proposed “Planning Commission Findings of Fact & Recommendation” prepared by the City Planner and attached to the Planner’s report;

2. And, in addition, that evergreen screening, from adjacent neighbors and from Salem Church Road be provided, in size, number and placement to be approved by the City Forester. Said evergreen screening will be planted and inspected by the City Forester prior to commencement of any installment or construction of the shed.

3. Further, in addition, that the full completion of the project, subject to approval by the City Planner, must take place within one year of approval of the project by the City Council. If the project is not fully completed within that one-year period of time; any and all structures or their components are to be completely removed from the property within 90 days thereafter.

4. Finally, in addition, that the color of the shed and its shingles be compatible with, and match as close as possible to the existing home.

Seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (4-0)

Mayor Park thanked all those present for their comments. She commented that in her opinion it is her responsibility as an elected official to meet with the property owner to discuss the issues that were raised this evening relating to the condition of the property and asked if a member of the Commission wished to join her

Commissioner O’Leary volunteered to assist the Mayor at the meeting with the applicant; he noted that he attempted to establish a rapport with Mr. Escoto after the August meeting.

Mayor Park explained that she had used this approach in the past and found that the meeting with the property owner was very productive.

Commissioner O’Leary agreed that he had been in similar circumstance with neighbors and found that offering assistance with the clean-up worked well.

Mayor Park commented that in the future the Commission may be directed to review the nuisance regulations.

Commissioner O’Leary suggested that it would be helpful to also discuss the costs associated with strengthening the regulations and for enforcement.

Mayor Park agreed and noted that other communities do not initiate action against properties due to enforcement costs, but merely wait for complaints to enforce. She offered to ask the City Attorney what the costs would include for enforcement.

ADJOURN: Chair Hendrickson asked if there was any further business and there was no response.

Commissioner O’Leary moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:55 p.m., seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (4-0)

Respectfully submitted,


Catherine Iago, City Clerk