Acting Chair: Tom Hendrickson

Commissioners: Shari Hansen and Dan O’Leary.

City Planner: Michelle Barness

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


Acting Chair Hendrickson called for a motion to adopt the agenda. Commissioner O’Leary moved to adopt the agenda, seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (3-0)

3. APPROVE MINUTES JANUARY 17, 2015: Acting chair Hendrickson asked if there were any additions or corrections to January 17, 2015 Planning Commission minutes and there was no response.

Commissioner O’Leary moved to approve the January 17, 2015 Planning Commission minutes as presented, seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (3-0)

4. PUBLIC HEARING; Variance – Shoreline Setback, 389 Salem Church Road, Stephanie and Jim Stowell: Acting chair Hendrickson opened the public hearing for the purpose of reviewing the Variance application for the property at 389 Salem Church Road and asked the Planner to present the application.

Planner Barness stated the applicants Stephanie and Jim Stowell are requesting approval of Minor Site and Building Plans and a shoreline setback Variance to construct a kitchen, front entry, and garage addition on the existing home located at 389 Salem Church Road. She advised that the proposed additions would expand the building footprint within the shoreline setback area.
She stated that the minor plan review is completed by City staff, but is contingent on approval of the requested variance by the City Council.

The Planner explained the property is located on Sunfish Lake, and that the property is unique in that the curving boundary along the shoreline results in the northern portion of the property, including the existing home and garage, falling entirely within the shoreline setback area. She advised that the lot was legally established, but once the shoreline setback standards were changed to create an increased shoreline setback, the parcel became legally non-conforming. She noted that Ordinance pertaining to non-conforming structures requires that any expansion of volume of a structure within a setback area requires approval of a variance. She indicated the location of the proposed kitchen and garage additions on the site plan, which would expand north towards the lake, then indicated the front entry addition, which would extend south, away from the lake. She stated that all additions require approval of the variance for expansion within the shoreline setback area.

The Planner indicated the location of a conservatory on the existing home, and stated that this portion of the home was the closest to the lake and would not be impacted by improvements proposed with the current project.

Planner Barness stated that she would review the conformance of the project with Zoning Ordinance performance and design standards and then review criteria for consideration of the variance.

Planner Barness stated that the parcel is compliant with the net lot area standard and that with the proposed additions building coverage on the site would not exceed 2%, which meets coverage requirements. She indicated that a total of 480 square feet of home addition is proposed, and that approximately 160 square feet of those additions will break new ground, with the remaining additions occurring over existing hard surface. She explained that the lot would have 7.8% impervious surface, which does not exceed the maximum permitted of 30% impervious within the Shoreland District.

The Planner indicated on the site plan that with the proposed additions the home would continue to meet the 100 foot front setback and 50 foot side setback requirements. She stated that the variance being considered this evening is just for an intrusion on the shoreline setback.

The Planner reiterated that the portion of the home nearest the lake would not be impacted by the project, but that the kitchen and garage additions on the north side of the home would extend north and would end 126 feet from the shoreline, which is 75 feet less than the required setback of 200 feet.

The Planner indicated the building elevations the applicants submitted. She stated that height of the home with the additions will be 27 feet above average existing grade, which meets requirements. She explained that the building materials for the additions would be composed of cedar shake to match the existing home.

Planner Barness stated that there would be no change to the low floor elevation of the home, which would continue to meet the requirements for home elevation about the high water level of the lake.

The Planner stated that the garage would be renovated and 200 square feet of garage area would be added, with a final garage size of approximately 700 square feet. She explained that attached garages in the community may be up to 1,250 square feet in area, such that the renovated garage will meet size requirements. She stated that the driveway where it meets the garage renovation would be re-graded to some extent, and that the City Engineer had had a chance to review the grading proposal and had recommended approval.

The Planner indicated that the applicants are proposing new lighting with the project. She displayed the lighting cut sheets the applicants had provided. She stated that the Sunfish Lake Ordinance requires that lighting not be directed into adjacent properties or the lake, and that glare not exceed 1 foot candle at property lines or the lake. She explained that the City should consider incorporating the foot candle requirement as a condition of project approval, if granted, and that staff would follow up after lights had been installed. She further stated that the proposed lighting fixtures cast light downwards, and are hooded or recessed, which appears to meet Ordinance standards. She indicated on the site plan that new lighting would be located at the front entry, at the rear of the garage and near the kitchen addition where it opens onto a deck.

The Planner stated that the applicants had submitted a survey with grading, drainage and erosion control information which had been reviewed by the City Engineer. She indicated that the City Engineer recommends approval of the plans with some basic conditions. She explained that the City Engineer had worked with the applicants to identify the location of a new raingarden west of the home to treat all new stormwater runoff resulting from the proposed home additions. The treatment of all new runoff is an Ordinance requirement. She further explained that raingarden plantings are attractive to butterflies and bees.

The Planner indicated the location of proposed construction fencing/silt fencing for erosion control on the site plan, and the location of tree protection fencing for a tree that would fall within the construction zone. She stated that the project met the City Engineer’s erosion control requirements. She reviewed the City Engineer’s final conditions for the project, which included:

  • Construction of the home additions should be according to approved grading, drainage, and erosion control measures as shown on the submitted plans.


  • The quality of the shared driveway should be recorded prior to construction beginning.


  • The applicants adhere to the City’s load limitations for local roadways.


    Planner Barness stated that new landscaping is proposed with the project, including plantings within the raingarden, shrubs at the perimeter of the driveway, and a hedge planting surrounding an A/C unit on the north side of the home. She explained that the hedge would be composed of either yews or techny arborvitae, and that they would be a minimum of 3 feet tall upon installation, meeting Ordinance size requirements for new plantings.


    The Planner indicated the location of a proposed retaining wall near the driveway and stated that it is less than 4 feet tall and as such doesn’t require the submission of engineered plans.


    The Planner finished her review of the site plans by stating that there would be no impact to the existing septic system, which is located outside of the construction zone.


    The Planner reviewed minor site and building plan approval criteria, and stated that staff found that the design of the home additions appears to be compatible with surrounding properties in regards to appearance, that construction meets the Sunfish Lake Design Guidelines, that the project is not anticipated to have negative impacts on the natural community in that it adds new landscaping to the site and doesn’t remove any trees, that remaining tree coverage on the site will screen views of the project from adjacent properties and the lake, that building materials meet ordinance standards, and that grading, drainage and erosion control for the project was approved by the City Engineer. She explained that city staff has recommended approval of the minor site and building plans based on these findings.


    Planner Barness stated that the Planning Commission needed to review the criteria for variance approval. She explained that a variance may be granted if the City believes enforcement of zoning regulations will cause the applicants “practical difficulties” in using their property in a reasonable manner.


    The Planner described that the first practical difficulty factor is whether there is a unique condition on the property, not created by the land owners, that prevents the land owners from using their property in what would otherwise be considered a reasonable manner. She stated that the subject parcel was legally established and recorded, but establishment of new shoreline setback standards resulted in the existing home becoming a legally non-conforming structure falling entirely within the setback area. Further, she described that the shape of the shoreline is somewhat unique, in that it curves significantly resulting in the shoreline setback being applied to a significant portion of the property.


    The Planner described that the second practical difficulty factor is whether the applicants are proposing to use the property in a reasonable manner. She stated that the applicants are requesting expansion of a single family home, and that single family homes and attached garages are permitted uses in the R-1 and Shoreland Overlay Districts; that after the proposed additions, the home is still in scale with surrounding properties; that the construction meets design and performance standards; and that the additions are intended to make the interior of the home more usable for the family.


    The Planner stated that the final practical difficulty factor is whether the proposed project will impact the character of the locality. She explained that the City should consider whether there would be impacts to views from the lake or adjacent properties, or whether natural systems or water quality would be impacted. In regards to these issues she advised that the project would create 160 square feet of new hard surface, but that all new stormwater runoff would be treated on the site by a new raingarden. She explained that the DNR had a chance to review the project and recommended approval as long as the raingarden was implemented as proposed.


    The Planner stated that it is open for discussion whether views to the lakes or neighbors will be impacted, but explained that there is a significant amount of natural screening to remain on the site that will mitigate potential view impacts. She further stated that adjacent neighbors had a chance to review the project and had not raised concerns regarding any negative impacts.

    The Planner referred to draft Findings of Fact for approval or denial of the requested variance that had been included with the planning packet. She reviewed potential findings of approval for the variance, which included:


  • Practical difficulties result from the unique configuration of the subject parcel. The lot is peninsula-shaped, and as a result the required 200’ shoreline setback expands across a significant portion of the lot, making it difficult to improve the existing house or grounds without approval of a variance.


  • The applicant’s request to renovate and expand portions of their single family home in order to make interior spaces more functional is reasonable. Single family homes and garages are an allowed use in the R-1 and Shoreland Overlay Districts, and the resulting structure will be comparable in size and quality to other homes on Sunfish Lake.


  • The applicants comply with the intent of the City’s Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan by proposing a project that meets the size, material, and aesthetic requirements that the City has laid out.


  • Construction of the project within the shoreland setback area is not anticipated to impact the character of the locality. A majority of the project is within the existing development footprint, and stormwater runoff resulting from 162 square feet of new hard surface will be treated by a stormwater garden as opposed to running into the lake. Existing tree coverage on the parcel will provide a degree of screening for the project once the home is complete. Adjacent neighbors are in support of the requested improvements, and don’t feel that the appearance of the property will be negatively impacted.

    She went on to review potential findings of denial for the variance, which included:




  • While home additions on a single family residence may be considered a reasonable R-1 District land use, the proposed home additions are not reasonable in that they require building within the shoreline setback area. The existing home if of sufficient size to serve the needs of a single family residence, without requiring enlargement within the protected shoreline setback area.


  • There are potential impacts to the character of the locality by allowing the requested home additions in the direction of the lake. Given the overall proximity of the home to the lake, any increase in the volume of the home will be noticeable from public waters.


    Planner Barness stated that if the Planning Commission decided to recommend approval of the variance, staff recommended approval conditions include requiring the applicants meet the engineers conditions provided in his report dated February 26, 2015, that lighting meets foot candle measurements requirements, that a building permit is attained, and that pre- and post-construction site visits are arranged with City staff. She concluded her report and asked for any questions.

    Acting Chair Hendrickson said he didn’t have any questions on the project now. He opened the floor for comments from the applicants and those in attendance for the public hearing, and asked that they state their name and address clearly. The applicants and those in attendance for the public hearing did not have any additional comments. The applicants thanked the City for their consideration.


    Acting Chair Hendrickson asked whether Planning Commissioners had any further discussion on the variance request.


    Commissioner O’Leary stated that the site visit provided the opportunity to see that the site has tree coverage that would help screen views to neighbors and the lake. He said the home is legally non-conforming and should be grandfathered in to permit the requested home improvements, and recommended the Commission approve the project.


    Commissioner Hansen stated that the house additions would bring portions of the home a little closer to the lake, but that the setback of the portion of the home closest to the lake would not be further reduced with the current project. She further stated that she agreed there appeared to be adequate screening of the project from neighbors and the lake, and that it looked like it is a good project.


    Acting Chair Hendrickson questioned project architect Chris Strom as to whether the additional 160 square feet of hard surface was occurring as a patio expansion. Chris Strom responded that the 160 square feet was the net increase in hard surface across the entire project, and indicated the site plan diagrams demonstrating the difference between existing and proposed impervious.


    Acting Chair Hendrickson asked whether there were any additional comments. There was no response, so he proceeded to close the public hearing and asked the Commission for its final recommendation.


    Commissioner O’Leary moved to recommend approval of the Variance, and Commissioner Hansen seconded, with the request that the approval be based on the Findings of Fact for approval as presented and subject to conditions as listed in the City Engineer’s memorandum dated February 26 , 2015. The motion was carried. (3-0)


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

    Acting Chair Hendrickson moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:40 p.m., seconded by Commissioner Hansen and carried. (3-0)

    Respectfully submitted,




    Michelle Barness, City Planner