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Simonson nixes loon sculpture

The Park Rapids Planning Commission learned Monday that the loon sculpture, proposed by developer Arch Simonson to be placed at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 71 and State Hwy. 34, is now off the table.

City Planner Andrew Mack noted with regret that Simonson found that the large loon sculpture, originally planned for the site slated for highway business and retail development, will not have room for safe installation and proper viewing.

Asked later for more details, Mack said that after further analysis, Simonson concluded that the sculpture would draw visitor traffic and people backing up almost into the street to shoot pictures, creating "site circulation conflicts and liability concerns."

He also noted that Simonson was unable to come to an agreement with neighboring property owners on a sale price for their homes, which if added to the development may have made room for the sculpture.

Mack said that in a meeting with him and City Administrator John McKinney, Simonson quoted a price of $150,000 to purchase the sculpture.

"In our estimation, this marks a sad end to the idea for Park Rapids, unless something else happens on this that I'm not aware of at this time," said Mack.

The commission voted to recommend approval of a request by Simonson with Bemidji Management Co. to rezone the .32-acre parcel at 110 Main Ave. N. from R-1 (single family residential) to B-1 (highway business). The parcel is desired to increase the area being developed as a fuel and convenience store and retail business uses.

The commission also recommended replatting the same parcel with the Simonson Addition to form what will be called the Simonson Second Addition, totaling approximately 1.7 acres and including the block between Main Ave. and Hwy. 71 on the north side of Hwy. 34.

Neighboring residents Chante Freiholtz and Sandra Freiholtz voiced concerns about site improvements including a screening fence between their properties and the gas station, and asking the city not to vacate the remaining portion of the alley between Hwy. 71 and Main Ave. north of the development, in order to assure access to a rental cottage at the rear of a neighboring residence.

Mack said that the screening fence is required by the zoning code, and will be handled administratively by his department during the process of approving the site plan and building permits. He added that since the part of the alley running through the Simonson Addition was vacated, no new vacation has been proposed.

Solar electric panels

The planning commission recommended that the city council approve a conditional use permit request for roof-mounted solar electric panels.

Deane Johnson requested the CUP to install photovoltaic panels on the south side of a house at 502 North St., which is zoned R-1 residential.

According to Mack's memo about the request, the solar system would be installed by RealSolar Design-Build of the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance from Backus and is believed to be "relatively inconspicuous and without impact upon adjoining properties."

The commission added conditions to the recommended permit, requiring a state electrical permit and inspection.

Zoning requests

The commission approved several additional rezoning requests, including:

• Rezoning a .21-acre parcel from R-1 to R-2 (single, two-family and townhouse residential) at 621 2nd St. W., requested by owner Steve Eickman. An existing setback variance on the property would allow him to build a two-family dwelling there with the rezoning.

• Rezoning two parcels, totaling .77 acres, from R-1 to R-2, requested by owner Curtis Paurus. One of the parcels, at 512 4th St. W., is a vacant lot where a previous house was torn down; the other, at 514 4th St. W., has a single-family residence on it. Both lots meet size requirements to build a two-family dwelling.

• Rezoning a .16-acre parcel from R-2 to B-1 between a house at 110 Main Ave. N. and the law office at 120 Main Ave. N., requested by Sarah Swanson with 3 Consulting, LLC. The open space was previously the northern third of the residential property at 110 N. Main, slated for demolition as part of the Simonson redevelopment, and is desired to add a commercial parking area along the south side of the law office.

According to Mack, these rezoning requests require two ordinance readings by the city council before they can be adopted.

The commission also looked at a preliminary list of topics for discussion with the city council on April 9 regarding planning ordinance updates. These topics include reconsidering the number of dwelling permits allowed in multi-family residential zones without requiring a CUP, height limits for business buildings, interim use permits, requiring new sidewalks, parkland dedication fees, vacation rentals, small-cell wireless systems, beefing up rental code maintenance requirements, craft brewery issues, and permitting chicken coops and other small livestock within the city.

The city planning commission's next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 25 at city hall.

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