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PR Council denies Cenex planning requests

In other planning action, the city council moves closer to approving interim uses.

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The parcel in question is south of the Lakes Area Cooperative Cenex Station at Main and Park Ave. North, and extends east to west between the two streets. (Detail of a Hubbard County GIS map)

The Park Rapids City Council on Tuesday denied planning requests by the Lakes Area Cooperative Cenex Station regarding a vacant parcel adjacent to the service station at 810 Main Ave. North. The action was taken as part of the council’s consent agenda.

The request, to amend the comprehensive land use map from residential to commercial and to rezone the parcel from R-1 residential to B-1 business, was discussed at a public hearing at the Park Rapids Planning Commission on Nov. 25, 2019.

According to City Planner Andrew Mack, there was “considerable opposition to the request … from the surrounding residents” at the hearing, regarding both “current negative land use impacts from the business and any potential increases in this condition that may result from … expansion of the gas and convenience center development” onto the vacant parcel.

The planning commission recommended denying the request. In an attached memo, Mack noted that except for the Cenex store to the north, properties surrounding the vacant parcel are guided as public and open space (with a DNR rest area and a single-family residence to the east) and residential (with several single-family homes to the south and west).

Opposition to the planning request included a petition signed by 10 nearby residents, a letter from property owner Judy Mae Kramer and oral testimony at the hearing.

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Kramer wrote that she was concerned about the proposed use of the parcel for a car wash, which she believed would add to the congestion and noise from traffic and parked vehicles at all hours in her neighborhood. She also mentioned that current laws don’t allow her to build a fence high enough to block the “eyesore” created by the business.

Signers of the petition listed noise, light pollution and traffic as reasons for their opposition.

Interim uses, etc.

The council also approved a first reading of zoning ordinance amendments establishing interim use permits (IUP) and updating the uses and definitions of conditional use permits (CUP).

Mack noted that the new ordinance language was drafted by the planning commission and revised based on input from city staff, the city attorney and two public hearings.

An interim use is explained as “a temporary use of property until a particular date, until a particular event, or until zoning regulations no longer permit it.”

Unlike CUPs, Mack said, state law requires documentation that the applicant agrees to the conditions adopted with the IUP. Also unlike a CUP, an IUP does not transfer with ownership of the property unless renewed by the city.

Under the proposed ordinance, either a CUP or an IUP will expire unless it is substantially started within 12 months, meaning “more than preliminary steps” have been taken to prepare to begin the use – such as pulling a building permit or doing site work.

Mack said this language is “for those projects that we give approval to, but never get underway. … They have, of course, the right to extend that if, for whatever reason, they have not been able to get the project started.”

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In some cases, he said, as council membership changes over time, approvals “just sit on the books, and they’re permanent as a conditional use that’s recorded against the property. This is going to give us a little bit tighter control over that.”

The ordinance states that IUPs also expire if the use ceases operation for a year or more.

The ordinance also introduces an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) as a permitted use in certain zoning districts. An ADU is defined as a secondary single-family dwelling of 1,000 square feet or less, located on the same lot as a principal dwelling, connected to city utilities and compliant with all codes.

Council member Liz Stone moved approval of the first reading. The motion passed without dissent.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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