7:15 p.m., Jane McWilliams, Observer
Ross Currier and Joe Hargis were absent.
A major a part of the meeting was taken up with a discussion of the request to annex land in Greenvale Township and future land use map amendment for the purpose of creating a business park west of the Northfield Hospital. Prompted by April 29, 2008 public hearing, the commission received a report from staff answering questions and providing additional information. This included clarification of the buildable acres (300), the threshold for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet, and explanation of how the 60-day rule applies in this matter. By state law the city is required to deny or approve a zoning-related request within 60 days. The 60 days in this case have expired. Olson said that the city has received an extension of 60 days, which means that the City Council has until July 1, 2008 to approve or deny the matter. In order to extend the review of the application another time, the City would need another letter from the applicant.
Olson reported that there was a request to address the commission from one or more Greenvale Township residents who hadn’t attended the hearing. He noted that the chair (Greg Colby) has the authority to allow this without reopening the hearing. Colby granted this, and seven Greenvale residents spoke. Anne Occhiato said that many residents of the township were not aware of anticipated changes in the transportation system which are prompted directly by the business park development in the proposed area for annexation. In addition to destroying family farms, there would be increased pressure to rezone away from agriculture toward commercial development. She said that while the town board supervisors have the best interest of the township at heart, they don’t have the resources to notify the residents and were under pressure. “There is a David and Goliath scenario going on here.”
Linus Langer was grateful that the planning commission wants to be a good neighbor and listen to concerns. He regrets that the residents were deprived of an opportunity to look at this earlier and doesn’t believe that many residents of the township are in favor of the annexation. There are a number of uncovered facts: “The cows are in one pasture, the grass in another.”
Scott Nakunus called attention to the hydrology of the area and warned that there is a bit more impact than is shown on the map. David Lawrence agreed and warned that the city had not done its homework and has no clue how much it will cost to provide utilities and construct buildings in the area.
Robert Kluver, a township resident who teaches in the Northfield schools, also thanked the commission for listening, but said that this matter has bothered him a lot and he is not in favor of it. He believes there are other options the city could consider.
The commission then talked about the status of the comprehensive plan revisions. Because of a significant change in the approach to writing land use regulations, the chapter on land use is still incomplete. The commission will review this chapter at their May 26 meeting which is also the meeting at which they plan to complete their discussion and make a decision on the annexation and land use plan revision request.
The group met as the zoning board of appeals prior to the planning commission meeting
in order to consider a request for a variance to allow Greenvale Park Elementary School to exceed the maximum number of parking spaces as part of an improvement project the school is undergoing this summer. The request was denied. As a commission, they agreed to recommend approval to the city council an amendment to the conditional use permit for the project, enabling the school to complete the improvements (relocating pick up and drop off areas, widening of a delivery driveway and replacing a pedestrian bridge, but not to include the additional parking spaces). School officials were on hand and heard the concern of Greenvale neighbor, Cleve Crowenshield, about the intrusive light caused by lights in the school property. So, while the permit request did not include a lighting plan and thus the commission was not able to act on the complaint, Colby noted that likely the school would make note of the problem.
At their meeting on May 20, the commission will take up discussion of the revised comprehensive plan, minus the land use chapter.