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January 21, 2019

5/31/2018 2:48:00 PM
Controversial paving issue put to rest at Birch Lake Estates


The Chisago City Council approved a number of zoning issues and one request for deferred assessment at a fast-paced council meeting May 22.

Based on 4-2 vote by the Chisago City Planning Commission, the council approved the final plat for Sherco Construction’s development Birch Lake Estates. The action will replat two large parcels into four residential lots which are bordered by 240th St, a gravel road, part of which is located in the City of Forest Lake. The development is situated at the northeast intersection of 240th St and July Avenue.

Controversy erupted when some members of the city planning commission and council had lobbied to have the gravel road paved.
City Councilman Jeremy Dresel, who had been an advocate for the paving, apologized to the developers saying there had been “a lot of confusion as to what could and could not be done during the planning commission hearing, and some of the conversations could have gone a little smoother.”      
Dresel acknowledged that he had wanted to require the developer to pave the road but had changed his thinking after getting a clearer legal understanding of what the city can require   (City ordinances require developers to pave new roads in projects but paving of existing roads is not required.)

Attorneys for Sherco on April 11 had submitted a letter to the city suggesting that Councilman Dresel should recuse himself from the matter as “Dresel Contracting uses 240th Street to move sand and gravel to and from their business at 24004 July Avenue.”

On May 22, Dresel apologized to the developers for the previous misunderstanding about what could be required, and then made the motion to approve the final plat as presented. As part of the agreement the developers must meet requirements of the  Comfort Lake/Forest Lake Watershed District. The motion passed unanimously.

City Administrator John Pechman added that he had contacted the City of Forest Lake regarding paving, and was told it was their policy that residents living along gravel roads must petition to have them paved and that the paving is assessed back to benefiting property owners at 100 percent. He said the City of Forest Lake was not at all interested in paving the road which intersects with July Avenue.

In other business:

A variance allowing Peterson Companies to add a third story to their building which is located at 8326 Wyoming Trail, was approved.  The building is located in both Chisago City and Wyoming. The height of the building after the addition will be 39 feet which exceeds the maximum height of 35 feet allowed in a rural residential district. (The property is zoned rural residential in Chisago City and agricultural in Wyoming.) Although, technically, the new addition is located primarily in Wyoming, Chisago City has the right to review and comment on any improvements to the property.

No public comment was heard at a planning commission hearing on the variance. The planning commission voted 5 to 1 to approve the variance. The council concurred, but added that in the future, rezoning of the property to Commercial might resolve ongoing need for such variances.

A front yard setback variance was allowed for an existing vestibule at the former Ecumen Senior Living facility (Parmly) in Chisago City. The vestibule, which leads to the wellness center, was built within the required setback by the previous owners. The new owners, Monarch, requested the variance in order to retain the vestibule. on

- A deferred assessment of $6,417 for street improvements was granted to Donna Evans, 10635 Railroad Avenue. Evans qualifies for the deferment of the principal cost of the assessment based on income and age. Annual interest on the assessment will be added to the annual property tax statement. The assessment is deferred until the death of the owner, or the property is sold, transferred or there is a determination of no hardship.

- The council discussed revisions to sewer service to the new elementary school on Karmel Avenue. The school originally  proposed having its own lift station but have reconsidered that. Instead engineers have determined that an existing gravity line would be adequate to meet the needs of the school and the city’s new fire department building.

Administrator John Pechman told the council that pumps in the city’s existing lift station would be “sufficient for now but would need to be upsized in the future, as would the pressurized sewer line.” The sewer connection to the school would be made from a stub at the intersection of Highway 8 and Karmel avenue and would be gravity fed and use existing pumps. The theory is that future development fees along the line could pay for future expansion of the system when needed. The council’s consensus was to proceed with planning for this option.

- A resident spoke during the open forum portion of the meeting to reiterate ongoing concerns about severe dust problems on Kirby Avenue (which leads to Ojiketa Regional Park). Options considered in the past have included paving 720 feet, adding speed bumps or repositioning stop signs to slow traffic on Kirby. “Why not pour some granite chips down on there?” the resident suggested. Dust control has been performed but often “too late in the year,” he said. “It would be nice if something could be done sooner, quicker and faster…” the resident concluded.  The council acknowledged his concern. No action was taken at the May 22 meeting.

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