August 31, 2023 at 1:45 p.m.
Chisago City zoning, land use changes made
The Chisago City Council on Aug. 22 moved quickly through an agenda dominated by planning and zoning matters. This included approval of updated zoning and land use maps as part of the city’s comprehensive plan.
Recent annexation of a portion of Lent Township meant that Chisago City needed to adjust its Comprehensive Plan to include that land. As part of that process, city staff worked with planners from Bolton & Menk to review proposed zoning for both the new and existing properties in the city and put together new zoning and future land use maps.
One of those zoning map changes sparked citizen concern at an Aug. 3 planning commission hearing. It changed the zoning designation of two parcels of open land near Old Towne Rd. on the south side of the city from Park/Open Space to Medium Density Residential and a third parcel from
Public/Semi-Public to Low Density (Single Family) Residential. Citizens at the hearing reportedly asked why the currently undeveloped property was being rezoned. They said they would prefer the land remain as open space, and they would want to be involved in discussions on any development proposed for the area.
According to Administrator John Pechman, the land in question had been considered for a regional park until Chisago City purchased Camp Ojiketa for use as a regional park. Because there is no longer a need for a regional park in that area the land should be rezoned, he said. Given its size and location, the open land seems best suited for residential use from a planning perspective, Pechman told those at the hearing.
Planning commissioners at the hearing also explained that a residential designation limits what can be developed on the land, and any proposed deviation from that would require a public hearing and nearby property owners would be notified.
The planning commission then voted to approve the changes to the zoning and land use maps as proposed, as did the city council on Aug. 22.
Other zoning map changes include:
- three parcels of land in the vicinity of Lakeside Elementary School near Lake Martha were changed from High Density Residential or Commercial to Light Industrial and Low or Medium Density Residential
- land along Lake Martha was designated Park/Open Space.
- eight parcels of land northeast of Highway 8 changed from Highway Commercial to Commercial and High Density Residential.
In regard to the property annexed from Lent Township, planners explained that the zoning map designations were largely based on existing improvements and access to city utilities.
- Properties west of Ivywood Trail received agricultural or rural residential designations depending on availability of services. The agricultural designation was described as a “holding area” for undeveloped land.
- Land in the northwest area outside the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area became rural residential.
- The conservation overlay on the city zoning map was expanded to include many parts of the area annexed from Lent. (The conservation overlay zone is used to protect environmentally sensitive areas.)
- An existing, nonconforming race track was zoned Public/Semi Public due to its recreational use.
The changes listed above are not the only changes made to the city’s color-coded zoning and land use maps. Residents may view and compare the old and new maps at city hall, or request color copies be sent by email.
In other business, the council:
- approved the final plat for the Lawrence Subdivision (originally called the ABDO subdivision). The new subdivision combines three existing properties to create two commercial lots north of Highway 8, and an adjacent outlot in an area which is designated as high density residential in the city’s comprehensive plan. A new east-west street, with sidewalks on both sides, will extend from Gateway Avenue to Sportsman Drive separating the commercial lots from the outlot. No buildings are currently proposed for the project. (A Dollar Store and pizza place were previously mentioned.)
- accepted a letter of resignation from Planning Commissioner Mark Neilsen. Employing its newly amended municipal code, the council identified City Councilman Craig Meyer as the alternate to the planning commission to fill Neilsen’s vacancy.
- approved a variance for a breezeway and attached garage on a nonconforming lot at 27355 Jonquil Ave. The project replaces a garage destroyed by fire. Based on feedback from the planning commission in July, the property owners withdrew their original request for a free-standing garage and returned with a new plan for a garage of increased height attached to the home by a breezeway. At the Aug. 3 public hearing, several neighbors endorsed the project, but one objected to the increased height of the garage saying it would block their view of the lake. Both the planning commission and the city council approved the variance unanimously.
- heard a presentation by Benjamin Elfelt, Chisago Lakes Lake Improvement District (LID) administrator. Elfelt told the council that this is the first time the LID has had a full-time administrator with an assistant. LID staff monitor lake levels, contract for maintenance of channels, oversee water quality samples and work in partnership with the University of Minnesota to identify and monitor invasive species. “We want to make the water as accessible and high quality as we can,” said Elfelt, “and improve access to our lakes as a resource for lakeshore owners and visitors.” The LID is run by an appointed board.
- listened to a complaint by Danny Miller of 302nd St. who said a road under construction had been built “on top of a drainage ditch.” He said, “I’ve never seen drain tile like that at the end of the road. They’re building the road on a swamp.”
The city engineer explained that the drain tiles are connected into the storm sewer manholes, to which Miller responded, “The water has to run uphill to get there.” The engineer stated the project design had received all required approvals, Mayor Gustafson told Miller that the engineer will come out to look at the project and check on it.
Miller concluded, “There was a culvert there, and they filled it in. It’s not there any more. Where is the water going? When the street goes to hell, please leave me out of the assessment for the new road.”