by Dennis Dalman
Zoning-ordinance amendments regarding impervious surfaces submitted by Sartell city staff were once again the basis for concerns from city council members at a meeting held late 2013.
At an earlier meeting, which was a public hearing on the ordinance, the council agreed to table any decision on the proposed ordinance changes until future meeting. However, the same questions and concerns surfaced once again.
City staff, based on input from the Sartell Planning Commission, recommended a maximum impervious surface of 45 percent per lot for single-family homes and townhomes. The current maximum area is 40 percent. The planning commission recently recommended that be changed to 50 percent. Sartell City Planner and Development Director Anita Rasmussen told the council city staff decided 45 percent would be an acceptable compromise. Up to 35 percent of a lot would be allowed for an impervious area on which the structure sits.
For multi-family projects, such as apartment complexes, the maximum impervious surface allowed is 55 percent, with natural areas, greenery and wetlands qualifying as open-space requirements.
Accessory structures on properties would be allowed up to 25 feet to the roof peak, an increase of five feet from the current allowable height.
The council voted 3-2 to accept the ordinance-amendment proposal, with Mayor Joe Perske and council member David Peterson voting no. But on the next vote – a proposal to publish a summary of the amendment in the Sartell Newsleader – the council voted unanimously in favor. The amendment can go into effect as soon as Sartell publishes a legal notice in the city’s “official newspaper,” (which was published Nov. 1).
The full zoning ordinance is 300 pages, Rasmussen noted, which would be virtually impossible to print – thus, a one-page summary (was) printed in the newspaper with a notice residents can view the actual ordinance online or in person at city hall.
Virtually all council members expressed concerns about the amendments. Perske said he is strongly against making it allowable to add 100 percent of wetlands as an allowable option for meeting open-space requirements on lots.
Peterson agreed with Perske’s concerns, adding wetlands and waterways require more protection, not less.
Council member Sarah Jane Nicoll said she is concerned about such varying requirements for a variety of different zoning designations: single-family, multi-family, commercial and more.
Council members Steve Hennes and Amy Braig-Lindstrom also had questions.
Rasmussen said in reality it would be virtually impossible for a developer to use wetlands as 100 percent of an open-space requirement. However, Perske said a better balance between green space and wetlands must be spelled out in the ordinance.
Despite some reservations, Nicoll said the proposed amendment is a big step and a huge improvement over the present ordinance specifications. The topic, however, needs more discussion.
Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni said the council can certainly approve the amendment and then discuss it later to fine-tune it or make outright changes. Council members agreed they would like to see maps and visual examples of the effects of such ordinance changes, something they can visualize beyond numbers and percentages.
Perske said he would like to see any amendments finalized in 2014.
City staff will bring to upcoming council meetings more research, maps and visual examples for further council discussion.