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Planning Commission


Fri, Apr 27th, 2001
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“It looked like a bluff to me”By John TorgrimsonMonday, April 30, 2001


Curt Walter of Rochester, representing Richland Telecom, ran into a buzz-saw of opposition at Thursday’s Fillmore County Planning Commission meeting.

Richland Telecom proposes putting up a telecommunication tower in Section 14 of Chatfield Township. Richland already has two other towers in Fillmore County.

Walter told the commission that the present site was moved 800 feet from a previous location because of MnDOT plans to redirect Highway 52 in the future.

Walter said that the tower would be a three-sided structure, 250 feet tall, with Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) approved lighting. Richland would lease a 100 feet by 100 feet parcel and fence off the site.

Commission member Duane Bakke questioned whether the site was in a Bluff Impact Zone. “How deep is the soil there?” Bakke asked Walter. “What will you do when you hit bedrock, drill or blast?”

Walter wasn’t sure, saying he would leave that to the engineers.

“We see soil borings before we approve a hog pit,” Bakke said. “Maybe we should see the soil borings on this before we give a permit.”

While Bakke maintained the site was a bluff, Fillmore County Zoning Administrator Norm Craig argued that the site was not.

“It’s a hill. You can walk down to the creek,” Craig told the commission.

Commission member Chris Sukalski agreed with Bakke, recalling the Planning Commission inspection of the site earlier this month.

“It looked like a bluff to me,” Sukalski exclaimed.

Chatfield Township Supervisor Dave Ahern also agreed.

“It looks to me like it might be a bluff zone out there,” Ahern said, as he pointed to a spot on a Fillmore County Bluff Zone map.

“There are bluffs out there, but not at this site,” Craig countered.

In addition to the issue of the site being in a Bluff Impact Zone, several citizens spoke during the public hearing about setbacks, signal lights and health.

Bob Huntington suggested that towers be set back 1000 feet from residences.

“There are a number of residences in this area,” Huntington said. “We have a 1000 foot setback on feedlots, why not a 1000 foot setback for towers from residences?”

In the end, everyone agreed, including Walter, that if the site was in a bluff zone then that would be the end of a tower going up on that site.

The commission tabled any action pending Richland Telecom doing a survey of the site that would include the slope of the land.

A Ten Bedroom B&B?


The Planning Commission wasn’t quite sure what to do about a request for a conditional use permit from Fred Kiel for a B&B.

Kiel is building a 10 bedroom house in Carrolton Township and wants to use five of the rooms for a B&B; the other five bedrooms would be for family use.

As the Zoning Ordinance only allows for up to five units in a B&B, this raised several questions about the 10 bedroom house. In particular, how to ensure that the house won’t be used as a ten bedroom B&B.

Dick Brem, who lives near the Kiel property, raised the question of whether the B&B could keep growing and growing to the point where it would be like a motel.

Craig said that the B&B permit is for five units only and motels require that the property be zoned commercial.

Duane Bakke said that he was uncomfortable with the fact that if the structure is a B&B, then how can you allow for more than five bedrooms.

Chris Sukalski suggested the owner identify on a blueprint which rooms would be part of the B&B and which would not.

In the end, Bakke made a motion to recommend granting a conditional use permit to allow Kiel to have a five bedroom B&B on the condition that there be only one more bedroom in the house.

Bakke’s logic was that Kiel does not need a conditional use permit to build a 10 bedroom house, but does need one to run a B&B.

Two other commission members agreed with Bakke’s motion, Chris Sukalski and Robert Knutson. Commission members Jim Keune and Gordon Gullickson voted against the measure.

While the action sends the matter on to the county board for passage, the restrictions placed on Kiel by the Planning Commission raises some interesting legal questions.

On the other hand...

If Fred Kiel had been present at the commission meeting, he would have found Eagle Cliff Campground’s request for a B&B permit interesting.

Some time ago, Eagle Cliff built a six bedroom house and rented out the rooms to paying guests. Eagle Cliff did have a building permit to erect the house, but it did not have a conditional use permit to operate a B&B, nor was the property zoned commercial to allow for a motel.

On Thursday, the Planning Commission recommended granting Eagle Cliff a conditional use permit to operate a B&B, on the condition that one of the former bedrooms be converted to other use.

This action was followed by the announcement from Zoning Administrator Norm Craig that he has referred the previous action of Eagle Cliff, renting out rooms with out proper permits, to the County Attorney’s office for investigation.

In other action, the Planning Commission recommended sending the following to the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners:
• Emery Hershberger, CUP, Sawmill, Canton Township.
• Henry Zook, CUP, Sawmill, Canton Township.
• Renee Haugerud, CUP, B&B Establishment, Preston Township.
• Mike Douglas, CUP, Non-farm Occupation in the Ag District, Harmony Township.
• The commission voted to recommend changing makeup of the Board of Adjustment to five District members of the Planning Commission.
• The commission voted to require notifying property owners within 500 foot of the property where a variance is being requested.

The next planning commission meeting will be June 28.

By John Torgrimson

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