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Planning board rejects Moulton zoning change

Fri, Oct 17th, 2008
Posted in Government

Preston - At their October meeting last Thursday, the Fillmore County Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny a request from Dan Moulton of Chatfield Township to have his property re-zoned from agricultural to industrial. The matter will now be considered by the County Board, although it is unlikely that the board would overrule the planning board's recommendation.

Moulton, who has a rural home based business renting out semi-trailers and raising chinchillas on his property south of the city of Chatfield, planned on operating a business recycling wood pallets. The property borders a cemetery, with some residential properties nearby.

Moulton told the commission that he presently employs 10 people in his operation in Rochester. However, he needs to move the business by November 14 because it is a non-conforming zoning use at that site.

Moulton argued that his property was used by Tuohy Furniture in the '70s for manufacturing. He also noted that his tax statement listed one parcel as being taxed commercial, which he believed authorized him to proceed with making alterations to the site.

When Zoning Administrator Norm Craig informed Moulton that his plans did not conform to the definition of a Rural Home Based Business, he applied for the zoning change to industrial.

Commission member Duane Bakke told Moulton that the fact that he was being taxed commercial for a one acre parcel didn't mean the parcel was "zoned commercial".

"It just means the parcel is in a commercial tax district," Bakke said.

Chatfield Township Supervisor David Ahern told the commission that the township supports the change from agricultural to industrial. Ahern said the buildings have been there for some time and that he saw no problem with Moulton's plans.

During the public hearing, Preble Township Supervisor Dave Williams testified that granting the zoning change to Moulton would constitute spot zoning. Williams defined spot zoning as "an island of non-conforming use within a larger zoning district."

"Mr. Moulton is requesting a zoning change, not just a conditional use permit," Williams said. "The county just spent a year revising the zoning ordinance and we tried to keep industrial use out of the Ag District." Williams also noted that with the zoning change to industrial, Moulton would be able to carry out a number of permitted activities allowed under the zoning ordinance without needing to come back for additional permits.

Bakke agreed that a zoning change would amount to spot zoning in this case, but he argued that the Comprehensive Plan did allow for spot zoning when it is within a half mile of a municipality, and the use conforms with the long range vision of that unit of government.

Bakke went on to say that in this case, the city of Chatfield opposed the zoning change, as evidenced by letters received from the city attorney as well as a resolution from the city council. But Bakke was chagrined that no one from the city was in attendance at the meeting to speak on the issue.

Commission member Gary Ruskell, who lives in the city of Chatfield, made the motion to deny the zoning change from agricultural to industrial. The motion was seconded by Jim Keuhne.

The Commission members agreed that the zoning change to industrial was incompatible with the residential area, and the area in general; that there was no support or cooperation from the city of Chatfield for spot zoning; and that there were no municipal services to the site to serve an industrial use.

• The Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit to Ostrander Farmers Cooperative to create a transfer station with a 30,000 Propane Tank on land owned by Bob Love in Bristol Township, approximately four miles west of Harmony.

During the public hearing, Evan O'Connor, who lives nearby the site, asked if there would be any release of gas made in the transfer. He was told there might be a three to five gallon release which would dissipate quickly.

The site will be secured with a fence and will have a security light.

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