Planning panel OKs fence

NEW ULM — The Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for a six-foot privacy fence on Summit Avenue.

According to the permit request, the applicants, Beth and Jason Vavra, requested the permit because they shared a property line with a sex offender and they wanted privacy for their kids.

The Vavras have already constructed the fence. They had already secured a fence permit and installed a fence prior to an on-site review by city staff.

The fence has a height of six foot. The maximum height of a permitted fence in this area is four feet. The Vavras thought a six-foot fence was allowed.

Charles Luedtke was the only voice of opposition to the fence. He said he felt the four-foot limit was sufficient and no other such fence was located on Summit Avenue.

Luedtke admitted that he made a mistake 15 years ago when he downloaded illegal material.

“I am sorry this has all come up again,” he said but insisted he had not been watching the neighbor children and he never touched anyone in an inappropriate manner.

Jason Vavra said he and his wife bought their house five years ago without being told their neighbor was a convicted sex offender.

“I understand it was 15 years ago,” Jason said. “We just want privacy.”

The Vavras are unable to fence in the back yard because on Summit Avenue the back yard is a steep hillside.

Beth Vavra said their neighbor has never approached their children, but they have heard from other sources that Luedtke has noticed their children doing different things.

“We just want to have a place where we can all feel comfortable being outside,” Beth said. “He has served his time and I know he wants to put it in the past, but we cannot.”

Beth Vavra said they want to continue living at this home and watch their kids grow up, but they do not feel comfortable without a fence.

The fence was constructed in a way that it is easily removed if the Vavra family moves.

Commissioner Jeff Gulden made the motion to approve on the condition that if the property was sold, the fence was removed. Commissioner Larry Mack seconded the motion as the fence could be viewed as a safety concern. Mack said the fence would keep balls and toys in the family’s yard.

Commissioner James Hogen voted in favor of the motion but said he struggled with setting a precedent for future variances.

The final approval of this variance will come before the City Council next Tuesday.

In other news, the commission reviewed and recommended an application requesting a permit to construct a parking lot in the State Street Theatre Subdivision. The parking lot is needed create the required number of parking stalls for the 55-unit apartment building.

Heidi Rathman with Community Housing Development Corporation said this lot will create 27 additional stalls to ensure a minium number of cars parked on the street.

The requested parking lot is 27 1/2 feet into the 30-foot front yard set back. A similar request was approved in 2008 to construct a parking lot at 701 N. Broadway.

The commission approved the permit.

The commission also approved a recommendation to reduce the land density requirement for the housing project on the State Street Theatre Subdivision. The minimum lot area per dwelling unit shall be 2,000 feet.

The proposed housing project will have 55 dwelling units. To meet the requirement the lot area would need to be 110,000 square feet but the actual lot area is short at 85,818 square feet. Without the variance the apartment complex would be limited to 45 units.

In the application it was stated that since this was a historic building, the overall building size was already determined. Expanding it to meet the 110,000 square foot requirement was not possible.

The city has granted similar variances in the past for housing projects, including Broadway Haus.

Both recommendations will come before the city council for final approval.