Planning Commission recommends multi-unit housing project approval
NEW ULM — A permit for a Community Unit Housing Project on the 1400 Block of North 6th Street in New Ulm was recommended for approval by the city Planning Commission on Wednesday.
Mike Kral, on behalf of M & D Properties, requested a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a Community Unit Project at the street address 1406-1446 North 6th Street. The project is legally described as part of Oak Bluffs Eighth Addition.
The New Ulm City Council reviewed the final plat for this project following a Public Hearing on Sept.15. The owner of the plat intends to build multi-family homes between 6th North and 7th North in the lot adjacent to the New Ulm Diocese. The location is zoned to allow multi-family residences.
City staff recommended approval of the permit, as it complies with zoning requirements and there is a need for this type of housing in the New Ulm community.
The city did receive comments against this project during the September Plat hearing and some neighbors to the property addressed the commission. Multiple residents in the neighborhood had purchased homes in this area with the understanding that the New Ulm Diocese would not develop the land. News that property would now be developed into four-plexes had many neighbors concerned.
Bill and Joanne Brennan of Lee Avenue submitted an email asked the commission to turn the permit down. The Brennan’s concern was the area already had extensive traffic issues with the completion of North Highland Avenue and the relocation of the high school.
Commissioner Jeff Guldan said he received a phone call from a resident concerned about the aesthetics of the project, but Guldan said looked like it would be a good project that was needed in the community.
Joan Schraeder asked questions about the project. Her home abuts the project site. She wanted to know where the buildings would be in relation to her backyard, when construction would begin and if any trees would be planted for privacy.
Project representative Dale Bushard answered some of the questions. He said construction would likely begin in the spring, starting with the building closest to Highland. He confirmed there was a plan to plant trees and possible hedges.
Commissioner Rodney Karnitz said the developers are not necessarily required to plant trees to create privacy. Property owners might need to plant their own trees to create a privacy line.
Schraeder also spoke about the traffic issues in Highland. She said it is difficult to get onto Highland when school lets out. She wanted to know what plans the city had for dealing with congestion.
Community Development Director David Schnobrich believed this question could be brought to the City Engineer before the final approval by the New Ulm City Council. Schnobrich did not anticipate a great increase in traffic created by the new homes.
Karnitz said whether this project goes forward or not he believed traffic would continue to be an issue at this site.
The commission unanimously approved the recommendation for the project. Final approval of the project will come before the New Ulm City Council, Tuesday, Jan. 5.
The commission unanimously approved a permit from Stephen Akre to allow a storage building on the property in a service business district (B-2). The property is located at 1710 S. Minnesota Street near the McDonald’s and Perkins Restaurants.
Storage facilities are permitted in Industrial districts, but a permit is required to place one in a business district. Staff recommended approval because similar permits have been approved in this area. The property is adjacent to an industrial district. Also, a storage building would have less intense use than most other allowed business service activities.
The staff did place requirements with the permit that no storage take place outside the building and it only is used for personal storage. The building cannot be used for commercial storage.
A curb cut would be added to Minnesota Street to allow access to the building.
Commissioner Karnitz said the creation of a building at this site would likely improve the property.
Commissioner Ashley Aukes asked if a storage facility would be taking up potential business space.
Schnobrich said he believed there were a limited number of business opportunities at this location. A storage building was appropriate for the site.
After the commission approved the permit, Aukes asked if the commission should look into changing the code because this was the 13 permit approval of a storage building in the business district.
Schnobrich said was worth considering when reviewing zoning changes.
A simple lot division for a property at 2007 N. Spring Street was recommended for approval. The property has a width of 100 feet with a total area of 30,900 square feet. Owner Ryan Herzog requested to divide the property into two 50-foot-wide parcels. Staff is recommended approval as it complies with City Code requirements.
Currently, the site is used for vehicle storage. Commissioner Larry Mack asked if this site is zoned for vehicle storage and whether this site would be clean up.
City Planner John Knisley said Herzog has not applied for a permit to have a junkyard, but parts are not being sold from this location and no retail operation is happening. He said there has been a discussion about cleaning the cars from the property.
Mack asked for a condition of the lot division include the clean-up of the vehicles within a specific timeframe.
Schnobrich suggested contacting the property owner about cleaning up the cars and passing this information onto the city council.
The commission also approved a lot of division for a property at 1314 Westridge Road. Two buildings are located on the property, an office and storage building. The lot would be split to have one building on each parcel.
Staff recommended this lot division as it complies with city code requirements. The commission unanimously approved it.
The two-lot division was unanimous will go to the city council on January 5.
The final plat for the Airport Industrial Park was unanimously approved by the Commission. The land is located at 2216 Jacobs Street at is 13.65 acres. The preliminary plat was approved on Dec. 15.
The land needs to be plated before any potential development. Schnobrich said the city is in discussing the sale of one of the three lots in the platted area. The other two lots would also be available for sale.
The commission discussed the Comprehensive Plan regarding parks and trail sections. The comprehensive plan includes guidance for the development of park space, which has been a point of conversation among the Park and Recreation Commission.
Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said there are 12 areas in New Ulm identified in the comp plan for future park development. Some of these locations are already owned and designated as park spaces. Others are owned but not designated as parks. Schmitz said staff narrowed it down to six locations ready for development.
Schmitz said this topic came up because residents in the Upper Cottonwood area have consistently requested the acquisition and development of a neighborhood park in the last few years.
Park and Recreation will have a work session on this topic next week. A matrix for prioritizing park projects is in development.
Schnobrich said 90% of New Ulm residents are within a third of a mile of a park. The Cottonwood area was one of the locations that did not have a park within this distance.
Schmitz said when considering park development right-of-way acquisition and utility extension needed to be considered as well as Parkland Dedication funding.
The commissioners did not decide regarding park planning but tabled the discussion for a later meeting.