A variance request to allow significantly smaller lot sizes on a parcel set for development into a storage condo facility received Crow Wing County Planning Commission approval Thursday, Oct. 22.
The commission also voted to recommend approval of a preliminary plat for the project by the county board. Both votes on the planned County Road 118 facility split commission members 3-2, with Rock Yliniemi and Chairman Don Hales voting against both motions.
The facility would consist of 78 total lots, with 75 of those being storage units along with two common lots and a proposed wash bay. Also planned for the site is a 900-square-foot guest cottage. The 20-acre property in Lake Edward Township is zoned as rural residential 2.5, meaning the minimum lot size in the area is 2.5 acres. Already approved in January for a conditional use permit allowing the placement of a commercial business within residential zoning, the variance the commission approved Thursday established a minimum lot area of 600 square feet and width of 20 feet.
County environmental services supervisor Jake Frie told the commission a total of 11 comments were received from the public, and he said he would characterize those as generally unsupportive of the project. The Lake Edward Township Board also recommended the planning commission deny the variance request, which will allow the developers of Lake Place Storage to sell the individual units rather than rent them. Two people spoke during the public hearing asking the commission for denial, stating the applicants did not demonstrate need and raising concerns about the environmental impacts of the wash bay.
Applicants Ryan Johnson and John Sterne said they would follow all state requirements established to ensure the wash bay would not negatively impact the groundwater in the area and any more restrictive measures outlined by the county. Ultimately, the planning commission included language in the variance approval to reiterate this required compliance.
Although none were part of the record, the developers also told the planning commission there were neighbors who supported the project as well.
“We’ve read many of the concerns submitted. We are neighbors of the property. We would share concerns if it would cause safety, traffic or negatively affect property values,” Sterne said by phone during the virtual meeting. “Other neighbors have expressed significant interest. They do not have room with impervious surface limitations for pole barns or other needed storage facilities. The Lake Place storage site was done by a professional engineer with calculations, stormwater retention and drainage soils that is much more stringent than any residential property.
“There seemed to be some confusion in multiple letters about the county having to deal with multiple owners. The county would just deal with one association. There are many benefits of ownership versus renting. A variance allowing ownership would allow continuous improvement of the property and surrounding area. Owners have a vested interest in higher quality.”
With the variance approved and the preliminary plat recommended for county board approval, the next step is for county commissioners to consider the planning commission’s recommendation and approve or deny the preliminary plat.