Rule change still needed to allow barn to be built in Scandia

Mary Bailey
Scandia Reporter

Roger Thomasen still can’t build his barn.

In need of storage space for farm equipment, Thomasen planned to put up a second machine shed last winter on the 40 acres he owns on Oren Road. He farms about 350 acres and stores part of his machinery on a farm he rents.

Once the roofs on those buildings go bad, he said, the landowner intends to doze them off.

But in Scandia, Thomasen found, on 40 acres he can’t have the size building he needs. Current ordinance limits the total square footage of accessory buildings on 40 acres to 5,500 square feet.

In May Township, Forest Lake, Hugo, Columbus and Lino Lakes, there is no limit on the size or number of agriculture buildings on lots over 20 acres. A Scandia resident must have 80 acres to have no limit on total square footage.

Rather than request a variance, Thomasen asked the city to change the ordinance. He presented his case to the council at meetings on February 21 and March 13. The council sent the issue to the planning commission, which could not address it until May because of the Zavoral Mine EIS public hearing in April.

But at their May 1 meeting the planning commission found several problems with the accessory structures part of the development code, and decided to bring it back to the June meeting.

“I don’t know how we can move forward tonight,” Chair Christine Maefsky said.  The planning commission agrees that the 80-acre requirement for unlimited agriculture buildings is too restrictive, but also wants to look at the square footage and number of buildings allowed in other categories.

Instead of 80 acres, the planning commission could match neighboring cities and use 20 acres for unlimited agricultural buildings. The council had asked them to consider changing the number to 30, as one council member was not comfortable with 20.

PC Views

Most of the planning commissioners also preferred using 20 acres. “In our comprehensive plan, we said we want to be more friendly to agriculture,” Maefsky said.

“It seems arbitrary and whimsical to use 30 without a specific reason,” added Commissioner Jan Hogle.

Only Steven Philippi questioned the wisdom of moving to 20 acres, saying a higher building density can produce conflicts with neighbors and cause more traffic. “Do more agriculture buildings make the character more rural?” he asked.

Philippi reminded the planning commission of the Heinisch variance, which allowed buildings totaling almost 40,000 square feet on a 10-acre lot.

Limiting accessory structures is one way to prevent future use that is not compatible with the neighborhood. “If the property changes hands and is no longer agriculture,” City Administrator Anne Hurlburt said, “what will happen to those buildings?”

Commissioner Peter Schwarz argued against writing code based on fear of what might happen. He pointed out that when the code was changed to allow more animals, it was not changed to allow more space to keep hay for them.

“You need 120 bales to sustain one horse over the winter,” he said.

The next planning commission meeting will be June 5. Any development code changes they recommend will go before the council at the June 19 meeting.

Scenic Views

The planning commission voted unanimously at the May 1 meeting to increase the density bonus for developers who preserve a scenic view. Instead of up to 10 percent, the amendment would award a bonus of up to 25 percent.

In open space conservation subdivisions, developers can earn the right to create more lots if they preserve forests or fields, allow public use of trails or lakeshore, restore native habitat, or preserve historic sites. The maximum bonus permitted is 75 percent.

The guidelines for scenic views were also adopted. Maefsky will present the guidelines at the May 15 council meeting.

Water Management Plan Updated

Since the latest comprehensive plan was adopted in 2009, all three watershed districts covering Scandia have updated their water management plans.

By state statute, Scandia must also update the water management appendix to the comprehensive plan.

Comfort Lake/Forest Lake Watershed District covers the northwest part of Scandia around Bone Lake. The Carnelian/Marine St. Croix Watershed District extends over the east half and the area around Big Marine Lake. The Rice Creek Watershed District includes White Rock Lake in the southwest corner.

The 64-page appendix includes maps showing water quality and impaired waters, floodplains, gravel deposits, high-quality natural areas, sensitivity to groundwater pollution, and regionally significant ecological areas.

The planning commission will have a public hearing on the updated water management plan, 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 5 meeting.