Scandia grapples with shared driveway request

Majority of planning commission recommend approval

Should Scandia allow a shared driveway so that a landowner can sell a landlocked parcel?

Scandia code requires that a lot have access to a public road. But the city does not specifically prohibit shared driveways.

Dawn and Gary Gillespie last week requested a variance from the road frontage rules in order to market their 40 acres as two 20-acre parcels.

The 40 acres, at 20290 Olinda Trail N., does not have road frontage but accesses Olinda Trail through an easement. The Gillespies want to use the same driveway and easement for their home on the west half and a future new home on the east half.

They proposed creating a homeowner’s association to maintain the lane.

July 3 Votes

At their Tuesday, July 3 meeting, the Scandia Planning Commission’s first vote, to deny the variance request, resulted in a 2-2 tie. Commissioners Tom Krinke and Peter Schwarz did not want to set a precedent of allowing a shared private road.

In the future, Krinke said, when the original owners have moved out, two relative strangers would be sharing a driveway and could have a disagreement over snow removal or road maintenance.

“Now they are maintaining a private road with people they don’t know or get along with.  They may come to the city and ask the city to make it a public road,” he said.

“The city is asked to finance the mess,” he concluded.

Commissioners Christine Maefsky and Jan Hogle voted against denying the variance. A tie defeats the motion.

Krinke then moved to allow the variance but with the stipulation that no more than one other resident share the driveway. This motion passed 3-1, with only Schwarz voting against.

Future city governments could disagree with the stipulation, but City Planner Sherri Buss said, “You’d be telling the future council and the purchaser that was the spirit in which you approved this.”

Neighbors of the Gillespies who spoke at the meeting were concerned with the number and size of buildings on the land, but Gary Gillespie said the west half, where the buildings are, would be combined with another 10 acres they own, resulting in a 30-acre lot on the west.

The alternative to allowing a private shared driveway was to require the minor subdivision developer to build a public cul de sac, with private driveways connecting to the cul de sac.

The developer would probably have to create more buildable lots to make this option financially feasible.

In the future, if the owners of one of the acreages want to subdivide into two 10-acre lots, they would need to come to the city for another variance.

The planning commission recommendation will go the the council at their Tuesday, July 17 meeting.

Marine Plan

The planning commission reviewed an addition to the comprehensive plan for Scandia’s neighbor to the southeast, Marine on St. Croix.  The addendum focuses on stormwater runoff, traffic flow and parking, and the attractiveness of the village center.

The planning commission voted unanimously to “congratulate and thank them for their fine work,” in the words of Chair Maefsky.