Scandia Planning Commission denies Matt variance

Mary Bailey
Staff Writer

In Scandia the city planner almost always recommends approval of a variance request, with conditions.

But Joseph Matt’s request for a variance on August 7 came with a rare recommendation to deny the request.

Matt began building a gazebo within the setback on his residence at 13440 182nd St. without the required zoning and building permits.

The city issued a stop work order on June 5 and advised Matt to either remove the shed or apply for a variance to bring the property into compliance with the code.

The variance request was to build an accessory structure less than the minimum setback for the ordinary high water level on Big Marine Lake.

Plans showed the structure would be 140 square feet in size and would include a 300-square-foot deck, about 50 feet from the ordinary high water level.

The variance application indicated that the gazebo was being constructed to replace a previous shed removed in 2007. That structure did not conform to current code.

State law allows replacement of a legal nonconforming structure within 180 days of its removal, provided the new structure is exactly where the old one was.

The variance application says the old structure was removed under a permit to replace retaining walls, and Matt assumed this included the means to construct the new shed.

Buss reported that the 2007 permit does not mention replacement of the previous shed, and no survey exists showing the placement of this structure.

Buss said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District also have concerns about building within the shoreland setback.

City Administrator Anne Hurlburt said Thorp’s notes do not indicate a structure on the land alteration permit. The 180-day limit for replacing the shed has long passed.

Neighbors on 182nd St. addressed the planning commission to express support for the variance.

“What are my options?” Matt asked the commission.

Hurlburt said city ordinance does not allow any permanent structure. Even a fish house counts as an accessory structure, she said.

Buss said a shed on the upper lot could be expanded, or storage could be added under the deck off of the house.

Commissioner Steve Philippi said, “This whole situation is rather tragic.” The Matts appreciate their property and put a lot of work into it, he added.

“Now there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears put in, and no way to turn back the clock.”

Having walked the stairs as part of the site visit before the meeting, he said, there definitely is a practical difficulty.

The vote to deny recommendation of the variance was unanimous, but Philippi urged the owners to continue a dialog with the city. “It’s a situation that other people could find themselves in,” he concluded.

Also on Aug. 7, the commission voted to recommend approval of three requests.

The city council will act on these recommendations at their Aug. 21 meeting.

Massage therapy

The planning commission voted unanimously in favor of allowing a massage studio in the Scandia Plaza, in the vacant space next to the Post Office.

DeLynn Lalli requested a conditional use permit to operate a massage and bodyworks studio specializing in Swedish massage.

The business would have up to three part-time employees and would be open up to seven days a week, between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m., with services by appointment only.

The Scandia Plaza is located at 21190 Ozark Ave., in the Village Mixed Use Zone, where a conditional use permit is required for beauty salons, day spas, etc. The only interior changes proposed are paint and carpet.

Variance supported

Carol Varhalla, who lives at 18819 Layton Ave. on Big Marine Lake, wants to replace her dilapidated garage with a bigger, taller one. The garage is located across Layton Avenue from the house. Because the new garage would result in 32 percent lot coverage by impervious surfaces, exceeding the 25 percent maximum, Varhalla requested a lot coverage variance.

The Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District opposed the variance.

The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the variance request and special use permit.