Scandia debates ag tourism, pool safety

4-2-13 Scandia PC
The Scandia planning commission discussing pros and cons of allowing commercial events on rural properties.

Is it possible to share the peace and beauty of Scandia with others, without ruining the lives of the people who live there?

Is it possible to help the owners of historic barns raise money to keep them standing, and to pay the property taxes, without requiring so much additional capital investment that it’s not worth the trouble?

And if it is possible, how should Scandia’s carefully considered ordinances be changed to make it happen?

At the April 2 meeting the Scandia planning commission began its deliberations on allowing for-profit events in rural areas. Both the Stephans, who asked the city to consider this issue, and their neighbors the Bies were at the meeting.

The planning commission decided to study three ways the events could be allowed: (1) through permitted special events, (2) as a new use under resorts and conferences, or (3) as a rural commercial use.

Current city code does not accommodate ventures such as for-profit barn weddings. Agritourism enterprises are allowed only if they are related to agriculture or natural resources and incidental to a farm operation.

The city ordinances relating to resorts and conferences require a setting at least 50 acres in size.

And the city has expressed the goal, in its comprehensive plan, of keeping commerce in the center of the city plus the four historical commercial nodes that already exist.

Scandia has a permitting process for special events, such as when a local bar hosts a live band, but only for public events where everyone is invited. There is no ordinance for private commercial events.

The planning commission also discussed the possibility of allowing wedding ceremonies but not receptions. This would eliminate the issues of food and sound amplification.

The discussion will continue at the next planning commission meeting, 7 p.m. on May 7.

Power Pool Covers

Is a pool cover a good enough safety barrier — so good that a pool fence is not needed?

Scandia requires a fence surrounding a swimming pool.

The Scandia planning commission heard a request from Jeff and Bea Melby of Parkview Lane that the city’s development code be amended.

Bea Melby said the automatic cover is safer because it is a barrier to the water, whereas a person can put a chair up to a fence and climb over. She brought the mechanism to show that the pool cover cannot be breached.

Jeff Melby added that in their walkout basement house, a person could go out the door to the pool; a fence would not prevent access from the house.

Several cities allow pool covers instead of fences. City Planner Sherri Buss said Forest Lake lets the building inspector make the judgment. Building Inspector Keith Wille, who also does this job for the city of Scandia, has said he is comfortable with pool covers provided they are automatic and meet ASTV standards. May and Grant Townships also allow pool owners to have an automatic cover instead of a fence.

After studying the issue, Buss said, the city of Stillwater decided to no longer allow just the pool cover, because the materials deteriorate over time. Woodbury and Hugo require a fence in addition to the pool cover.

The planning commission voted unanimously to bring the issue back to the next meeting, when they will have more data on key topics: Does the pool cover work only when there is electricity, or is there a manual back-up for use in power outages? Does water accumulate on top of the pool cover?

Chair Christine Maefsky said she was not comfortable removing the fence requirement. It might make more sense “to be more restrictive, to require both rather than to take away that fence,” she said.

If the planning commission decides to recommend changing the ordinance, there will be a public hearing.


In other action, the planning recommended amending a variance granted last summer.

So that Dawn Gillespie could divide a landlocked 40 acres into two 20-acre plots, the city had granted a variance for road frontage. The driveway that now connects the house to Olinda Trail would be shared by two lots. Included was the standard condition that the owner submit a preliminary plat.

Her surveyor advised asking the city to amend the variance. The platting process includes wetland delineation, an expensive process, and if there is no buyer within three years, it must be repeated.

The planning commission agreed that platting is not necessary in this case. Instead, the lots can be created with a metes and bounds description.

Minnesota statute allows parcels of this size to be divided without platting.

The council will rule on the amendment at the April 16 meeting.

Also at the April 16 council meeting, the council is expected to choose a fifth planning commission member to replace Tom Krinke, whose term expired in January. The planning commission interviewed the three candidates on Wednesday, April 3.