CENTERVILLE — For over a year now, the Planning and Zoning Commission has been debating on whether it should recommend some changes to the city code related to outside storage in residential districts.
City Administrator Mark Statz explained that the commission had to take a bit of a break from the topic to focus on various developments, but now is the time “to continue to move the process forward,” he said.
The commission held a public hearing on the topic previously, but since a full year has passed, City Attorney Kurt Glaser recommended the commission hold another public hearing to make sure the public was aware of the proposed changes and had the opportunity to provide additional input. Statz said it was also important to review the topic again, as some of the current commission members were not involved in the process the last time around. It’s important to note that the changes would apply to single-family homes.
Some of the changes expands what residents are allowed to park where, but in other cases the changes would be a bit more restrictive. Per current city code, residents are allowed to have up to two “other vehicles,” which include boats, RVs, fish houses etc., but a change would allow up to three.
The only spot where passenger vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, motorcycles) are allowed to park is on permitted driveways, which are required to be paved. Statz explained currently, the right of way on city streets is about 13.5 feet from the curb. A proposed change would be to prohibit parking within 10 feet of the curb. Cars are also not allowed to encroach on the sidewalk. The main reasoning for this, Statz said, was that the city has had some issues with snowplows damaging cars that are parked too close to the curb.
The other vehicles are permitted to be parked on non-paved surfaces but must comply with yard setbacks and other regulations.
“We have had a number of vehicles in that larger class, full size semitrucks, full-size dump trucks, commercial heavy equipment that people have grown accustomed to storing in their yard and we have had quite a few complaints about those types of vehicles,” Statz explained.
Before opening the public hearing, Commissioner Linda Broussard Vickers wanted to address some rumors going around on social media. “(There was) the implication that members of the commission and/or council were involved financially somehow in pavement or concrete companies or the storage facility, that we had a financial interest and that was part of why we were doing this. Those types of comments, I feel they are quite unacceptable at best. They are rude, ugly, and mean …” she said. “We are all aware of conflict of interest, there is a protocol for us to step aside if we do indeed have a conflict of interest, and I think everybody here is aware of that and would do that.”
Eight residents shared their thoughts on the proposed changes Oct. 5. Some of the residents had questions about the specifics, but many of them requested the commission consider “being flexible” and “having empathy.”
Resident Michael DuFalt said he was also concerned about the proposed 5-foot side yard setback. “I’m asking you to have a little bit of empathy for people in my situation. I’m not as fortunate to have a huge side yard, but I still want to have my livelihood. I want to have my snowmobile and my fish house,” he said. “I’d appreciate the flexibility and the freedom to have a little wiggle room.”
DuFalt asked the commission to consider a side yard setback of 2 feet like the city of Circle Pines.
Brian Hanson explained that he served on the commission for a decade and actually helped draft some of the original ordinances. He said he foresees the city having an issue with some of the smaller, older homes in Centerville and residents being able to comply with not parking within 10 feet of the curb. “This is a little extreme, and you are really limiting what we can have,” he said. “I’m asking for a little empathy for some of us that weren’t able to afford a large home when we came into the city … Those who can afford a larger home have the right to have more vehicles than someone who has a smaller home.”
Resident Joe George explained that it would be really difficult for him to comply with the 10 feet from the curb requirement. He said he currently has four of his five kids at home, so he has lots of cars parked in the driveway. “I think should be allowed to park right up to the curb and if we get a damaged vehicle, that’s our problem; we chose to park there, and if it gets damaged, that’s on us,” he said. “If you enforce that, I’ll have to tell my kids they can’t live here anymore.”
Suzanne Seeley said the changes may not work for every lot in the city, as many lots are unique, one of the reasons why she loves the town so much. “Oftentimes a problem isn’t a problem, it is only a problem if neighborhood thinks it’s a problem,” she said. She explained that before she installed a garden in her front yard, she made sure all of her neighbors were okay with it. Not only were they okay with it, but they always come over to get an update on what she is growing.
Resident Neil Reisdorfer said, “I’m pretty lucky in regards to these ordinances, as I’m pretty close to fitting within them … I just happen to have the right-size lot where everything fits in.
I’d like to reinforce that we are in Centerville and we are not in St. Paul or Minneapolis for a reason. We have to be flexible here.”
After the public hearing closed, the commission discussed the topic further and whether it wanted to make any more changes. Ultimately, the commission tabled the item for further discussion and research.
The commission was leaning in the direction of allowing a 2-foot side yard setback instead of the proposed 5 feet. The commission also wanted to look into the idea of having different restrictions for different areas of the city. Statz said that at some point, the commission will also have to have a discussion and make some decisions about people adding “wings” to their driveways, which in most cases, is currently allowed under city code.
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