Crystal Planning Commission Recap – November 2014

The Crystal Planning Commission met tonight, and we finished the meeting in record time- from start to finish the whole thing lasted only 15 minutes.

There were only two items on the agenda:

1) Consideration of a Conditional Use Permit for a new dental manufacturing facility and

2) Consideration of an application to allow an expanded garage on a residential property.

The first item was for the Crystal Barber’s building on Douglas Drive.  The new owner wants to use the building to do some light manufacturing of dental appliances like crowns and bridges.  Because the property is zoned for commercial use, the manufacturing use required a conditional use permit.  The item passed unanimously.

The second item regarded a homeowner who wanted to expand a non-conforming garage.  Apparently in 2004 the way the height of a structure is measured was changed.  It used to be measured as the mean of the peak of the roof and the eave, and now it’s measured as the peak of the roof.  Code only allows a garage to be 15 feet tall, and the existing garage is about 19 feet tall.  Because the change was made after the structure was built, the garage became what is called “legally nonconforming” which means it is allowed to stay as is indefinitely, but if the structure is modified in any substantial way it must be brought into compliance with the current code, or granted a variance to stay out of compliance.

In this case the homeowner just wanted to add an addition to the back of the garage, and obviously didn’t want the new addition to have a lower roof than the existing garage.  The item passed unanimously.

The only other thing to report is that Hennepin County approved the curb cuts for the Gaulke property on Douglas Drive (see here for background) which I believe was the final potential regulatory road block for the project.

There are currently no agenda items for December’s meeting, so that could be my last planning meeting before I join the council!

Crystal Planning Commission Recap – October 2014

Tonight’s Planning Commission meeting was a good one- we approved two new exciting projects for Crystal.

The first was a conditional use permit for outdoor seating for the Noodles & Company that will be opening in the new out-building at the Crystal Gallery Mall (next to Buffalo Wild Wings). The proposal passed unanimously after very little discussion. The architect did a good job working with the city to get everything in order before the meeting, so there really wasn’t anything to discuss.  The item now goes to the council for final approval.  I spoke with the architect after the meeting and he thinks they may be open for business before the end of this year.  The building will also house a Great Clips and a Starbucks with a drive-through.  It doesn’t appear that Starbucks will have outdoor seating, at least for now.

The second item was the continuation of the discussion of the development of the Gaulke property that we talked about at the last meeting.  I think it’s fair to say that tonight’s discussion went better than last time.

To catch you up- there is a proposal to develop the property that is located along Douglas Drive from about 39th to 40th Ave.  There is one house currently on that property, kind of right in the middle. The proposal is to knock down that house and divide the land into 15 single family home lots (13 would face Douglas, two would face Colorado on the back side of the property).

At the last meeting there were some concerns about the development, primarily about the management of the water runoff.  The majority of the commissioners voted to table the approval until this month. I voted in the dissent because I thought the developer and the city could work things out between the planning meeting and the city council meeting, but I was in the minority on that.

At tonight’s meeting the city staff was much more comfortable with the project, and recommended approval, as long as a few relatively minor conditions were met. (Mostly some housekeeping/paperwork stuff.)

The final sticking point relates to the driveways. The current plan calls for 13 new driveways on Douglas Drive, which is consistent with the number of driveways you’d find in that much road-front along the rest of the road. There had been some resistance from Hennepin County to approve a plan with that many driveways.  However, the developer felt that he could resolve that issue with the county.  At my suggestion the planning commission will send a letter to the county indicating that we approve of the driveway plan, in the hopes that it helps move the process along.

The project was unanimously approved.

I do want to mention and thank the resident who came to speak at the meeting tonight. It’s rare that we get public feedback at our meetings, so it’s always great to hear the concerns of the residents who live nearby a project we are discussing.  I’d also like to thank as always City Planner John Sutter, who did a great job working with the developer and the rest of the city staff to get everything in order so this project can move forward.

I’m excited for work to begin on this project!  I really think these homes will be a great new addition to Crystal, and I look forward to getting some new neighbors.

Crystal Planning Commission Recap – September 2014

There were two items on the agenda for the September 8th Crystal Planning Commission meeting.

The first was an application for the plat of the Gaulke Pond Homes property.  This is the empty lot on Douglas Drive from about 39th to 40th Ave.  There is one house currently on that property, kind of right in the middle.

The proposal is to knock down that house and divide the land into 15 single family home lots (13 would face Douglas, two would face Colorado on the back side of the property).  I am really excited about the prospect of 15 brand new single family homes in Crystal.  It would add to our tax base, and bring many new families into our community.  I am also a fan of this proposal, in particular, as I consider the proposed addition the proper density for the area.

Unfortunately the proposal ran into some issues, and city staff was recommending that we table the approval of the preliminary plat until the next meeting.  Staff had flagged two items which they considered major issues with the project- one related to water runoff, and the other related to driveways.

Douglas Drive is a county road, and Hennepin County gets to weigh in on new plans for the property, since this project would add more driveways to “their” road.  The County is on record opposing the amount of new driveways that would be added, and wanted the developer to combine driveways so that every set of two houses would share one common driveway entrance.  It seems to me that the county’s insistence that somehow half as many double-wide driveways is better than individual single-wide driveways defies all logic and reason.  The developer agreed, and felt he would be able to mitigate the issue with the county.

The second concern centered around some disagreement between the city staff and the developers regarding the calculations related to water runoff.  To me it seemed that this disagreement was more based in a communication breakdown between the developer and the staff, rather than a fundamental issue with the project.

I felt that there was opportunity to move the project forward and work out the final details as we moved through the remaining phases. The majority of other commissioners disagreed, and a motion was made to table this item until the next meeting.  I voted in the dissent.

In general, I hate to slow down projects because of the bureaucratic process.  I hope that the issues can be resolved quickly and that development can begin soon.  I believe this will be a good addition to our neighborhood.

The second item on the agenda was the U-Haul store application that was tabled last month.  Staff was much more comfortable with this application this month, as they had additional conversations with the applicant that helped assuage the concerns we had the last time around.  This item was passed unanimously.

After a few updates on old items the meeting was adjourned.

Prepared and paid for by the Kolb for Crystal Committee, PO Box 28373, Crystal, MN 55428