How safe is it to build along Hwy. 12?

John Uran has had his property at 8790 Highway 12 in Independence up for sale for two months, and has been fielding two to six phone calls a day from people wanting to do something with the property.

The catch is the Agricultural zoning that limits the uses to which the property can be put. And Uran has been wondering how to make possible a sale of the property to someone who can legally make use of it.

The fact that the property is located on a dangerous stretch of Highway 12 has not helped the situation.

“You can’t believe what they (the phone callers) want to do there,” Uran said, Tuesday, Nov. 13, when he went to the Independence City Council to ask for help.

Sitting with Uran was a prospective buyer for the property, which used to be the site of Uran’s well drilling business. The would-be purchaser is Dean Thurk, who would like to move Dean’s Autobody from Watertown to Uran’s 1.7-acre site.

City Planner Mark Kaltsas explained the situation to the City Council and suggested two possible courses of action. He said the property is sandwiched between the railroad tracks and Highway 12, with Lake Haughey Road forming the eastern boundary. The only access is from Highway 12.

A warehouse/office building sits on the property, but no house is there, Kaltsas said. Permitted uses in the Agriculture zone are residential, agricultural and forestry. Conditional uses are a well drilling shop/ office, farrieries, kennels, churches, cemeteries, essential services and telecommunication towers.

“No one ever asked about building a house,” Uran said.

As the City Council discussed courses of action for Uran, Councilor Linda Betts asked how safe the area would be for cars turning in and out and called it “a dangerous area.”

Kaltsas said one course of action would be a text amendment to the zoning ordinance permitting auto body repair as a conditional use in the Agricultural zone.

City Council Brad Spencer said this would open up the entire Agricultural zoning district to auto body repair shops. He preferred spot zoning.

City Attorney Bob Vose said changing the zoning to Commercial/ Light Industrial would not be spot zoning because the property has been used as the site of a well drilling business. The new zoning would be consistent with the historic use.

In the end the City Council chose the second course of action — asking the Metropolitan Council for a Comprehensive Plan amendment changing the guiding to commercial/light industrial uses. The amendment might include access to the property from Lake Haughey Road instead of Highway 12.

Once the Met Council approves the amendment, the City Council can change the zoning, and Dean’s Autobody can apply to make a move to Highway 12.

The City Council also took up other business. Here are some highlights.



Larry Palm, of Ace Properties, said he was surprised when the city of Independence sent him a bill for $8,593.50 for time put in by city staff and consultants during negotiations with Wal-Mart for a potential big box store on the western end of Highway 12 in Independence. Palm said he is not a developer, but he does own the property. He would be willing to pay the bill once the property is sold.

The City Council accepted Palm’s payment proposal.

After the meeting, City Administrator Toni Hirsch said city staff would be extra clear to developers about “when the clock starts ticking” for the city charging administrative fees. Usually this happens when someone signs an escrow agreement and files an application. Then the city knows who is responsible for paying the bill. This happened during negotiations with Ryan Companies and Target for a big box store on the site, and Independence helped the developers understand the procedure.

City Councilor Spencer said he was confused as to whether Palm was the developer or property owner, and Palm asserted that he was not a developer.

A check of Hennepin County property records revealed that Randolph J. Kurtock has owned the property, located at 9560 Highway 12, since September 2006. Ace Properties is listed as the tax payer.

Meanwhile, Palm is still seeking a retailer to purchase the property. He and one of his colleagues asked the city to write a letter of support welcoming any potential purchaser, because “people like to do business where they are wanted.” The letter “would help our cause.”

The City Council agreed to write this type of letter.



Eric Evenson, of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, gave an update about the district’s plans for working with cities, dealing with aquatic invasive species, and more.

He said the district wants to help cities deal with financial concerns related to cleaning up the watershed.

The watershed district is working on incentives for the private sector to become involved in the fight against aquatic invasive species. For example boat businesses are best qualified to decontaminate boats, because they know how to deal with all the places in which an invasive species can hide. Dock businesses could provide a similar service.

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District also is working with sportsmen’s groups to find ways to make boat inspections more convenient for them.



The City Council also:

CHANGED the date of its Dec. 25 meeting to Tuesday, Dec. 18.

DECIDED to write a letter to the Department of Natural Resources saying that a large number of hunters using the Wildlife Management Area on Lake Haughey Road presents a safety hazard. Could the DNR address the issue, perhaps by limiting the number of hunters allowed at any one time? The letter also will ask the DNR to install porta potties in the WMA.

APPROVED the transfer of pull-tab gambling from the Westonka Jaycees to the Northwest Tonka Lions.