Wright County: Developer asks for dismissal of planning commission defeat

By John Holler

When you’ve been a member of the Wright County Board of Commissioners for 20 years, there isn’t much Commissioner Jack Russek hasn’t seen. But, at the Nov. 13 meeting of the county board, Russek had to admit, “This is a new one to me.”

At question was a request from Steiner Development Company to dismiss a planning commission denial of a request to amend the county’s zoning ordinance to include an athletic complex as a conditional use in areas deemed to be general agricultural land.

The planning commission had unanimously voted to deny the request Oct. 25. But planning commission decisions, while almost always adhered to by the county board, are recommendations to the board, not binding decisions. Any official votes that are taken on such matters are made by the county board based on planning commission recommendations.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Sean Riley told the board that a decision to dismiss the request after going through the channels would be a precedent and Russek said that the policy for removing requests when it’s clear they won’t pass have always been done prior to a vote.

“If someone wants to, they ask to withdraw a request at any time, “Russek said. “But this went through the entire process and was denied.”

The unique circumstances surrounding the request have changed the plans for the developer markedly. The anticipation was that the land in Monticello Township would be the site of a state soccer facility — a complex that will include several soccer fields and buildings that would serve as the headquarters for the complex.

However, while the planning commission was voting down the proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance, the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association voted at its annual meeting Nov. 3 not to pursue a soccer facility at the proposed site, thus killing the project whether it had been approved by Wright County or not.

“Since the planning commission hearing, Steiner Development has made a major change of course and now is asking the this case be dismissed,” Riley said.

Assistant County Attorney Greg Kryzer said there is only one significant difference between having the board vote on the matter as opposed to dismissing it.

“There isn’t a lot of difference between a denial and a dismissal with one exception,” Kryzer said. “If there was an official denial from the county board against the proposal, it would be part of the public record and it would be noted on the abstract of the property that there was an official denial of the proposed ordinance change. By having the case dismissed, there will be no such record of the matter being voted on.”

Asked if the county might be setting a precedent it doesn’t want, Riley termed the motion to dismiss as a “no harm, no foul” scenario. The board voted unanimously to dismiss the request and not take a formal vote on denial.

In other items on the Nov. 13 agenda, the board:

APPROVED an updated county fee schedule. Among the changes to the schedule were increases in the fee for group campsites at Beebe and Collinwood Parks from $30 to $45, an increase in the rental of the Collinwood Park beach shelter from $50 a day to $75, an increase cost for sheriff’s deputies to be on special details/outside employment from $45 an hour to $50, and increases on the permits needed for re-roofing, re-siding and window replacement on homes from $50 to $60. There were also several additions made to previously unlisted fees, including genealogy search fees ($30 an hour), rental of the gazebo at Otsego Park ($10 a day), electronic data recovery ($75 an hour with a two-hour minimum) and an impound lot storage fee $10 a day).

AUTHORIZED signatures on a contract with Mary Ann Peterson to conduct classes for the county’s Parenting Through Divorce program. The fee on the contract calls for Peterson to be paid $500 a month.

AUTHORIZED signatures on the county agricultural inspector contract for 2013. The contract calls for ag inspector Ken Johnson to be paid $1,106.75 a month.

SET the final date to receive claims for payment during the 2012 budget year for noon Thursday, Dec. 20.

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