Isanti resident’s variance request denied

Despite attending the Sept. 15 Isanti City Council meeting and pleading his case, the council again split the vote in denying a variance for a garage being built by Scott Zimprich. The motion was to deny the variance, with Mayor Jeff Johnson and council members Dan Collison and Steve Lundeen voting in favor of the motion. Council members Jim Gordon and Paul Bergley voted against the motion.

Zimprich told the council he voted for each one of them in the last election, and that he was a citizen that “lives, works, and pays taxes” here. He also said he had “reservations” regarding applying for a variance when told to by city staff, noting he thought the council could better spend its time on other city matters.

“I know pouring the concrete without a permit in place was a poor, hastily made decision,” Zimprich said about starting construction of the garage without a building permit or variance. “I wish I wouldn’t have, but that ship has sailed.”

He offered photos to the council of the garage before the concrete was poured, stating he knew the building inspector would be interested in proper placement of in-floor heating elements. He also informed the board the land had been surveyed for proper setback and location.

“I was extremely confused when (Community Development Director Sheila) Sellman told me I was exempt, but still had to follow the same rules,” Zimprich said of the process, adding not being able to be physically present at City Hall due to the pandemic he did nothing to follow up. “I’d like to remind you, she emailed me the day George Floyd died and there was literally panic in the streets. On top of that, Covid was still pretty new; toilet paper was being sold in back alleys for $5 a roll. You’ll have to agree this was a precarious time.”

After six weeks, Zimprich was told the tubing for the in-floor heat needed to be covered, and, to ensure he did not lose the time and money already placed in the project, he “hastily” decided to cover it with concrete “thinking this was all just some silly misunderstanding. Boy, was I wrong. I now see that was not the correct way to solve this problem.”

He asked the council to consider granting the variance for the family that currently rents the property where the garage is being built, the neighbors, and future owners of the property, noting he thought it would be a win-win – the city will make a little money and gain an improved property.

Lundeen asked Zimprich if the already poured floor of the garage had footings or if it was a floating slab. Zimprich informed him it was a floating slab, and Lundeen noted he did not think that was allowed and he may have to tear up the concrete and tubing even if he received a variance.

Council members also reminded Zimprich there were a number of options presented to him during the planning commission meeting in which the building of the garage was discussed. 

Johnson and Lundeen reiterated, and Collison agreed, that Zimprich did not go about this properly. He knew he had been denied a building permit, but decided to move forward on the project.

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