First State Tire and Monte Niemi failed again to convince the Isanti County Board of Commissioners there is a reason to rezone a portion of its property to industrial from agricultural/residential.

The commissioners denied setting a public hearing for the purpose of hearing public comment regarding the rezoning based on five findings, four of which were addressed at a board of commissioners meeting in August, and a fifth that was added at the Oct. 20 board meeting.

The findings by the board include:

•The concern for pollution in the wetland that runs through the property. 

•The concern with the owner of the property frequently not being in compliance with his CUP at First State Tire in the past. 

•It not being in the best interest of the nature of that area to rezone the property industrial rather than agricultural/residential; and,

•The applicant has not demonstrated it is a public necessity the property be rezoned, nor would it serve the general welfare of the public.

They added the fifth finding, which stated it did not see the need for additional industrial lots in the county at this time.  

During the most recent meeting, the main objections by the commissioners against considering the request to rezone the property are that it is near a wetland, and the applicant did not address most of the findings of the board, leaving that up to the planning commission. 

Introducing the topic, Isanti County Zoning Administrator Trina Bergloff stated the planning commission approved a motion to recommend approving the request to rezone the property with the following findings:

•One objective of Isanti County’s comprehensive plan is to provide for quality, managed industrial growth, and encourage industrial development along major highway corridors;

•Environmental impacts to the wetland will be addressed with an additional 20-foot buffer that will not be rezoned and a storm water management plan will be in place;

•This is the best use of the property considering it is adjacent to property to the west that is zoned industrial and is landlocked; and,

•This would not be spot zoning.

Bergloff also noted the City of Isanti offered no comment regarding this request, but Isanti Fire District Chief Al Jankovich submitted written comments after reviewing the proposed rezoning of the property.  “For the single purpose of rezoning the parcel, the fire department sees no conflict with a change in classification,” he wrote. “The stated industrial storage to take place on the parcel does, however, raise concerns related to Minnesota State Fire Code on fire access roads, storage of bulk tires, and storage of combustible materials outside. The stated industrial storage also raises the concern of firefighting runoff into adjacent wetland areas, which would require guidance from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the United States Army Corp of Engineers. It is our understanding the topic of discussion now is solely rezoning. If you would like our comments on the use of the land earlier than a conditional use permitting process, please contact our office at your convenience.”

After presenting to the board, Bergloff asked if the commissioners thought their findings had been adequately addressed by the planning commission.

Commissioner Greg Anderson represented the board at the planning commission meeting, and gave a bit of a rundown on what occurred at the meeting. 

In addressing the commissioners first finding, Engineer Brad Sullivan of Wenck Associates told the planning commission the tire company was coming up with a plan for the movement of trailers on the property and the storage of tires in the trailers. He also stated First State Tire would work with the MPCA to address the wetland concerns by creating underground water storage. 

However, Anderson commented he thought that presentation would be more appropriate for a conditional use permit application than consideration of rezoning the property.

The planning commission addressed the first finding by creating the additional 20-foot buffer from the wetland.

Neither First State Tire nor the planning commission addressed the commissioners’ second finding regarding the previous non-compliance of the business’ current conditional use permit. 

The third finding of the board was not addressed by the applicant, but the planning commission found there was a need for additional industrial zoned land.  

“How many requests for industrial rezoning have we had that we didn’t consider? What are they basing that off of – that there’s a need?” asked Commissioner Susan Morris.

“They didn’t say,” Bergloff replied. “They just feel like there is not a lot of industry-zoned parcels in the area, which, there isn’t. But is there a need just by knowing that fact?”

Anderson noted the planning commission discussed the need for the disposal of tires.  

Morris allowed Planning and Zoning Chair Bruce Mickelson to address the board regarding the findings of the planning commission as it relates to the county’s comprehensive plan, which is to provide for quality, managed growth and encourage industrial development along major highways and corridors. He also noted that the planning commission was looking strictly at land use, and not compliance with conditional use permits. He noted it will increase the value of the parcel, thereby increasing the tax revenue from the parcel. 

Morris agreed that industrial growth along the Minnesota State Highways 65 and 95 is what the county wants in regards to its comprehensive plan. “I’ll just throw out there that there’s probably areas that we don’t want industrial, next to wetlands might be a consideration,” she added. 

“I think that, through the years, there has just kind of been this blanket, ‘Well, if it’s along 65 and along 95, go ahead and do it, because that’s where we want to concentrate the truck traffic, etcetera,’” she continued. “But, I’ll just throw out there that because lay of the land in our county, there’s probably places we don’t want industrial. And the hard part with all of this is, once it’s deemed industrial, it doesn’t matter who purchases that property, it’s now industrial and you could have any kind of industrial activity there.”

Anderson noted that finding five was not addressed by the applicant, and the planning commission thought the request made sense and it is the highest and best use of the property.

“It’s an unusual case here, to say the least,” Anderson said. “The commissioners have the four findings. The planning commission was put into a precarious position because of the fact that this is the third time around with the planning commission, and they certainly voiced their comments on the request and feel it’s deserving of a rezoning there. I guess I, personally, would have liked to have seen the applicant make their response to our findings, and he didn’t do that. To me, that was the unusual part of the case. Why isn’t the applicant responding to the findings, other than number one? The planning commission, bless their heart, they are doing what there are supposed to be doing in determining the request – does this make sense to put it into an industrial designation, or not. But, what about the applicant not addressing all four findings? I have a problem with that.”

Morris pointed out another salvage yard fire that was recently in the news, and the Becker fire that happened last year. She said she remembers a former commissioner stating 14 years ago that if a match ever landed in that area and a fire started, the City of Isanti and all the surrounding homes would be in serious jeopardy, with a potential citywide evacuation. 

“So, unfortunately, because this applicant hasn’t been compliant in our requests in the past, to expand the potential of more opportunities for not following our recommendations can be very scary,” she said. “I know the planning commission has a very specific role, but I think as commissioners, we sit in a different place for the role that we do. I am very concerned about the proximity of that property to the City of Isanti and surrounding areas.” she said.  

“My question is, and I appreciate trying to get more industrial property on the map, I get that, but the City of Isanti has an industrial park, is it full?” asked Commissioner Terry Turnquist. “Do they have any more lots to sell? Cambridge has a huge industrial park that literally has two tenants. The City of Braham has an industrial park they are looking to fill. Now, granted, that’s in Kanabec County, but it’s right on the border. I don’t know if I see the need, especially at this point.”  

APPROVAL OF USAGE OF ADDITIONAL ARPA FUNDS

The board approved a bid from Wold Architects and Engineers to provide architectural services in remodeling and adding a small build-out at the Isanti County Jail. The bid was $73,000, and the total cost of the remodel is expected to be $1.6 million. America Rescue Plan Act funds will be used to fund this project, as approved by resolution.

The reason for the need is insufficient space in the jail booking area and sally port to allow for social distancing, as well as a safety concern for staff and inmates, according to Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk.

Currently, staff and inmates are in “very tight quarters with increasing violent inmates,” he noted, adding that very ill inmates cannot be processed until they are in the heart of the jail. This remodel would allow them to be screened before exposing the rest of the jail population.

Another advantage to the remodel is a secure transfer of sick and injured inmates to an ambulance, which currently cannot happen because an ambulance cannot fit into the jail garage, according to Caulk.

An additional $30,000 of ARPA funds was approved to be used to hire temporary nursing staff to assist with vaccine clinics.

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