Crow Wing County commissioners took an unusual turn Tuesday.
Near the end of the meeting, Commissioner Phil Trusty sought to reconsider an earlier motion that passed unanimously. Trusty said he didn’t have all the information when he voted.
At issue is a change in the land use map in St. Mathias Township from agriculture/forestry with a minimum of 35 acres to rural residential with a minimum of 10 acres.
The petition from Linda Nelson involves land off Koering Road and 20th Street.
The county reported receiving a petition with 12 signatures stating there is active farming on three sizes of the proposed rezoning. The petitioners requested the present zoning be continued to preserve the integrity of the rural farm community, adding the proposed 10-acre and 20-acre parcels were not consistent with the surrounding properties.
The planning commission approved making the change as requested.
Trusty said when he voted in favor of the land use change with the rest of the board, he wasn’t aware the township expressed a wish to deny it. He thought a letter of opposition arrived late.
David Landecker, county survey coordinator, said township supervisors attended meetings and provided oral testimony before the planning commission. But, Landecker said, the township supervisors did not specifically say they wanted to deny or modify the land use map change request. While they spoke about their concerns, Landecker said it wasn’t clear to the planning commission they were opposed.
Carrie Allord, St. Mathias Township supervisor, attended Tuesday’s meeting. Allord stated she had said they wanted the current zoning, which calls for 35-acre parcels.
The county board received a letter of opposition from the township dated July 2.
The letter stated the plan to subdivide the inherited land into 10- and 20-acre parcels is not part of an area that has active farming and forestry. The township board said while there are other 5-acre and 10-acre parcels nearby they were “grandfathered in” as homes primarily given by family farming parents to their children who were active in the farm operation.
The township noted the planning commission passed the request in spite of their concerns and those of about 25 neighbors who submitted a petition against it.
Trusty said he it wasn’t clear earlier in the meeting the township had responded at the planning commission session.
As for the request being out of sync with the agricultural setting, Land Services Supervisor Chris Pence, said: “With this one I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Pence said they are preserving true ag land and developing marginal ag land, such as land along roads.
Trusty said he wanted to revisit the motion to approve and table it or rescind it and redirect it back to staff. Earlier staff said a St. Mathias comprehensive plan was not filed with the county and thus not considered for the planning commission. Township supervisors said their comprehensive plan had previously been in the county records and offered to send another.
Allord asked if the property owners had tried to sell the land as the larger tract first. Commissioner Paul Thiede said he didn’t know if government is in the business of telling a landowner they have to sell as one tract. Pence said the real estate agent thought they’d have more luck with smaller tracts.
When the county board found reconsidering the issue — to either send it back to the planning commission or look into it at the commissioner’s table — would not put the county in a bind for the required 60-day time constraint to make a decision, the board voted to send the issue back to the planning commission. Commissioner Paul Thiede was opposed, saying earlier he was concerned about setting a precedent. Board Chairman Doug Houge supported the motion, but noted he shared Thiede’s concerns. Commissioner Rosemary Franzen attended the meeting, but was not present at the time of the vote.