Earlier this month, Crow Wing County commissioners made an unusual decision.
Tuesday, it was back before them.
Two weeks ago, the board passed a motion approving a zoning change that would have created smaller parcels in a 35-acre section of agricultural land. At the end of the meeting, board members took a second vote to reconsider the decision. They sent it back to the planning commission for an Aug. 16 hearing. That track brings it back before the county board on Sept. 11.
Tuesday, the property owners addressed the board, questioning the delay, saying it was a setback to listing the property for sale.
Faced with the applicants with the rezoning request, the board again questioned its deadlines and if the zoning request could be back for consideration earlier.
The owners said having smaller parcels of 10 acres or 20 acres would provide greater flexibility for selling the property. But St. Mathias Township opposed the change in zoning from the 35 minimum of ag land down to smaller rural residential portions.
The county received a petition with 12 signatures noting there is active farming on three sides of the proposed rezoning. They spoke of wanting to preserve the integrity of the rural farm community in the county’s southern section, saying the smaller land parcels are not consistent with surrounding properties.
Tuesday, Commissioner Phil Trusty, who initiated the motion sending the zoning request back to the planning commission, said it wasn’t a move against the property owners. Trusty said he was concerned not all the information was presented for a key decision, specifically the township’s comprehensive plan, when the planning commission made its first decision.
Trusty said he hoped any board member would be willing to step back and pause to rethink something if they didn’t have all the information. The county has since received a copy of the township’s plan.
Commissioner Paul Thiede said he rejected the argument township officials didn’t have an opportunity to comment but chose to do so at the last minute. Thiede described it as a delaying tactic.
Chairman Doug Houge questioned if the rezoning request could go back to the board at its next meeting, bypassing the planning commission for speed.
Trusty’s motion to bring the issue back to the board at its first meeting in August died for lack of a second. Thiede’s motion to have the rezoning request added to Tuesday’s agenda for immediate reconsideration also died for lack of a second. Houge was left wondering what the board wanted to do.
Trusty said he’d like to give the land department time to prepare. Houge said waiting would also give St. Mathias Township supervisors a chance to attend and respond.
Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom said she was sympathetic to the landowners’ desire to move quickly but said there was a bigger issue here and she was reluctant to fast-track anything.
Thiede said he’d agree if there was anything new to consider, but there wasn’t. If the township chose not to weigh in earlier, Thiede said they must be sound asleep and he feared for their ability to wake up. Thiede characterized the township as coming in at the last minute without bringing its comprehensive plan for review.
Administrator Tim Houle reminded the board the township didn’t bring its concerns up at the last minute as officials attended earlier meetings at each stage and expressed their concerns. Houle said the township supervisors thought the county had a copy of its comprehensive plan on file.
Chris Pence, land services supervisor, said the department does listen to and wants input from townships. Pence said the township could have known from looking on the county’s website that its comprehensive plan wasn’t listed. The township plan is trumped by the county, unless the township handles its own zoning.
Without a new motion to change the dates, the original motion stood, meaning the issue will be back to the county board on Sept. 11.
In other business, the board:
Agreed with Trusty’s suggestion for a joint meeting with the county’s planning commission/board of adjustment to talk about policies.
Houge asked what the discussion topic would be. Trusty was looking for a broad discussion. Nystrom supported the idea but said she’d like to see an agenda. Trusty said he’d come back with ideas.
Heard a request from Lake Edward Township regarding help with beaver dams in Ditch 13 was on hold as they were working with the Thirty Lakes Watershed District on a possible solution using the Clemson Levelers, which work by tricking beaver regarding running water cues so they don’t have the instinct for dam building.
Met in two closed sessions, one for threatened and pending litigation and a second session for Houle’s performance evaluation.