Concerned residents of the Tyrol Hills neighborhood filled Brainerd City Hall during the Brainerd City Council meeting Monday night, voicing objections to Justin Imgrund’s application for a conditional use permit for an automotive sales and service business on Washington and Northwest Second streets.
Imgrund originally applied for conditional use permits to put in an automotive sales and service business and a variance for less green space than required for the undeveloped lot on Washington and Northwest Second streets just west of the Mississippi River during an Aug. 9 Brainerd planning and zoning commission meeting. The lot, near Ace Hardware, has been home to Balsam Lane’s Christmas tree sales each winter and abuts the Tyrol Hills residential area.
The planning and zoning commission approved the application by a 3-2 vote for the site plan and a 4-1 vote in approval of the variance from the green space although survey work on the site had yet to be completed. The commission’s recommendation for approval was brought to the council Monday night.
Jeremy Johnson, a resident of Tyrol Hills, said he spoke on behalf of the neighborhood, citing a petition that residents signed prior to the planning and zoning commission and a letter written.
“You have my letter and you have our petition and we just want what’s best for the community and what’s best for our neighborhood,” said Johnson. “And we feel an automotive shop is not a good idea.”
Johnson also raised the question as to why the zoning presented Monday night showed the lot as B4, when the residents were under the impression that it was zoned under B2. Council member Bob Olson, raised the question to Brainerd City Planner Mark Ostgarden as to what happened with the confusion of the rezone. The property had previously been zoned as an R1 residential before rezoning.
Ostgarden said no official motion was made during the planning and zoning commission meeting for the lot to be zoned as B2, and instead the commission approved the map in its entirety with the lot shown as B4.
Olson said he was bothered by it being zoned as B4 and not B2, and was then in turn voting against the application for the permit.
“It is what it,” said Ostgarden. “It got published as B4 and was approved as B4 so that is what we’re going to go with. We can talk about this all night but that’s what it was approved as.”
The property is currently zoned for general business, which allows auto sales and repair.
Ostgarden said the recommendation for approval comes to the council with a list of more than a dozen conditions to be followed. Conditions include creating an 8-foot fence on the north side of the property toward the residential area, with the five property owners along that side able to work out what looks acceptable.
Imgrund said he doesn’t think he is asking for anything extraordinary.
“I’m not asking for anything out of the ordinary or anything special,” said Imgrund. “We (he and his wife Katie) intend on following the ordinance every step of the way from our building plans to our site plans to runoff landscaping. We are in full agreement and total compliance. I am just trying to move our business to Brainerd and I think it will be a good thing for everybody.”
Imgrund’s business, Imgrund Motor Service Center, is currently in Baxter, where issues between the business and the city arose in 2010.
Further concerns were raised by citizens, noting that the neighborhood only has one way in and one way out and that a used car lot would not be the best entrance, potentially lowering residents property value.
Council President Mary Koep said she understands emotions run high in situations like this, but she wanted to remind the public that they not only need to take into consideration the residents, but also what is right for businesses, too.
Council also was made aware that there are legal bindings in their approval or denial of the application. Brainerd City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick — who came to the meeting late following a Brainerd School Board meeting also Monday night — said when a conditional use is requested, the use proposed is a permitted use under the zoning ordinance if it is properly regulated.
“It may not be suitable in every use but in circumstances it can be approved if you can regulate it with the conditions in this particular circumstance,” said Fitzpatrick. “Whether you approve or deny, you have to be able to articulate the reasoning so if this gets challenged later in court, they will understand your reasoning, why you took the action you did ultimately take ... If you believe all the relevant factors, that you can’t come up with conditions, you have to explain why and what the difficulties are or you can grant it by adopting conditions you feel are sufficient.”
Council member Bonnie Cumberland made a motion to postpone and readdress the permit at the end of the September when conditions can be looked at and a possible compromise can be looked at. The motion was approved 5-2 with Olson and Koep voting no.
Olson then made a motion to ask the planning and zoning commission to look at rezoning B4 to B2. Cumberland responded to Olson’s motion, saying that it isn’t fair to the Imgrund’s to rezone and ask them to adhere to a new set of conditions in a new zone. Fitzpatrick clarified that Olson’s motion will only be for the future and would not include the Imgrund’s application. The motion failed 5-2 with Olson and council member Kelly Bevans voting in favor. Also on the table in regards to the Imgrund’s request of a variance for less green space which the council agreed to also postpone further discussion on.