BAXTER — In a split vote, the Baxter City Council approved a three-month extension on a moratorium for residential building without garages.
In April, the council passed a six-month temporary moratorium to develop regulations regarding garage requirements in residential districts. That moratorium was set to expire Oct. 17.
Baxter staff reported a study of other cities, conducted a public hearing on a draft ordinance amendment and sought more information from the League of Minnesota Cities. A stumbling block came as the city was asked to consider how a proposed ordinance would affect housing lending program eligibility. With the extension, the moratorium is slated to expire Jan. 17, 2013, but could be ended earlier. Any applicant or permit into the city by April 17 was not affected by the moratorium.
The city staff noted in recent years more apartment buildings or multi-unit residential buildings were constructed in the city and, until recently, all included garages or underground parking. Garages weren’t required by city ordinance.
As recent housing developments came in without garages, the city council had an extensive conversation in April, with Mayor Darrel Olson and council members Todd Holman and Jim Klein in favor of the ordinance and Rob Moser opposed. The city’s planning and zoning commission unanimously recommended garages should be required with all residences.
Tuesday, Council member Mark Cross, who was absent at the spring meeting, said he wasn’t in favor of extending the moratorium and didn’t think it was the place of the city to tell people how many garages they should have.
“I don’t see any reason to kick it around for another three months,” Klein said.
Cross said some housing developments such as Grand Oaks have a single-vehicle garage with each units and if two-stall garages are required some housing won’t be feasible. Cross said he wasn’t sure if it was the city’s place to ensure everyone has a garage.
“I think we’re over regulating when it comes to telling folks what that are going to build,” Cross said.
Cross, who works at Kuepers Construction in Baxter, comes from a building background.
Klein said he didn’t care if a residential home included a garage, but wanted room left to build one if that changed in the future. And Klein said he strongly believed apartment buildings should have garages.
Olson said the council did have a long discussion on the issue at the meeting Cross missed and said to step back from having garages with the residential building is a step backward for the city.
“I don’t think three months is going to hurt anything,” Olson said, adding the financial information the city was looking for was good to include to ensure the proposed ordinance wasn’t penalizing anyone.
Moser said he was torn on the matter as people who may want to speak on the issue didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting thinking the moratorium extension was a matter-of-fact motion, not a whole discussion of the ordinance. Holman said he was in favor of extending the moratorium in order to have that full discussion.
The council voted 3-2 with Cross and Moser opposed.
In other business, the council:
■ Awarded a timber harvesting contract to Sawyer Timber.
■ Approved purchasing three 800 megahertz communications systems for $2,586 using drug forfeiture funds. Klein said he didn’t want his comments to be considered anti-police. Klein questioned why the city of Baxter should subsidize others when they don’t contribute to taxes in Baxter.
“People in Unorganized Territory are getting a free ride,” Klein said.
He said the city has better ways to spend money than to subsidize other cities in the lakes area. Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said the equipment will be used by the tactical team but the majority of use will be by Baxter officers.
The motion passed. Klein opposed.
■ Looked at sketch plan for Woodland Office Park planned unit development, hearing the proposal is to end the planned unit development on an undeveloped area that was approved in 1996 and re-plat it to a traditional lot and block development with city streets and utilities ending the association and common area to create three separate lots. The plan will be reviewed by the city.