The Highway 371 Moratorium Task Force got back on track Thursday -- getting a few steps closer to meeting its May 9 deadline.
Members agreed on how far back structures should be from the highway for future development. A 120-foot setback will be required from the existing 371 right-of-way, but only if there is no planned or existing frontage roads. If there are frontage roads proposed along the highway, a structure in that area will be required to have a 40-foot setback from that future road.
George Orning, area planner, said if a proper setback is not set it could hurt businesses. For example -- a business owner follows the setback requirements and constructs its parking lot in the front of the structure. A few years later a frontage road is planned to be constructed right in front of that business along the highway. If the setback is not large enough the parking lot will have to be removed and placed on another side.
Orning also said the traffic count on Highway 371 is increasing and it could go to a six-lane highway, which would also effect setbacks.
Al Cottingham, Brainerd city planner, said the best way for the task force to go is to establish a setback and leave it as that.
"If people knew 20 years ago what we know now, you wouldn't have put parking in the front," he said. "We'll all be shooting ourselves in the foot if you allow it (parking in the front)."
He also said South Sixth Street in Brainerd has an 85-foot right-of-way and that is sufficient. A 100-foot right-of-way would be an overkill, Cottingham said.
The task force agreed the setbacks should be adequate.
Rick Skogen of Cragun's Lodge and Conference Center and a task force member, said he agreed with most of the setbacks the group made, but did not vote in favor of it.
"I want to put my parking lot where I want to," he said. "I can wait for five to six years to establish my business and when a frontage road does come along I'll move it. I like it (parking lot) in front so customers have easy access."
Task force member Stephen Frank of Morey's has the parking lot in front and it has been that way for 20 years. He said he also likes the lot in that location.
Changes on Highway 371 have already started affecting businesses. Mary Safgren of the Minnesota Department of Transportation said businesses along the highway, where the overpass construction will be built, have to reorientate their property to abide by the setback requirements.
The task force also agreed to a structure height of 45 feet, the same as Baxter's ordinance and approved the appearance restrictions on structures to be the same as Crosslake's ordinance.
"Crosslake has been following it and it has been working," said Orning. "No one has had any problems with the appearance of any of the buildings."
Ed Larsen, Crow Wing County commissioner and vice chair of the task force, agreed Crosslake's ordinance is working and added that the appearance of buildings is just as important as the landscape. Building sides that face 371, county or state roads must have a "more attractive visual appearance with the purpose of preserving an atmosphere consistent with the rural northwoods character".
The task force discussed lighting standards and will talk with experts next week. However, members are leaning toward provisions similar to Crosslake's ordinance. once again. Those restrictions area also what the League of Minnesota Cities recommends.
Part of the lighting requirements is how it would be turned down at night. Todd Holman, Baxter planner, said the biggest problem with lighting at night is with convenience stores. The lights on the canopy above the gas pumps are bright and shoot straight out to the highway without being shielded.
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