Despite pleas from neighboring residents, a stipulation that a buffer of trees be planted at a proposed convenience store and gas station in northeast Brainerd won't be included in the conditional use permit.
The Brainerd City Council Monday, by a 4-3 vote, defeated an amendment to the conditional use permit application that a buffer, either trees or a berm with the size to be determined by city staffers and neighbors, would be required to shield noise and light from neighboring residences. The council, by a 4-3 vote, then approved the permit.
City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick said while it was proper for the city council to take into consideration the neighbors concerns, zoning wasn't a popularity contest and shouldn't depend upon the neighbors' approval. He said consideration should be made only if it affects public health, safety or welfare.
"It's fine and appropriate to be sensitive to the neighbors interests and concerns, but you don't want to go further than that," said Fitzpatrick.
Voting for the amendment -- and against the CUP -- were council members Anne Nelson Fisher, Mary Koep and Bob Olson.
"It's a residential neighborhood it's abutting. They deserve some consideration," said Koep, who felt the issue did in fact deal with the public health, safety and welfare.
Council President Jim Dehen said a vote against the amendment doesn't mean the council can't revisit the issue. He pointed to one of the conditions of the conditional use permit, which stated the city reserves the right to add, delete or amend the conditions if health, safety or welfare conditions warrant.
"We have the statutory authority to readdress that," said Dehen. "We won't know until we see how it works."
The convenience store/gas station is proposed on 14th Street Northeast near Lum Park.
Dean Gangelhoff, who lives adjacent to the site of the proposed gas station, said concerns of neighbors were not only with vehicle lights shining in windows, but also about increased traffic and noise as well as a concern about aesthetics. He said the council shouldn't wait and see what problems might arise.
"You don't need proof, it's common sense," said Gangelhoff.
Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc expressed concerns about putting a barrier of trees around a convenience store/gas station, and any plan would have to be carefully considered.
"The lack of physical barriers is important from our perspective," said Bolduc. "If you physically isolate it, it becomes a 'stop and rob,' and that's not good for the neighborhood either."
Greg Welna, who applied for the conditional use permit to build the convenience store/gas station, said because of the site elevation he doubted vehicle lights would be shining into homes.
He also questioned why more conditions were being considered for his application.
"We've got a B4 (general business) zone, we've got a permitted use. If you don't want a B4 there, why don't you change the zoning?" asked Welna. "I want to put a station there. I want to put a station there we can all be happy with."
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