Fairmont panel OKs variance for developer

FAIRMONT — One of the busiest intersections in Fairmont soon will have a new look, following action on Tuesday by the Fairmont Board of Zoning Appeals.

Kyle Smith of Tailwind Development, owner of 1023 E. Blue Earth Ave., requested a variance to allow the addition of 800 square feet to the former Papa Murphy’s building at the intersection of Blue Earth Avenue and State Street. Remodeling and expanding the building to the east will make room for two new tenants, AT&T Cell Phone Service and Shopko Optical.

Mike Humpal, city administrator, told the zoning board that the existing building was constructed as a gas station in 1991 with three variances in the rear, front and side yards. When the building was repurposed for commercial use when the gas station closed in 2015, the canopy was removed so the need for the front yard variance was eliminated.

The rear yard variance would remain the same, but a variance for a 5-foot side yard setback, in lieu of 10 feet, is needed for the addition.

“This lot was created before the existing zoning code was adopted about 1950 or before,” Humpal said. “The highway right-of-way does not allow the lot area to be used to its most efficient potential, causing a practical difficulty for any building expansion.”

He added that the variance request meets the three legal standards set forth by the state for consideration: the intended use of the property is reasonable; there are unique characteristics to the land, not personal preferences of the landowner, that create the circumstances; the resulting structure would be consistent with the surrounding area.

“Re-investing in the property should help the area,” Humpal said.

No one spoke against the variance at the public hearing, but Humpal did note that he received three calls, all in support of the project.

The board unanimously approved the variance.

Smith said he hoped to break ground Monday, or as soon as possible, on the addition.

In other business, the board welcomed Mike Klujeske and Holly Hazard as new members. They join Ron Davison, Rich Wolf, Mark Westcott and Kent Unke.