Council denies rezoning request

FAIRMONT– Several dozen residents were present at Monday evening’s Fairmont City Council meeting for a public hearing regarding rezoning a 93-acre parcel north of George Lake and west of Holland Street from R-1 single family residential to A agriculture transition. The property owner plans to develop a campground on the land, with the potential future expansion of residential housing and a restaurant.

On Aug. 2, the Fairmont Planning Commission held a public hearing and at that time recommended that the council rezone a portion of the property to agriculture transition as it allows some uses which are consistent with the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

During Monday’s meeting, Planning and Zoning Official, Peter Bode, said that staff recommend denial of the rezone request because agriculture transition is incompatible with the Comprehensive Plan and because the proposal is to split the lot into two zones, which should be done through a subdivisions process and not a rezone process. Bode has previously said that splitting parcels and having them zoned different is bad practice.

“If the rezone is denied tonight there is still a plausible path in order to end up in a future where a campground is developed. The most reasonable pathway… is to subdivide the land as provided in city code and rezone a portion of the land to B-1, where a Planned Unit Development (PUD) gives the Planning Commission and city council control over the design including streets and other items,” said Bode.

Brandon Edmundson, a local attorney representing the Carlson Walters Group, reminded the council that they originally suggested a B-1 neighborhood business rezoning, though the Planning Commission struck it down.

“The commission found that that was not in the best interest… they also said during that hearing and suggested that the Carlson Walters Group look at doing an ag zoning for a portion of the property where the campground would be and maybe leave the portion next to the existing neighborhood the way that it is,” Edmundson said.

He also acknowledged that the Carlson Walters Group would need a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) permit before a campground can happen.

“What are we discussing tonight from our perspective? It’s a zoning change. All that’s before you is an application to rezone property,” Edmundson said.

During the public hearing several people who reside in the neighborhood spoke out against the rezoning request. Residents have previously expressed concerns with the lack of accesses points to the proposed campground.

Once the public hearing closed, the council began discussions. City Administrator Cathy Reynolds said that the resolution included a condition that would require the property owners to get a survey and do a subdivision so the city can identify which portion of the property is being rezoned.

Reynolds said that staff recommends that the property be rezoned as B-1. While the Planning Commission denied it at a previous meeting, it suggested the B-1 be brought back for a portion of the parcel.

Council Member Britney Kawecki said she found a parcel of land in town that is comprised of several different zones. She asked City Attorney Mark Rahrick why that would be.

“I have not a clue what has occurred in the city of Fairmont in the past. I can only tell you what good practice is and in my opinion, bad practice in the past does not warrant continuing that bad practice,” Rahrick said.

Council Member Randy Lubenow asked what will happen if the proposal is brought back as a B-1 rezoning request.

“That is staff’s recommendation… Planning Commission wanted to see it as a portion of the parcel… we should have legal description, a subdivision on there,” Reynolds said.

Lubenow asked where a campground would fit under the B-1 zone. Bode said that they have process in the city code, a PUD, which would allow for a campground.

Kawecki, who is the Planning Commission liaison, said that she understood that the Planning Commission previously denied the B-1 proposal because it was too wide of a scope and that it never said it wanted to rezone a portion of the parcel.

“I think the resident complaints are valid… I would also like people to know that we as city should be listening to what everyone has to say, but we as a city should also be considering that growth and development is important,” Kawecki said.

She said whether or not someone is liked shouldn’t be considered. She reminded the council that the request is to rezone the land and that the property owners are meeting the criteria for it.

Council Member Bruce Peters disagreed and said the history of the developers should be considered.

“I have received random calls from different communities… that have talked about broken promises, unpaid bills, unpaid taxes from this group or offshoots of this group. That in my opinion is total justification of denying,” Peters said.

He said he would encourage the developers to sell their land here.

Lubenow asked what it takes to get a project done in Fairmont. He said he’s most concentred with the lack of housing in the city.

Council Member Michele Miller said she agreed.

“But if you’re a serious developer in any city, you need to follow the steps and work with city staff. I don’t have evidence that this is actually happening and I do believe every resident I’ve talked to… would be for the campground had all of this not happened,” Miller said, referring to past issues between the developers and nearby residents.

Peters made a motion to approve the resolution which denies the request. Council Member Wayne Hasek seconded the motion. The motion passed 3-2.

Lubenow asked what happens next. Reynolds said the next step is to recommend that the developers work with staff on a survey before a rezoning request for B-1 goes back to the Planning Commission.


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