Rezoning request for storage units denied

A request to rezone a parcel of land along Industrial Boulevard for the purpose of installing mini-storage units divided the planning commission and had the NYA City Council discussing the merits of previously made zoning decisions versus the possibility of bringing a new business to town on Monday, Oct. 22.

After considerable discussion and input from a variety of sources, the council voted 4-1 against rezoning the property at 31 Industrial Boulevard (located behind KleinBank), with the understanding that the matter could be raised again in the future.

The request to rezone the parcel came from property owners Lenny and Cindy Hilgers who, according to city documents, intended to sell the rezoned property to a second party for the construction of storage units. The property is currently part of the General Commercial district, along with the rest of the businesses along Faxon Road, but borders on the Business Industrial district, which comprises the rest of Industrial Boulevard with the exception of KleinBank.

A rezoning from the Business Commercial district to the Business Industrial district would have permitted the construction of new mini-storage units. A set of separately owned mini-storage units is located across the street from the parcel, and while those units do not conform to city zoning they have been allowed because they were in existence prior to the establishment of the zoning ordinances.

The owner of those existing units attended the meeting and addressed the council, explaining that he has 35 units and that if they are not 80-85 percent full he is breaking even or losing money. He added that he has been working to improve the condition and appearance of the storage units, which he ecently purchased from a previous owner. Since his units have rarely been completely filled, he argued that while he is not in favor of regulating another potential business, he did not believe there was a need for more storage units and the construction of more units could put him out of business.

Hilgers also addressed the council and said that he has owned the parcel since 1998, and the construction of storage units was the best use for the land at present. He rejected the idea that there is not enough demand for storage units in the area, noting that units in Plato and Waconia were all but full, and that of 111 units in Silver Lake only three were empty. Competition, he added, was good for businesses.

The matter had previously come before the planning commission, which split 3-3 on whether or not to rezone. Those in favor said it would add to the tax base and were wary of limiting opportunities for development, since in the words of Community Development Director Chelsea Alger the rezoning “would not change the character of nor create incompatible uses with the surrounding environment.”

Planning commission members opposed to the rezoning, however, said that putting storage units on the currently vacant lot would limit the development potential of the parcel, and that the parcel fit better into its current zone.

Due to the tie vote, the rezoning motion failed and the planning commission’s recommendation to the council was to deny the rezoning request.

Councilor Jim Keller explained that he is a voting member of the planning commission and he voted against the rezoning because the city has gone through a comprehensive zoning process that he didn’t believe should be disregarded.

On the other hand, Mayor Tina Diedrick said she supported the rezoning because it was a chance to invest in the community, because it was across the street from other storage units and because it was adjacent to a zoning district that allowed storage units.

“We need to be encouraging of new business,” she said. “We don’t want to limit business. Zoning needs to be flexible.”

Diedrick then made a motion to approve the rezoning, which died for lack of a second.

Councilor Carol Lagergren said she agreed with Diedrick, but also with Keller in that the planning commission had done its homework during the zoning process. She clarified that the matter could be brought up again in the future, and saying that possibility gave the council flexibility, she made a motion to follow the planning commission’s recommendation and deny the rezoning request.

That motion passed on a 4-1 vote, with Diedrick opposed.