WORTHINGTON — A request that would allow a Worthington homeowner an encroachment of 6.5 feet into the required 8-foot side yard setback on his property was turned down during Tuesday night’s Worthington Planning Commision meeting.

Logan Ahlers, who resides at 217 Lake Ave., was seeking the variance to construct a 10.5-foot by 16-foot addition to his garage. Acting in the capacity of the Zoning Board of Appeals, board members voted 3-2 to deny the variance.

The board’s action followed an explanation from City Planner Jeremiah Cromie as to why city staff didn’t recommend the variance’s approval.

“Staff has some concerns if the variance were to be approved, it could undermine the city’s ability to administrate the City’s Zoning Ordinance, as other homeowners with slight topographic changes within the floodplain could request variances to setbacks,” Cromie said.

Planning Commission Member Ben Weber, who made the motion to deny the request, asked Ahlers — who attended the meeting via Zoom — to elaborate on the hardship that resulted in his asking for a variance. However, Cromie noted in his explanation of the request to board members that Ahlers had alternatives that would meet setback requirements without seeking a variance.

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“Using the floodplain as a basis (for the variance request) gives me a lot of concern,” Weber said.

Planning Commission Member Amy Ernst, meanwhile, noted the nature of Ahlers’ property in voting against Weber’s motion. The property could possibly be considered unique, Cromie noted, “due to a slight slope and frequent flooding that is not caused by the landowner.” The property’s shared driveway is also a unique feature, it was stated.

Chris Kielblock, the board’s chairman, explained at the conclusion of both a public hearing and board discussion that he would vote against granting the variance.

“You can see it both ways, but I guess I would go with staff’s recommendation,” Kielblock said. “At this point, personally, I just don’t know if the ultimate need for a variance is there.”

Board members Weber, Kielblock and Amy Woitalewicz voted to deny the request, while Ernst and Mark Vis opposed the motion.

Cromie said Ahlers has seven days to appeal the planning board’s decision to the Worthington City Council. The council would then need to approve the variance request by a four-fifths margin to move forward.

In another matter Tuesday, the commission tabled a request from Independent School District 518 for a conditional use permit (CUP) to develop its new intermediate school along the west side of North Crailsheim Drive. Construction of the new school received approval from district voters last year.

The commission opted to wait on the CUP as it awaits the completion of traffic study pertaining to the site.

“For me, the traffic is the huge question that has to be answered before the decision is made, so I’m totally in favor of tabling it until the next meeting,” Weber said.

A motion to table the District 518 CUP request was approved unanimously. The public hearing on it, however, technically remains open, and individuals with comments and questions may submit them until 5 p.m. Sept 1. These can be sent to Cromie via email at jcromie@ci.worthington.mn.us, phone at 372-8640 or mail at City of Worthington Community Development, P.O. Box 279, Worthington 56187.

In other action, the commission:

  • Discussed potential changes to the city’s off-street parking requirements. Cromie said the city had last updated its required off-street parking requirements in 1997.

“The city’s current requirements have pushed away some people from opening businesses here because there is simply not enough space on a lot to provide the required parking for their business,” Cromie said. “This is typically found with retail/commercial uses especially along Oxford Street with already developed lots.

“The other complaint staff has received is that their business will come nowhere close to using all of the required parking by the city,” he added. “While there are some ways like joint uses to reduce the number of required stalls, staff has found that it may be a good time to review and start discussing off-street parking requirements.”

No action was taken on the matter, as Cromie said he will continue to work on the matter and ultimately present some type of proposal before the commission,

“I’d welcome some recommendations that we could respond to,” Woitalewicz said,

  • Discussed, but took no action, on a potential revision of permitted and conditional uses allowed within the city’s bioscience park. Cromie said the city has had difficulty getting businesses to locate in the bioscience park, and that it may be worth reconsidering acceptable land uses within the property.