WORTHINGTON — A variance request that would allow a property owner to build a 42 feet by 8 feet addition onto his garage was denied Tuesday night by the Worthington Planning Commission.
Daryle Albersman of Elmwood Avenue submitted a variance request to allow an encroachment of 8 feet into the required 10-foot side yard setback on his property. Albersman’s current garage sits 10 feet off the southern property line and meets all current required setbacks. He has stated that he plans to remove the shed in the backyard if the expanded garage was granted
The side setback can’t be reduced because of lot width, as is the case in some other residential districts in the city, Worthington City Planner Jeremiah Cromie explained. Albersman could build a separate detached garage in the backyard that could be as close as 3 feet away from the southern property line and 6 feet away from the principal building — which in this case would be the house with the attached garage. He stated that he doesn’t want to do this, however, because it would alter the view of the golf course for his neighbor.
Cromie noted that Albersman circulated a petition to neighbors asking consent for him to build within 2 feet of the property lines. Only one owner, Pearl Aaker — directly south of the applicant — checked the box and signed the petition, saying she was not objecting to the applicant building within the required setback, Cromie said.
“While staff appreciates the applicant’s letter of hardship regarding wanting to keep cars off the street and provide a better view for his neighbor to the golf course, staff finds that the applicant does not meet the second factor in the three-factor state test in that the property is not unique and therefore recommends denial of the variance request,” Cromie told Planning Commission members. “Staff has concerns that a dangerous precedent would be set that would undermine the zoning ordinance in allowing such a variance when the applicant could build a bigger garage within current setbacks on the property.”
Amy Ernst, who represents the Worthington City Council on the commission, sided with Albersman during discussion.
“He’s trying to be a good steward to his neighbors,” Ernst said. “Commonsense-wise, it just makes perfect sense in my head in understanding what he’s trying to do.”
Albersman, who was in attendance Tuesday, noted that two other Elmwood Avenue neighbors “had it (variances) approved for them, and I’ve seen every area of town where there’s been an allowance to do that.”
Cromie wasn’t moved by mention of the previous Elmwood Avenue variances along Elmwood Avenue, stating they were “not the greatest decisions from a staff perspective.”
Later in the discussion, a representative for Aaker asked Planning Commission members to deny the variance.
“We believe that she was in her right frame of mind,” Albersman countered about Aaker. “I wasn’t trying to slide anything under the table.”
Ben Weber, the commission’s new chair following Chris Kielblock’s election to the city council, pointed out that the Elmwood Avenue variances passed previously wouldn’t meet today’s standard.
“I agree with staff recommendations on this one,” Weber said.
The motion to deny the variance was approved on a 4-2 vote. Weber, Mark Vis, Amy Woitalewicz and newcomer Drew Hagen — who is filling the remainder of Kielblock’s term on the commission — voted for denial, while Andy Berg and Ernst were opposed.
In another matter Tuesday, planning commission members took part in an approximately 50-minute discussion on the city of Worthington’s request for a mostly residential subdivision to be known as Cecilee Addition. The 11.29-acre tract of land, owned by the city and located east of Grand Avenue and west of the existing Cecilee Street, would create 19 lots for residential development, one lot for the existing movie theater site and one for a filtration pond, as shown by a preliminary plat exhibited by Cromie.
Much of the conversation regarding the subdivision concerned a consensus opinion among members of the commission that a park be included as part of the plan. It’s now anticipated that the matter will be discussed further in a city council planning session scheduled to take place Jan. 20.
Cromie also told commissioners that the terms of Planning Commission members Rhina Resendez and Amy Woitalewicz are both expiring in March, and new commission members are being recruited. Interested individuals are encouraged to contact Cromie at City Hall (372-8640) or find the recruitment flyer at http://www.ci.worthington.mn.us/community-development.