Council explained voting ‘yes’ does not approve any development plans
By Kristen Miller
INDEPENDENCE, MN An approval by the Independence City Council to rezone 23 acres along Highway 12 and County Line Road from agricultural to commercial/industrial caused a packed council chamber to empty abruptly.
In what was said to be an issue of time for Ryan Companies, a Twin Cities-area developer seeking to build a commercial development in that area, a decision was made on a 4 to 1 vote by the council with Council Member Lynn Betts voting against the request, saying it was the right purpose, but not the right time.
Before the vote was made, Tony Barranco representing Ryan Companies, gave a short presentation on what voting “yes” or voting “no” would do for the project.
Barranco told the council that approving to amend the comprehensive use plan did not involve any risk because the council wouldn’t be approving the project, only the rezoning of the land.
However, denying the request for rezoning could delay the project up to 18 months.
By voting yes, Ryan Companies could begin the master planning, kick-off the traffic study, and continue the storm water management plan with the City of Delano all at the expense of the developer.
The question for the council was whether or not they wanted commercial on the property, not if they wanted Ryan Companies to build on that land.
A motion to rezone was made by council member Lindsay Wallace and seconded by council member Lance Gyllenblad. Before the actual vote, Mayor Marvin Johnson asked if the council thought any comments by the audience should be taken.
Wallace explained the topic of rezoning this area has been talked about since 2001.
“It makes sense,” Wallace said of rezoning the property.
Council Member Norm Wenck made the comment that the issue has been discussed in length when they met as a group, everyone seemed to be for it.
Wenck added that if there were to be any commercial development of any kind, this would be the place to do it.
Since a public hearing already took place at the planning commission’s meeting, and with the numerous e-mails, phone calls, and letters the council members received prior to the Tuesday meeting, it was decided no comments by the audience would be taken.
Betts suggested the council wait until the new Comprehensive Land Use Plan was developed saying, “I would promote it, but not at this time.”
At that moment, one side of the room broke out in applause, which the mayor quickly stifled. Johnson explained that residents complain the city doesn’t have enough industrialization, but then are criticized for going forth with it.
Though Betts opposed, the vote needed a supermajority, and the request to rezone the land was approved.
The Independence Planning Commission reviewed the same request at its meeting Oct. 20, and voted 4 to 0 to deny the request, noting it was a requested amendment on the city’s 2020 comprehensive plan not the city’s 2030 plan, which is still under review.
Planning Commission Chairman Brad Spencer abstained from the vote, noting after the meeting that he abstained because he personally doesn’t see a problem with the amendment.
“It’s more procedural,” he said.
Now with city council approval, the amendment of the comprehensive land use plan will be submitted to the Metropolitan Council for review and approval.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• heard from representatives from Northern Natural Gas requesting for a conditional use permit to construct an above-ground facility called a “pig launcher.”
The “pig launcher” is an internal inspection device which is required by federal law as part of the Natural Pipeline Safety Act adopted after Sept. 11, 2001.
Internal inspections for abnormalities in the pipeline is required in all “high consequence areas” to prevent mass casualties.
This pipeline, located on the property of Joe Kittok on County Line Road is near a church. The number of parishioners at this church, and the proximity to the pipeline, makes it a high consequence area.
The council approved the conditional use permit with the wording to include a 50-foot-by-80-foot fence off of the right of way.