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Planning & Zoning, dog pound and park on city council agenda

The city of Grand Marais met on Wednesday, May 12 and went through an agenda filled with planning and zoning requests and matters related to animals.

The city review a request for a conditional use permit from Sandra Paddock and Thomas Kintop to convert their property, the Bally House B&B from a seasonal bed and breakfast to a building with a dual purpose. Half of the building will be their residence and half will be converted to year-round studio apartment rental units for local workers.

The planning commission approved the request unanimously and the city followed suit, noting that the change in operation was more in compliance with surrounding residential properties.

The council also approved a variance requested by Susan Westerlind for a new deck on her residence on Broadway Avenue. The council noted there was one comment, in favor of the variance. Councilor Mike Garry also noted that the deck was replacing one that was there previously.

The last Planning & Zoning matter was a request for rezoning from Hamilton Habitat. The housing nonprofit asked for a zoning change from commercial industrial to residential for the property that is now Viking Plumbing, to allow the development of housing.

The matter was approved by Grand Marais Planning & Zoning but was contingent on city staff contacting the adjacent commercial property owners to find out their position on the rezoning, as it would change the setback for any buildings on their lots. There is a required 50-foot setback on commercial lots next to residential, so the change would make the two existing commercial structures non-conforming. The neighboring property owner asked the city to not make the zoning change.

Realtor Steve Bragg, who is facilitating the sale of Viking Plumbing to Hamilton Habitat, was attending the Zoom meeting and asked if there was another way to allow the development of housing without rezoning. He asked, could it be allowed as a conditional use permit or variance?

Anna Hamilton, representing the nonprofit, asked if there were some way to reduce the setback requirement, to make it less impactful.

City Attorney Chris Hood said the city could not grant a variance but could consider an amendment to the commercial zoning regulations. However, he added that would mean changing that lot setback for all city commercial properties abutting residential lots.

Noting the need for housing in the city of Grand Marais, Mayor Jay DeCoux said he would like to send the request back to the Planning Commission to see if they can find a way to make this happen.

Attorney Hood cautioned that a decision has to be made within 60 days of the rezoning request. The council had to approve or deny within that timeframe. Or, he said, the applicant can withdraw the zoning request.

Hamilton said she could appreciate where the neighboring property owners were coming from. She said she didn’t want to cause them problems. However, she asked the council to try to find a way to make this possible. She said she personally feels commercial property is less important than residential at this time.

After a bit more discussion, Hamilton agreed to withdraw the rezoning request, with the understanding that the city would continue to try to find a way to make the proposal for housing feasible.

Dog Park gets go ahead
Cathy Quinn of Go Dog North Shore, a local nonprofit, and County Commissioner Dave Mills were at the meeting to seek city approval to move ahead on the proposed off-leash dog exercise area included in the Sawtooth Bluff Master Plan.

Commissioner Mills and City Councilor Anton Moody both serve on the county’s Parks and Trails Commission and both said they were excited to see some part of the Sawtooth Bluff Master Plan getting underway. The proposed site is at the corner of the Gunflint Trail and 5th Avenue West, almost directly across from the Sawtooth Saddle Club horse arena.

Quinn said the Go Dog North Shore group was not seeking any funding from the city. She said the nonprofit will raise the funds to do the minimal development needed to create a one-acre area for off-leash dogs. But, she said the group cannot seek funds without having the space designated for that use.

After some discussion of the city/county agreement for managing the Sawtooth Bluffs area, the council voted to show support for Go Dog North Shore’s plan to develop a dog park on the city’s property.

Location still being sought for dog pound
Councilor Moody shared information from the recent Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority meeting about the potential use of a lot in the Cedar Grove Business Park. Moody said the EDA might consider allowing the use of a lot that is less desirable for a business because it is mostly wetlands. Moody said the EDA is not opposed to having the pound in the business park, but the EDA board wanted more information. A particular concern for the EDA is how the city will handle the special assessment that goes to the city with each lot sale.

City Administrator Mike Roth said there are preliminary plans drawn up for the dog pound building. He said the city could put together a proposal with building information, the potential location on a lot, and information on the special assessment for the next EDA meeting.

The other locations considered—near the county highway garage and near the Grand Marais Public Utilities building were also discussed as alternatives.

Stormwater management assistance requested
David Berner, owner of the vacant lot between Java Moose and the Harbor Inn, and Jeremy Chase, owner of Harbor Inn, were at the meeting with a request for assistance in connecting to the city’s stormwater system to reduce flooding of their shared parking area.

Berner explained that they have been working with Northland Engineers on a stormwater plan that would connect to the city’s 2nd Street stormwater. They asked for city approval to make that connection during the Highway 61 construction.

However, Mayor DeCoux told Berner and Chase that the city had abandoned that section of stormwater. Chase said that was the Northland Engineering preferred connection, but he said he would be willing to look at other options if the city would work with them.

The council made no commitment but said Berner and Chase should speak with the city’s engineers to see if a solution can be found.

In other business, City Administrator Roth distributed the previous list of city council priorities. Councilors will review the priorities and discuss at a future meeting.

The city council also approved the hiring recommendations for seasonal help at the Grand Marais Recreation Park. Wayne Morrison was hired as a park maintenance worker and Reuben Youngdahl, Jessen Conlan, and Jake Mixdorf were hired as washroom custodians.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Mayor Jay DeCoux about the actions taken at the meeting. Here’s that conversation.