Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - December 22, 2004

Union Grove Township continues work on zoning

By Michael Jacobson

Work continues in Union Grove Township - whose board of supervisors passed an interim zoning ordinance in October - on researching zoning issues with the goal of preserving the "rural character" of the township in the face of expected increasing development pressure.

The board of supervisors discussed zoning issues for two hours at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 14, without taking any formal action.

The township intends to be more active in zoning, said clerk Loren Pearson, with the goal of preserving the rural character of the township in the face of increasing development pressure. "At this stage of the game, it's not our intent to take over zoning in Union Grove Township," said Pearson. "That would be a huge undertaking. It's not out of the realm of possibility, but it would be better to work with the county."

In October, the township board passed an interim ordinance that subdivisions in the township (unless the lots are five acres in size or larger); new junkyards or salvage yards (with more than six unlicensed vehicles); any industrial facility for the storage of hazardous waste or demolition of any waste; any tire recycling facility (capable of processing more than one ton of tires per day); and new commerical gravel pits or rock quarries (exceeding 20 acres in size).

This interim ordinance is in effect until the end of September 2005, giving the township time to research zoning issues, work with the county to improve the zoning currently done through the county, or to explore other options for the township. The interim ordinance could be extended by the township board.

In November, local developer Dan Binsfeld and supporters protested at a township public hearing that the interim ordinance unfairly targets his proposed 30-acre development in Union Grove Township. His property was rezoned as R-2 by the county in November, but the platting has been stopped by the township's interim ordinance.

Township resident Pam VanderBeek - a neighbor to Binsfeld's proposed development, whose own property is zoned R-2 - told the township board last week that R-1 and R-2 are too dense with too many people, too many dogs, too much noise, and not keeping with the rural character of the township. This density would be like "moving the city suburb" to the township, she said.

VanderBeek was concerned, too, that the current county zoning map for Union Grove Township appears incomplete, especially in regard to a number of smaller lots. This concerns her, she said, because the county used the standard in rezoning the Binsfeld property that it borders R-2 and therefore should be entitled to the same zoning.

This could lead to a host of additional rezoning in the township, she argued. And, using that standard, lots of areas in the township could be rezoned as R-2, and density could spread virtually unchecked.

Pearson agreed that the official county zoning map seemed "far from complete" and that the county planning commission saying "our hands our tied" and passing the rezoning on that basis was a cause for concern. Pearson later added that he was impressed by Binsfeld's knowledge of zoning and development and the thoroughness of his planned development. Currently, though, his lot sizes do not meet the size requirements (a minimum of five acres) in the township's interim ordinance, though Binsfeld has stated that he thinks the township should exempt his development from the moratorium.

Mary Behr Hahn, who lives in Paynesville Township but owns property in Union Grove Township, near the proposed development, asked if the township could continue to trust Meeker County to do zoning? The county, she said, had neglected the township in the past. The township, according to Pearson, will continue to research zoning issues and review the current county zoning ordinance. They hope to find common ground with the county and have time to do research, meet with other townships, and discuss zoning due to the interim ordinance.

The township has just begun researching and discussing zoning and have lots of questions, Pearson said, such as:

*What will the county do? Pearson and VanderBeek reported that the county is not eager for an R-5 zoning (meaning the minimum lot size would be five acres, instead of one acre in R-1 or two acres in R-2). The county thinks five acres is too big, said VanderBeek. This size, however, is the minimum in the township's interim ordinance and would better protect the township's rural character, proponents argue.

The county needs to offer more options for zoning, said Pearson. Currently, county zoning goes from R-1 and R-2 to A-40, with the only middle ground being a conservation ag zoning. While it may seem desirable to have only one house per 40 acres, it's probably not the coming reality, said Pearson.

But Meeker County and Union Grove Township don't have to reinvent the wheel, he added. They can learn from their neighbors, including Stearns County, which has already dealt with greater development and offers more zoning options.

*Where will development occur? Around lakes, on hills, by highways, near woods, said Pearson. So far, development has occurred mainly on the south side of Lake Koronis plus along some major roads in Union Grove Township. But, while reviewing the current zoning map for the township for discrepancies, the township will also need to identify areas suitable for development, including smaller lakes (West Lake, Lake Emma, and Whitney Lake) in the township, said Pearson.

Hahn objected to developments on hills, where everyone sees the houses, and VanderBeek asked the township board to also consider prohibiting billboards and adult entertainment in the township.

*What will Union Grove Township look like in 20 years?

"We certainly look at this as: 'What is Union Grove Township going to look like in 20 years?', and we need public input to do that," said Pearson, who said it had been surprisingly quiet following the zoning dispute.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community