The Park Rapids Planning Commission on Monday, Nov. 13, reviewed the Hubbard County Food Shelf’s requests and recommended for a second time that the City Council deny them.
On Sept. 18, the commission recommended the City Council deny a request to amend the comprehensive plan and future land use map for a residential parcel at the northwest corner of East Avenue N. and Charles Street for a commercial use of land where the food shelf was seeking to relocate. They then refused to consider a request to rezone the lot from R-1 single-family residential to B-1 highway business.
At its Sept. 26 meeting, the city council returned both requests to the planning commission for reconsideration, suggesting they consider rezoning the lot to a transitional residential-business RB, with or without a comprehensive plan amendment.
City Planner Ben Oleson said that option would provide more protection from future commercial uses than B-1 zoning. He said in a RB district, the food shelf could fall under a “comprehensive” conditional use for “other residential, institutional or government services,” at the discretion of the planning commission and after a public hearing.
During a hearing on the comprehensive plan/future land use map amendment, neighboring resident Christina Carrier presented a petition signed by 39 neighborhood residents opposing the introduction of commercial uses in their residential neighborhood.
She also challenged the legality of the “site zoning,” whether the food shelf would qualify as an “institutional service” in the RB district, and the food shelf’s claim that there were no other lots available.
Carrier urged the food shelf to look at other parcels already zoned for commercial use and suggested the city waive special assessments on a tax-forfeited parcel. She disputed many of the food shelf’s claims, including the distance measurements and their refusal to allow customers to park on the street.
Carrier said the food shelf’s hours and the resulting traffic will increase as demand grows. She expressed concern about safety in the neighborhood, especially for children.
Stressing that opponents appreciate the food shelf’s services to the community, Carrier said their concern is “about this city’s promise to its constituents that when we choose to live in an apartment complex, we don’t have to worry about it being arbitrary changed, contrary to the promises of the city and the law.”
She discussed the impact on property values, the city’s inability to control what type of business could follow the food shelf at that location and the precedent it would set to “open up every residential lot to potential business use.”
Bob Hansen, executive director of the food shelf, emphasized the time his board spent looking for properties to serve its purpose. He responded to some of Carrier’s claims of misrepresentation and said the city has always collected special assessments on previously foreclosed land.
When Hansen began to discuss financial challenges, committee member Scott Hocking stopped him. Hocking said the planning commission could not take the applicant’s financial hardship into consideration.
Neighborhood resident David Carrier added more arguments against rezoning the lot. Noting that residential plot is cheaper than commercial plot, he said there are commercial plots.
David claims that rising grocery prices and property values mean there will be an increased need for the food shelf and that their hours will increase. He said the increased foot traffic will lead to a call for sidewalks that will be appreciated by Charles Street residents.
“Each of you, if this was next to your house, would you want it there?” he said. “One of the people who signed this petition was the lady who lives next to MAHUBE and she said, ‘Please don’t allow this next to your house. You will regret it, with all the traffic.
Commission member Liz Stone said she sympathizes with the food shelf, but they have other options.
Hawking said you don’t need to put the food shelf in the desired location.
Stone described the residential neighborhoods as “precious” and opposed rezoning them, and other commission members agreed, with Joe Christensen cautioning against setting a precedent.
Hawking’s motion to reject the comprehensive plan/future land use map amendment passed 4-0.
recommendations of the Commission
In a separate hearing on the rezoning of the East Ave./Charles St. lot. to RB Hansen said the food shelf has no plans to increase its hours.
He asked for clarification on the transitional area rules in response to Katrina Carrier’s claim that the food shelf would not qualify.
Stone said they are not debating the use in the RB neighborhood, but whether to rezone the residential area to RB. However, Oleson called it a judgment call by the committee.
Stone said it would be a “safer bet” for the food shelf to find a spot already zoned in RB.
Oleson added that they may also seek a B-1 or I-1 industrial package.
Lou Eichens of Affinity Real Estate said there aren’t as many lots in the city as people think, and it’s not easy for realtors to find what people need. She described several lots that are not served by water or sewer and said the city is “bursting at the seams.”
Stone later commented that Eichens had raised a legitimate concern that the commission might want to look into in the future.
Stone’s motion to deny the rezoning request passed 4-0 based on a finding that the request was inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.
Oleson said both recommendations will be presented at the Nov. 28 city council meeting.