The Saratoga Sun -

Spot zoning and mobile vending

Planning commission rehashes zoning change for proposed condominiums, movable businesses


April 12, Chuck Bartlett was back at the planning commission, hard hat in hand. Bartlett, the former Saratoga Town Engineer, was representing Triple D Construction at the commission meeting, as he had under similar circumstances a month ago at the commission’s March 8 meeting.

Triple D is considering purchasing a lot from Swanson Brothers on the West side of town. Before going through with the transaction, however, Bartlett and his firm wanted to test the waters at the planning commission to see how the panel would react to a request to change the zoning of the area. The area is currently reserved for retail business.

As Saratoga resident Cindy Bloomquist pointed out early in the proceedings, with no concrete proposal on the table “this is just a discussion with no vote or teeth.”

Because the owner of the parcel wasn’t present, Bloomquist said the conversation was hypothetical and premature.

The roughly 6.6 acre space sits west of 13th Street and east of County Road 385. The unpaved portion of Walnut Avenue forms the southern boundary of the lot, and if Elm Avenue were extended to the county road, that line would form the northern border of the property.

Under the proposal, 3.24 acres on the south side of the property would be zoned RD6000 for medium-density housing. That section would have several condominiums. The north 3.37 acres of property would be zoned as a light industrial area and feature a shop and office building, as well as “garage condominiums” that could be leased as storage space. The entire parcel is currently vacant, though it is zoned for retail business.

On suggestion of the commission, Triple D revised several aspects of the plan from the original version put forward March 8. In the original plans, a street connects the residential zone to Walnut Avenue and Elm Avenue does not connect to the county road. In the April 12 iteration, the road linking the condos to Walnut Avenue has been removed, and an easement connects Elm Avenue to the county road.

Despite these revisions, the planners continued to voice concerns over several aspects of Bartlett’s proposal.

Commission member Jim Beckmann repeatedly brought up the specter of “spot-zoning,” or making unjustified exceptions to ordinances. Using more florid language, commission member Rusty Rogers echoed that sentiment: “I think you got a real mud puddle going on there,” he said of the proposed development. “Why (have) two different ideas in one small area like that?” Rogers asked. Rogers expressed support for the idea of the project but had reservations about the light industrial zone designation.

Randy Raymer, who owns property near the proposed development, worried about what may happen down the line if the 3.37 northern acres are designated for light industry. “Whatever their plans today are, once that zone is changed to light industrial, that allows any light industrial activity to be performed there – today, tomorrow, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. Light industry authorizes a scrapyard (or) a cement plant,” Raymer said. Raymer also mentioned a subdivision that was started and never completed in the vicinity.

Commission member Will Faust voiced concerns about snow removal, and accessibility of the development to emergency medical services before the zoners moved onto other topics.

Returning to an issue that has been before the commission several times, commission member Karl Smith presented a mock-up of a mobile vending license application to the body. For months, local resident Steve Heinitz has been shuffling between the planning commission and the Saratoga Town Council seeking permission to run an outfitting business out of a specially-made truck to be parked in the community center parking lot. In the past, both the council and the commission have appeared reticent to move forward with figuring out a regulatory structure for Heinitz’s business venture.

Smith’s draft mobile vending license application may present a way forward for Heinitz. Under Smith’s proposed license, the mayor would have to sign off on any mobile vending permits, an applicant would have to pay a small fee and ask permission from any businesses within 100 feet of the mobile vendor.

After some edits to the one-page document Smith had drawn up, the committee agreed to present the idea to the town council at the April 19 meeting.

In other business, the planning commission assured Fran Payne-Rogers that she was permitted to build two rental properties on the footprint of a single existing building that she owns on River Street.

The commission also announced they would be holding a planning workshop from 4 to 6 p.m. April 25 in the Saratoga Town Hall. The next regular planning commission meeting will be held 5:30 p.m. May 10, also in the Saratoga Town Hall.


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