The Anoka City Council has put a hold on any new construction in the city’s B1 highway business districts.
The moratorium comes just a month after the council reluctantly approved the construction of a new storage garage on Fifth Avenue. While the application met the city’s requirements, there have been no new performance or architectural standards put in place. The council had concerns about the building’s placement on the site as well as the exterior finishes of the building, which included vinyl siding.
It’s one of the last parts of the city needing to be reviewed, said Planning Director Carolyn Braun.
“That building was approved, but the Planning Commission has gone to work on that section of the code,” Braun said.
She also told the council city staff has heard there are other projects that may be occurring in the B1 district.
The largest pockets of property zoned B1 highway business are along East River Road (Fifth Avenue), Highway 10 and Ferry Street north of Highway 10.
Braun said the Planning Commission will revisit that zoning classification in these areas to see if the classification still fits.
In the short term, a moratorium would be the only way to ensure a building the council doesn’t want would not go up.
“Otherwise we will need to process those various applications as they come in while we wait for the Planning Commission to work though the various issues with the B1 district,” Braun said.
She said without a moratorium, some of the things a property owner might want to do might not be preferred by the council, but would be allowed under the current ordinance.
While the interim moratorium was unanimously approved, Councilmember Mark Freeburg expressed concern.
“Somebody’s probably got plans to do something this year, and because of our lack of whatever, we’re going to put a moratorium on and stop somebody’s project,” Freeburg said. “It’s awkward. Every time something comes up, we slap a moratorium on it.”
Mayor Phil Rice said it was awkward for the entire council to express displeasure with a project but then have to go ahead and approve it because it met the city’s standards.
“I think that clearly demonstrated the need for us to look at B1,” Rice said. “We should do it as quickly as we can. We don’t want to pass up any opportunities to add tax base to our city, but we certainly want that of the quality and standards we subscribe to.”
City Manager Tim Cruikshank said while taking a closer look at the standards in B1 has long been on the city’s radar, it got pushed down as other priorities came up.
“I know that I don’t want the council or the community to end up with something that was unintended or wasn’t planned for,” Cruikshank said. “If you don’t do a moratorium, there could be something that pops up tomorrow and the day after and the day after that you don’t like and the community doesn’t want.”
While an interim moratorium can be in place as long as 12 months, Braun said the Planning Commission is hoping to have recommendations in half that time.
Freeburg urged the city to act quickly.
“If someone’s got a project, they can still get it going in August or September and they are not losing a whole season,” said Freeburg.
The moratorium can be ended at any time within the 12 months by a vote of the council.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at