Andover clears up what’s allowed in zoning districts

The Andover City Council April 15 unanimously approved a revised land use table within its city code that is meant to more clearly define what is allowed in certain zoning districts.

Churches like Andover Christian Church will in the future apply for an interim use permit rather than a conditional use permit for subordinate structures under changes the Andover City Council made April 15. This means the city can be legally compliant when it establishes time restrictions on a permit. File photo

Churches like Andover Christian Church will in the future apply for an interim use permit rather than a conditional use permit for subordinate structures under changes the Andover City Council made April 15. This means the city can be legally compliant when it establishes time restrictions on a permit. File photo

“The overall goal is to make this resident-friendly,” Councilmember Sheri Bukkila said.

To accomplish this, the land use table was broken down into two separate sections for businesses and residential.

So if someone wanted to start a day care center out of their home, they could go to the residential chapter and then read under the “home occupations” subhead to learn that day care centers are permitted in all homes if there are 12 or fewer children, but a conditional use permit is needed when they are 13 or more children.

Community Development Director David Carlberg said he also likes how the table in some areas directs people to the corresponding city code for more information. For example, if someone was looking at the land use table to find out where cell towers could be located, they would be directed to City Code 9-12 to read about height and setback restrictions.

Councilmember Tony Howard said he would like links set up within the use tables online so people can easily navigate the code.

Interim use permit

Beyond reorganizing the land use table and updating definitions, one of the biggest changes the city went through was adding interim use permits.

The council was already placing time restrictions on some conditional use permits, but legally these permits should be indefinite unless terms are violated. Carlberg said the city was not being challenged on this, but said the IUPs can legally have time restrictions.

At the same April 15 meeting that the council approved the land use table, it also approved a CUP for Mark Smith to mine 65,000 cubic yards of sand from a property and required him to be done by the end of this year. Carlberg told the council that all future mining projects would instead receive IUPs.

Permits for subordinate classrooms on church properties have been addressed by the council several times in recent years.

In July 2012, Legacy Christian Academy received a three-year extension for the classrooms that were first approved in 2002.

Family of Christ Lutheran Church received CUP approval for temporary classrooms in 1998. The property was sold in 2004 to another church that would become known as Andover Christian Church. This church in August 2013 received a five-year CUP extension for a structure it uses as a youth center.

When these permits expire, the churches will have to get IUPs instead.

Subordinate classrooms located on licensed primary or secondary school properties previously didn’t need a permit, but now will also need an IUP. Andover High School has what the Anoka-Hennepin School District calls portable classrooms and can keep them, according to Carlberg, because they will be grandfathered in.

However, any new structures or modifications to the existing portable classrooms would trigger an IUP application and review.

Anoka-Hennepin School District is steering toward brick and mortar additions at its elementary schools as it prepares for all-day kindergarten.

Whether an IUP or a CUP, Carlberg said the use can remain if the property changes hands. The new owner would still need to go through the review when time runs out on an IUP, but a CUP would remain even under new ownership unless the use is discontinued for one year or there is a violation of the terms. An IUP is void if the use discontinues after six months.

How much to list?

Much had been discussed by the council and Andover Planning Commission over the past year-and-a-half about how exactly to organize this land use table and what definitions needed to be added or updated, so the council only needed about 20 minutes April 15 to wrap this up.

The biggest question was whether to include a sentence that stated, “If use not specifically listed, it is prohibited.”

Councilmember Julie Trude noted that gardening is not listed in the use table even though residents can obviously do this on their property.

Carlberg said other areas of the code addresses gardening, composting and other things property owners have a right to do. City Attorney Scott Baumgarter suggested amending this sentence to read that if use not specifically listed or provided for elsewhere in city code, it is prohibited.

The council agreed this was the best wording to be included in the revised land use table that it unanimously approved.

“To be honest this table doesn’t list everything you can do on a property,” Carlberg said. “There is no way we’re going to be able to list everything here.”

Bukkila said, “I come from the perspective that everything is permissible unless you tell me what is not specifically allowed.”

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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