Zoning complaints prompt EB workshop

The East Bethel City Council listened at its June 4 meeting as property owner Jeff Stalberger decried a zoning rule that limits how much land an owner can subdivide for home sites. He said he’d been “blown away” when he learned recently that the required homestead density is now one house per every 10 acres instead of every 2.5 acres, like he said it’s been for decades. Stalberger claimed to speak for many who are now limited in what they can do with their property, which for some is like their “401k plan.”

Meeting discussion revealed that the density rule had changed in 2008 as the city updated its comprehensive plan. Stalberger said property owners didn’t notice since a recession followed the change, and nobody has had interest in buying or selling for years.

He said he realized the current council had not made the decision with which he disagrees, but he wanted the current members to at least help try and reverse it. Stalberger said it had been a bad deal forced upon citizens.

Councilmember Heidi Moegerle said that issue had come up at economic development meetings, and the main challenge lies in the two-sided nature of the debate. She said there is pressure from the citizens who want East Bethel to retain its rural character and have a less-dense development standard. She also pointed out that it may be difficult to undo what has already been established with the Metropolitan Council.

As the council discussed how to address the concerns, Councilmember Ron Koller assured Stalberger that nobody necessarily disagrees with him. City Administrator Jack Davis said the first step would be for the council to make a recommendation to the Planing Commission.

DeRoche suggested that before making a recommendation the members have a workshop, which everyone agreed to hold 6:30 p.m. June 25.