The East Bethel City Council held a workshop June 25 to discuss changing the rural home-density requirement from one home every 10 acres to one home every 2.5 acres.
The zoning rule changed in 2008 during the comprehensive planning process, partly because people were concerned with preserving East Bethel’s rural character. A property owner complained at a city council meeting last month, asking the city to change back to the 2.5-acre rule.
Any changes to East Bethel’s comprehensive plan would depend on approval of the Metropolitan Council, a 17-member regional policy-making body and planning agency charged with fostering efficient and economic growth in the Twin Cities area.
City Administrator Jack Davis gathered information from the six cities bordering East Bethel and found that four of them had a minimum of 2.5 acres, with some defining density by zoning district.
“I think the one-in-10 requirement is a little bit restrictive,” he said.
Several council members were concerned about what will happen the Metropolitan Council is asked to reverse an earlier decision, especially as the city works to bring business and residents to the new water and sewer infrastructure near the highway.
Council members said they wanted to be careful about changes that might drive home-seekers away from that area.
Davis explained that the two areas offer “totally different housing options.” He said the areas three-quarters of a mile to the east and west of Highway 65, as well as around lakes, offer half- and 1-acre lots. A buyer seeking more space would go outside that corridor anyway, Davis said.
He said having a mix of options will help the city meet its population goals. Records show no rural-residential plats filed since the change in 2008, so the new rule doesn’t seem to be bringing more development.
East Bethel consists of approximately 21,000 acres, according to Davis, and about 16,000 of those are wetlands such as rivers, creeks, lakes or marshes that cannot ever be developed. He said the city’s own natural features protect its rural character.
All the members agreed the 2.5 option seems likely to bring more people, which will in turn bring more business. Davis had talked to a Metropolitan Council representative and said he’d be receiving more information soon on exactly how to request the change.