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Moorhead planning board votes to change residential parking lot permits

Moorhead planning commission member Joel Paulsen addresses the audience as Paul Krabbenhoft listens to the response to residents opposing a proposed parking lot to be built in the historic Comstock neighborhood. David Samson / The Forum1 / 3
Moorhead resident Rick Hall voices his opinion on a proposed parking lot to be built in the historic Comstock neighborhood during a Moorhead planning commission meeting at City Hall in Moorhead on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.David Samson / The Forum2 / 3
Moorhead residents listen to speakers voicing their opinion against a proposed parking lot in the historic Comstock neighborhood Wednesday, March 7, 2018, during a Moorhead planning commission meeting at City Hall in Moorhead.David Samson / The Forum3 / 3

MOORHEAD — More than 20 residents from the historic Comstock neighborhood concerned about parking lot encroachment attended a planning commission meeting Wednesday, March 7.

Kristie Leshovsky, city planner and zoning administrator, said the commission was considering two options: prohibit parking lots in residential areas or change from provisional use permits to conditional use permits, which requires a public hearing and council approval following mail notification to all property owners within 350 feet of the property.

Unlike zoning codes in Fargo and West Fargo, which prohibits parking lots in residential zones, Moorhead allows them so long as developers follow setback and buffer guidelines about how far the development should be from the street, and the type of landscaping and fencing.

Despite residents attending a meeting Jan. 2 expressing their concerns about parking lots in the neighborhood, the city granted a provisional use permit Jan. 30 to T& M Graham Management to construct a parking lot at 815 8th Ave. S. and 603 9th St. S.

Residents Carrie and David Wintersteen filed an appeal Feb. 26 challenging the provisional use permit within the time limit of 45 days. But they along with several neighbors said there should've been notification that the permit was granted considering the ongoing conversation.

City attorney John Shockley said that the city followed rules for provisional use, which doesn't require notification or a public hearing that is required for a conditional use permit.

After a lengthy discussion, the commission unanimously voted to change the permit to conditional use. This was favored by Leshovsky and neighbors at the meeting.

Leshovsky said provisional use permits require standards for buffering and setbacks more than conditional permits do. The commission, however, voted to include that developers need to maintain baseline standards regarding setback and buffers.

An appeal hearing April 4 will involve the Wintersteens presenting their case as well as the developer. Shockley will draft the facts and findings and the board of adjustments will affirm or deny the decision to grant the permit May 2. To deny the decision requires a majority vote.

The board's decision may be appealed to the City Council within 60 days.

The Wintersteens said they have been in conversation with the developer and asked Shockley if they could withdraw the appeal if the two parties came to an understanding, which Shockley said they could.

To further address the issues of preserving the history and character of the Comstock neighborhood, the commission suggested implementing a historic overlay zone in the district to outlaw certain things, such as parking lots.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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