October 26, 2020 minutes


Alexandria, Minnesota 56308

Minutes of the meeting of October 26, 2020 

A regular meeting and public hearings of the Planning Commission of Alexandria Township was held on the 26th day of October, 2020 in person and via teleconference.

Roll Call:  Commission members present onsite were Shad Steinbrecher, Larry Steidl and Linda Dokken-McFann.  Julie Haar attended via teleconference.  Also present onsite were Bonnie Fulghum, Deputy Clerk, and Ben Oleson, Township Zoning Administrator.  As said members formed a quorum and the meeting was called to order by Chairman Steidl at 6:00 p.m.

Agenda: Steinbrecher, seconded by Dokken-McFann, made a motion to approve the agenda as written.  Motion carried unanimously.

Minutes: Dokken-McFann, seconded by Steinbrecher, made a motion to approve the minutes of the 09/28/2020 meeting as written.  Motion carried unanimously.

Chairman Steidl recessed the meeting to open the public hearing on the Preliminary Plat of 11th Addition to Lake Geneva Estates submitted by Rosanne Shorma. The property is located along E. Lake Geneva Road NE.

Public Hearing:  Brad Nyberg of Nyberg Surveying reported that the property encompasses 212 feet of lakeshore on Lake Geneva in the Lake Geneva Estates development.  The eastern quarter of the parcel was originally platted as Outlot H and the remaining western portion wasn’t platted.  The existing two parcels are approximately 1.07 acres and 0.36 acres.  Both lots are vacant.  In order to create two similar-sized lots, the applicant is proposing to subdivide the existing parcels into a new arrangement, with the lots being comprised of .69 and .74 acres.  There are currently two sewer stubs available with utility access.  He stated there is an existing 40 foot utility easement on the north 40 feet of Outlot H.

The applicant, Rose Shorma, stated she is splitting up the two lots to make the land more viable for sale.  This consists of putting the two lots together and then splitting them off in a different configuration for better resale value.  If the right buyer comes along, she may choose to sell the land as one lot as opposed to two.

Zoning Administrator Oleson reported that the applicant is proposing to plat two existing parcels (one which has lakeshore frontage and one without) into a different configuration, resulting in two residential parcels with road and lakeshore frontage.  Proposed Lot 1 would be approximately 30,056 square feet and 100 feet in width.  Proposed Lot 2 would be approximately 32,234 square feet and 108 feet in width.  Minimum required lot sizes and widths for the UR/RS district are 20,000 square feet and 100 feet.  Minimum buildable area required is 7,400 square feet.  Both lots meet this criteria, and each lot would have at least 15,000 square feet of buildable area.  He stated all setbacks are met and it meets all the requirements of the township’s zoning ordinance.  On either side of the development is a golf course, with townhomes to the north and east and traditional lots to the south.

Oleson asked if either of these lots would be part of the Association.  Ms. Shorma indicated that is an option.  She stated that the Association would like to include them and were waiting for the platting process to be concluded before taking further action, which would include changing of the Association’s bylaws.

Chairman Steidl opened the hearing to the public for comment. Hearing none, he closed the public hearing and resumed the meeting.

Oleson asked if the applicant would be presenting the final plat application at the November 2nd meeting.  Mr. Nyberg reported they are not intending to apply for final plat at this time but rather choosing to wait and see if the lots sell individually or as one lot.

Dokken-McFann, seconded by Steinbrecher, made a motion to recommend approval of the Preliminary Plat of 11th Addition to Lake Geneva Estates with no conditions.

Roll:  Steinbrecher – yes, Dokken-McFann – yes, Haar – yes, Steidl – yes.  Opposed:  none. Motion carried unanimously.

Chairman Steidl recessed the meeting to open the public hearing on the conditional use request submitted by Dennis Conn for an electronic changeable copy sign for his property located along County Road 82 SE.

Mr. Conn reported that he wants to put an electronic changeable sign on his 6-acre site.  He stated the location for the sign is contiguous to his existing mini-storage area.

Oleson reported that a digital sign requires a public hearing process.  The request is to allow for a 120 square foot electronic changeable copy sign in a Commercial-Rural (C-R) zoning district.  The sign would be a 120 square foot pole/pylon-style sign located in the northwest corner of the property.  The overall height is 240 inches; size of the sign would be120 square feet.  He stated that the township ordinance stipulates the overall height maximum allowed is 240 inches and the maximum size of the sign is 100 square feet.

Bob Wolfe of Indigo Signworks reported he thought this sign would fall under the parameters of a billboard and therefore would conform to the size requirements listed in our ordinance.  Oleson stated that the township’s zoning ordinance is more restrictive than the County’s and as a result our digital limits for electronic signs is different than theirs. The ordinance states you can have a display area up to the maximum size in that zoning district; i.e. (C/I district).  Oleson said the County recently adopted new language for their sign ordinance. The township planning commission is forwarding a recommendation to the township board that it match the language used by the County.

Oleson said that 32 square feet for an electronic changeable sign is the maximum allowed currently under our township ordinance.  The planning commission had already reviewed and formalized their recommendation concerning the sign ordinance before Mr. Conn had made his application. The planning commission’s recommendations for various ordinance amendments, which includes the sign ordinance, will be coming before the town board at its next meeting on November 2nd.  Depending upon the town board’s determination as to allowable square feet, Mr. Conn’s sign may/may not be an issue. Oleson reiterated that the reason for the public hearing was for the changeable copy, not necessarily the size of the sign. Factors involved are speed, the intensity of the light and the flashing displays, size of the text, and automatic turn-off.  If the township adopted the county’s language, the sign would have to be turned off between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Mr. Wolfe stated that the sign can be controlled remotely and it can be programmed to automatically shut off at a given timeframe.  It will also automatically dim itself if the ambient light gets darker.  It has a photo-eye that samples the light every 30 seconds and adjusts accordingly.

Oleson noted that a consideration is the impact to neighboring properties.  The properties to the north are zoned for commercial/industrial use but they are primarily residential.  To the west is mini storage and to the east is a truck facility.

Chairman Steidl opened the hearing to the public for comment.

Jeff Stuewe, 6540 Piephos Lane SE, mentioned that while his property would not be in a direct line of sight with the sign, he wondered how much light the sign would actually give off and how evident it will be in waning light.  He stated that light pollution was his main concern.

Mr. Wolfe indicated that the positioning of the sign would be facing east – west.  The sign will be perpendicular to County Road 82 SE.  In broad daylight the illumination is 100%; in darkness the output is decreased to 50%.

Mr. Stuewe asked about the size of the sign.  Oleson reiterated that the size of the sign is determined by the township ordinance unless the applicant applies for a variance, which would constitute another public hearing.

Hearing no further public comment, Chairman Steidl closed the public hearing and resumed the meeting.

Oleson stated that changeable copy signs are currently allowed per our township ordinance.  The question comes in as to size and how that could potentially be affected by ordinance changes.  If the township board elects to adopt the County’s language, then the provision for electronic changeable copy signs would include the following:  that there be an allowance for two free-standing unilluminated signs per parcel, each up to 120 square feet; if by conditional use permit, more than two freestanding illuminated, unilluminated or electronic changeable copy signs per parcel is allowed when the total combined size of all freestanding signs does not exceed 250 square feet.

There was some confusion as to the actual size of the sign being proposed as the application indicated 120 square feet.  Mr. Wolfe stated that the cabinet size would be 125 square feet but the active area would be less.

Dokken-McFann, seconded by Steinbrecher, made a motion to recommend approval of the conditional use request for an electronic changeable copy sign which would include the five conditions from the staff report, said recommended approval to be contingent upon the township board’s decision as to the recommended sign ordinance change and its relationship to size of changeable copy signs. Conditions 1 – 5 from the staff report are as follows:  1) that the brightness of the lighting elements not be such that it creates a distraction for motorists or neighboring residential property owners; 2) that the sign must meet all required setbacks from property lines, unless a variance is granted; 3) that the lights on the sign be equipped with equipment so that they can be automatically turned on or off; 4) that the sign meets all requirements (if any) of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which retains some regulatory authority over signage along County Road 82; and 5) that the sign must be automatically turned off between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.  Roll:  Steinbrecher – yes, Dokken-McFann – yes,  Haar – yes,  Steidl –  yes.  Opposed:  none.  Motion carried unanimously.

Zoning Administrator’s Report:  Oleson provided an update of his activities. 

New Business:  none

Old Business:  Oleson followed up on questions posed at the last meeting for previously recommended ordinance amendments:

1)  Dokken-McFann had asked for definitions pertaining to management plans and operating permits for septic systems.  In brief, Oleson explained that management plans are required generally for all types of systems (Type I, II, III, IV, etc.) whereas an operating permit is geared more towards oversight.

2)  Oleson reiterated that the sign, renewable energy, and septic ordinances would be updated to match the county’s ordinances.

3)  Haar and Dokken-McFann had asked at the last meeting for more information relating to feedlots, such as how to handle existing feedlots and the prohibition of new feedlots.

4)  Possible inclusions for a new feedlot ordinance would be to require an Interim Use Permit and to designate the maximum number of animal units and acreage.  Chairman Steidl tabled further discussion on this topic so additional handouts could be submitted to the members for review.

Haar, seconded by Steinbrecher, made a motion to forward to the township board recommendations to the township’s zoning ordinance pertaining to signs, renewable energy, septic systems, and correcting the language for the subdivision ordinance.  The motion was amended to include erosion and sediment control recommendations under the zoning ordinance.  Roll:  Steinbrecher – yes, Dokken-McFann – yes, Haar – yes, Steidl – yes.  Opposed:  none.  Motion carried unanimously.

Adjournment:  Being no further business Steinbrecher, seconded by Dokken-McFann, made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Meeting adjourned at 7:35 p.m.

Respectfully submitted…


Bonnie Fulghum, Deputy Clerk

Approved this ____ day of ___________, 2020


Larry Steidl, Chairman