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Zoning concerns aired

For two years the Brainerd Planning Commission has been working on recommendations for updating the city's zoning map.

On Wednesday it was the public's chance to weigh in on the proposed changes during a public hearing at Brainerd City Hall.

About 30 people attended the portion of the meeting pertaining to the city's zoning map. Their concerns represented a wide variety of topics.

The Planning Commission made no decision Wednesday on recommending changes to the zoning map to the Brainerd City Council. Instead, the commission scheduled two workshops - at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in the conference at city hall and at 6 p.m. Feb. 9 following the regular commission meeting - to cover concerns and comments presented Wednesday.

"This is just the beginning of the process," said Planning Commission Chairman Mike Jay.

Ron Imgrund, who owns the property at 100 Washington St., said creating a Washington Street commercial zone

 from Southeast 13th Street/Gillis Avenue to the Washington Street Bridge was a "waste of time" because it didn't allow for light manufacturing.

Dan Fletcher, who owns property on the 10000 block of Highway 210, was opposed to his property being changed from a business zone to a residential zone. Fletcher said the property would never sell as residential.

Dan Ryan, representing the Gilbert Lake Association, had the opposite concern. He said the association didn't want rural residential on Wise Road rezoned to business.

Bob Sullivan, a rental property owner in Brainerd, questioned where the idea to change the zoning map came from. Jay responded that six years ago the city rewrote its zoning ordinances and codes. Rewriting the zoning map was part of that process.

"By no means to we think it's perfect," Jay said. "It's just the start."

Commissioner member Jan Lambert said the rental housing zone changes - reducing the number of R-2 medium density and R-3 high density residential zones in the city in an effort to reduce the number of multi-unit rental dwellings - came from neighborhood organizations complaining about rental dwellings being too plentiful in the city at just under 50 percent of all housing.

"Is that a bad thing?" Sullivan said, referring to the near 50 percent rental housing in Brainerd.

"(The Planning Commission) should take into consideration somewhat letting the market drive things. The market generally seems to take care of itself sometimes. Government gets in the way. I don't mean that in bad way, but sometimes government tries to control too many things."

Commission member and council liaison Bonnie Cumberland said the city has made great strides in regulating rental properties.

Commission member Carter Kuehn said a misconception about the Planning Commission's proposal was that if the zoning is changed the use of the property has to change, too. Carter said someone operating a duplex rental dwelling will still be able to operate one, even if the zoning for the property is changed to single family. Also, a property in which the zoning has been changed can be sold and retain the original usage.

The zoning change would go into effect if the use of the property is changed, expanded or, in the case of rental property, was no longer properly licensed, Carter said.

"We're not kicking people to the road, or the curb, which is term I've been hearing. We're not saying you can't do business there because we're changing the zoning," Kuehn said. "It's just that on a long-term basis, the feedback we've received, is 'We want to go toward more single family dwellings' or 'We want to promote business and industry in the city.' The way those changes have occurred, that's the plan, that's the objective. It's not to stop what you're currently doing."

Denny Bollig and Terry Moberg, residents in southwest Brainerd, objected to the proposed rezone of several acres of property near Crow Wing County Road 48, College Drive and West Laurel Street from single-family residential to multi-family residential.

Bollig noted in 1985 or 1986 the neighbors there sued the city and won when the property was similarly rezoned. He questioned whether there was a need for more apartments on land that is mostly ball fields for Central Lakes College.

Gary Greenheck, owner of Greenheck Auto Glass on Washington Street, said while he liked the less restrictive setbacks with the Washington Street commercial zone, he wasn't comfortable with the proposed rezoning. He said a railroad corridor should be established.

Laura Busch, an Oak Street resident, said there weren't enough apartments currently to accommodate college students.

Jay Brutsman, a South Ninth Street resident, said the commission was opening a can of worms. He said people bought their homes because of zoning and the commission was changing the rules in the middle of the game.

"I hope the city council will understand what you're coming up with and kill it," Brutsman said.

Sherry Watland, owner of a building on South Fifth Street, complained that affected property owners weren't better notified of the changes. City Planner Mark Ostgarden said the proposals have gone out in public service announcements, as legals in the newspaper, as paid ads in the newspaper and in the Watt's News newsletter sent to each property owner from Brainerd Public Utilities. The proposed zoning map also has been available to view at the city's web site, at the Brainerd Public Library and at city hall, he said.

Jay apologized if not everyone received notice of the commission's proposed changes, but said the commission has gone above and beyond the notice requirements required by law. Kuehn said he didn't apologize for the public relations work done on behalf of the commission's zoning map change proposals. He said if people wanted individual notices mailed out they should to go the city council and request them, see how much it would cost and whether they would want their taxes raised to pay for individual notices.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.