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Baxter revisits landscape ordinance

BAXTER — How big should a building addition be before it triggers the city’s landscape ordinance putting trees and islands in parking areas?

The question came up after Forestview Middle School sought and received a building permit to put on a vestibule. Building permits bring the city’s ordinance to site improvements. It’s why there are now trees in the parking lot at the Lakes 12 Theatre and the city noted why grass and trees now line perimeters of other city businesses like Mills Fleet Farm.

The Brainerd School District didn’t ask for a variance but council members considered and then dropped a motion to eliminate the requirement noting Forestview is different and surrounded by trees.

Tuesday in a workshop session, staff members noted the council could keep its ordinance, revoke it or modify it. Modifications could be applying it to certain zoning districts, or activate it if a certain percentage of building was improved or amend it so it wouldn’t apply if there was existing perimeter landscaping. The school district reported the landscape requirements would add $25,000 to $30,000 to the cost.

Staff members were looking for direction from the council.

Council member Todd Holman said the ordinance was created specifically because a lot of Baxter, and its commercial area, developed without a landscape ordinance.

“We can do better in terms of what it looks like even in a redevelopment area,” Holman said, noting expansive parking lots with an opportunity during remodels. Holman supported the ordinance but said an unintended consequence is to be as hard hitting on areas that have landscaping. Holman was in favor of a change so a minor remodel in a public zone wouldn’t trigger a need to change the parking lots.

Council member Jim Klein said business owners were being required to put in trees and in this scenario the school district wouldn’t.

“We had a big to-do,” Klein said of the trees and islands at the theater and the parking lot.

Council member Rob Moser said there aren’t many parcels that fit the public description Holman described. It’s very different than the theater parking lot, Moser said.

Moser said he was in favor of keeping it simple. Council member Mark Cross agreed there should be a triggering mechanism as the city considers redevelopment whether it’s a certain percentage.

“I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Cross said. “Shade trees in the parking lot are nice.”

Mayor Darrel Olson said Forestview is different because they carved out a piece to build the school within the forest.

The issue is expected to go back to the planning and zoning commission. Should a vestibule trigger an entire parking lot change? Holman said the answer is probably no but there is a probably a reasonable change.

The city is looking for more flexibility in the landscape ordinance in a small redevelopment.

In other business, the city:

Approved the ability of Navillus Land Co. to get a building permit for phase two or Aspen Ridge Townhomes off Berrywood Drive South. The city ordinance states no permits will be granted without the payment of outstanding taxes or assessments unless there are sufficient safeguards to assure payment or if enforcement would result in significant hardship through no fault of the individual.

The city reported Navillus Land Co. sold property and applied capital to pay $386,954 of delinquent taxes and special assessments in 2012. Now Navillus was requesting the ability to put up two twin homes in order to continue to pay off outstanding taxes and assessments. Late last year, the city previously granted an exception and gained a payment of $28,149 for taxes.

Denied a request by Jim Hartman to waive utility payment late fees of $555.39. Hartman was not present at the Tuesday meeting.

Met in closed session for a land acquisition negotiation. After meeting again in open session, the council voted to start negotiation for a purchase.

Reported Turn In Poachers is having an open house 1-5 p.m. April 13 on Wise Road in the former Paul Bunyan Nature Learning Center.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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