Baxter City Council splits in vote for variance
Issue hinges on whether the current proposal for a home construction should include building a 10-ton road in case more houses are constructed along the access.
BAXTER — City council members were tasked with considering whether a road should be constructed to match the current development prospects or be built now for possible growth.
The property in question is north of Mapleton Road and west of Mountain Ash Drive. The applicant, Tim Quincer, is seeking to build a home on 5 acres on a property where the minimum lot size is 10 acres. The property was created in 1996 by a previous owner. It previously complied with the minimum lot size but that changed in 2019 when the city changed the minimum from 5 acres to 10 acres. City Planner Matthew Gindele told the planning commission in March that the home meets all setback requirements and there was sufficient space to construct a future home, based on the submitted site plan.
The rub became the road.
The property access comes from a 33-foot wide easement. Staff recommended a condition for a 20-foot wide fire lane with a 10-ton road design. The first 40 feet of the road would be paved.
“The rationale behind this requirement is that the Fire Code requires fire access serving three or more homes to be 20-feet wide and constructed to a standard that supports all emergency vehicles and fire trucks are generally rated at 10 tons an axle,” the city reported in its planning and zoning commission agenda March 10. “Additionally, this access road has the potential to serve up to three homes in the future.”
Besides the 5 acres with the applicant, another 5-acre lot is adjacent and there is a 30-acre parcel to the north, however, it is unclear if that parcel has enough upland amid the wetland for residential construction. Quincer reported wanting to construct a road to a lesser standard. He also disagreed that the larger, more northerly property had enough upland for building purposes. The rule for the 10-ton road hinges on three homes being served from the access. With this proposal there would be a single home on the access.
Josh Doty, community development director, told the city council Tuesday, March 17, that would force the third homeowner, if there ever were one, to pay the full bill for the 10-ton road that would then go past the first two homes in order to meet the fire code, creating an equity issue. Each additional property owner would then need to extend the road that was started at the 10-ton standard.
While the proposal for this house means there is just one at this time, Doty said there are possibilities for more homes in the future. Staff’s recommendation was to build the fire access road to the 10-ton design, add a fire lane turn around and then extend a private driveway of a lesser design to the proposed home.
Quincer was proposing a 12-foot road width instead of the 20 feet, paving the first 40 feet and a thicker layer of asphalt but less Class 5 gravel for the base. A 10-ton road is described as having 5 inches of gravel and 2 inches of bituminous.
At the council meeting, Quincer said the problem he has is with building a very sizable road that may not be proven to be needed in the future. “So it’s kind of a conundrum on that standpoint,” he said. And Quincer said he learned the decision on whether the property has the needed upland for a house, well and sewer can’t be established until someone comes forward with a building permit.
Council member Todd Holman said many people over the years have said a certain area would never be built upon and then it does happen and they are left with trying to get a road in that serves as access for emergency vehicles. Holman supported the 10-ton road requirement.
Council member Zach Tabatt said he really struggles with the idea of adding a requirement to build a more substantial road because of something that might happen. When asked about a turnaround, Tabatt said he was not supportive of any requirement that wasn’t currently listed for that first lot. Mayor Darrel Olson noted the weight of the emergency vehicles. Holman said going without the bigger road, effectively eliminates a buildable lot.
Tabatt’s motion to approve the variance without the exception for the larger access road was approved 4-1 with Holman opposed.
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