Storage unit project stalls in Brainerd, council seeks alternative option
“I think this is a case where if we approve this one, it’s going to snowball — like our city attorney says — where it’s going to be out of control and we can’t control it,” Council member Kevin Stunek said. “And I don’t think we want that image right now.”
Several members on the Brainerd City Council support a project that would add mini storage units to the city, but they denied measures to move the project forward, instead opting for a different approach.
Tom Lake submitted a request on behalf of Gustafson Properties of Brainerd LLC to rezone 13 parcels of land in northwest Brainerd from residential to general business. The parcels are located near Tyrol Hills between Second Street Northwest to the east, Third Street Northwest to the west, Jackson Street to the north, and James Street to the south. Lake also requested the addition of mini storage facilities as a conditional use in B-4 general business districts.
The council denied both requests Monday, April 20, following the recommendation of the planning commission.
Community Development Director David Chanski said the planning commission first denied the addition of storage units to general business districts because they felt the move would not be in line with the city’s comprehensive plan. The commission then denied the measure to rezone the property, noting the property should stay residential since mini storage facilities are not an accepted use in general commercial districts.
Council liaison Jan Lambert was the lone assenting vote on the measure to add mini storage units to the zoning code during the planning commission’s last meeting, noting a conditional use permit could set specific standards, including the requirement of trees or other buffers between the storage facilities and the road.
Council President Gabe Johnson argued about the precedent a measure like this might set, opening up the possibility of storage facilities along South Sixth Street and other parts of Washington Street.
“Sixth Street is a lot of B-4 districts, and I don’t want mini storage sheds on Sixth Street. I don’t want them on Washington Street,” Johnson said. “Frankly, I don’t want them on Third Street, but Third Street is more understandable than Washington Street or Sixth Street.”
Even with conditions, City Attorney Joe Langel said allowing one person in a B-4 district to put up storage facilities would mean the council would have to approve other requests as well or likely face legal issues.
Council member Kevin Stunek said he was in favor of requiring some sort of buffer or screening with a storage facility and might be willing to move forward with the idea through different means. He ultimately agreed with Johnson on not allowing them in B-4 districts, though, and said he also worried about the precedent it may set.
“I think this is a case where if we approve this one, it’s going to snowball — like our city attorney says — where it’s going to be out of control and we can’t control it,” Stunek said. “And I don’t think we want that image right now.”
Council member Dave Pritschet agreed as well, also noting storage units would be hard to adapt to other businesses should they no longer be used as storage units.
Council member Kelly Bevans voted to deny the measure along with the rest of the council but said he supports the project and hopes the planning commission can find a way to work with the developer.
“This is an opportunity to work out something with somebody who wants to spend money in the city of Brainerd and do a development,” Bevans said. “I support the project. I think this is going to open development along Jackson all the way to Fourth. But if we don’t move forward on this portion of it, it’s going to create a little bit of an issue.”
Council member Tad Erickson said he also wants to see this project move forward but agreed B-4 districts might not be the best location for storage facilities.
Dale Anselment, who lives on nearby Tyrol Drive, wrote a letter to Chanski stating his opposition for the rezoning of the land and the construction of storage units.
“I and a lot of my neighbors think that this would be a poor decision to take a nice wooded property that houses so many animals and tear it up for this purpose. … Leave it zoned for residential property.”
Chanski said the planning commission wants to have a workshop with the applicant to figure out another way to move forward with the project. Lambert asked the council to support that action and work with the planning commission, and Johnson said he is willing to do so. That meeting will likely take place in early May.
“I think we have a clear majority that the council wants this project to happen on Third Street, but B-4 isn't the right district,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to just figure out a way how we can get the developer’s project to work while not jeopardizing other neighborhoods or other parts of our community.”
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .