Spring Park opts out of new state housing ordinance

By Lorrie Ham

The Spring Park City Council took the opportunity to “opt-out” of newly regulated temporary family health care dwellings at its Aug. 15 meeting. As explained by City Planner Alan Brixius, the Minnesota Legislature passed, and Governor Mark Dayton signed, a law requiring municipalities to allow the temporary dwellings, but included an opt-out provision that permits a municipality to exempt themselves from the provision.
“It might sound like a good idea, but it wasn’t thoroughly contemplated,” said Mayor Bruce Williamson. “It wasn’t well thought out as far as zoning, conditional use permits, placement, etc.”
The statute was developed by a New Brighton firm that builds temporary units called “Next Door Housing.” The purpose of the accessory dwelling is to provide living space for family members needing care.
“The City of Spring Park is comprised of homes that are on small lots,” said Brixius in a memo to the council. “Placement of a temporary health care unit while meeting setbacks will be problematic on all but a few lots in the city.” Brixius went on to say that if onsite care of an elderly family member is necessary, it can be done from within the principal home on the property.
Brixius strongly recommended that the city adopt the ordinance to opt-out of the state regulations to avoid land use and performance standards issues with the application standards to the unique constraints of Spring Park.
City Administrator Dan Tolsma noted that the city’s planning commission, which held the required public hearing on the matter, had also recommended opting out. “It doesn’t mean that we can’t do something like this, but having it forced on the city presents challenges,” he added.
Councilmember Gary Hughes noted that the state law requiring sewer and water hook-ups to the temporary structure presented its own set of challenges.
“Opting out doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize the issue,” said Mayor Williamson. “It means that we would do so after providing a thorough process and careful study like we do for any other application.”
In another matter, the council set the date of Sept. 26 for a HEARTSafe training session for city council members, planning commissioners, city staff and election judges. “This is a great opportunity for the staff and public officials to get some very worthwhile training,” said Williamson. He called the exercise a “great idea” and a “good rehearsal” for a future event planned within the city for the general public. Williamson encouraged members of the public to contact city hall or the Orono Police Department if they are interested in a training event.
The HEARTSafe Community program is designed to promote survival from sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. It is a general concept focused upon strengthening the “chain of survival,” as described by the American Heart Association; it recognizes and stimulates efforts by individual communities to improve their system for preventing sudden cardiac arrest from becoming irreversible death.
Individual council reports
* Williamson reported that the Gillespie Center is ahead of schedule in fundraising this year. The city’s contract with Gillespie requires the Center to raise funds to eventually make the Center self-sustaining. Williamson also reported that the Lake Minnetonka Cable Commission (LMCC) received a clean audit report. He noted that AV upgrades mean that local high school sports will be shown on cable in high definition.
* Hughes reported that the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District had interviewed five viable candidates and was closing in on choosing a new executive director. Several resolutions that duplicate DNR state law regarding noise and other factors are under consideration, he added. Save the Lake activities, which are covered by donations and not tax dollars, have included solar lighting on buoys, boating education and increased water patrol coverage, he said.
* Councilmember Pamela Horton, along with Councilmembers Shirley Bren and Megan Pavot, attended a U of M workshop aimed at preserving bodies of water by monitoring storm water runoff. She called the workshop “worthwhile and interesting.”
* Pavot took the opportunity to promote the upcoming Running of the Bays and Long Lake Fire running events.
* Bren reported on an open house event that she attended at WeCAN. Bren outlined the programs offered at WeCAN and said the organization provided “wonderful services” for Spring Park and other neighboring communities.