Independence approves private horse farm

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On Monday, July 31, the Independence City Council granted two conditional use permits that enable Bell Farms to construct structures for a private horse farm at 499 Nelson Road.
At the meeting, the council also took up other business.

City Planning Consultant Mark Kaltsas explained a proposal from RAM General Contracting and Bell Farms LLC for a horse farm on which the owners would stable eight of their own horses. The property would not be used for boarding outside horses or for commercial purposes.

Bell Farms recently sold its property on County Road 92, Kaltsas said. He expected the company to manage its new property on Nelson Road in a manner similar to its previous facility.

The Nelson Road facility would sit on 17 acres north of County Road 6 in the Agriculture zoning district. The property has an existing home and several smaller barns and accessory structures. Bell Farms would demolish one accessory structure and construct an eight-stall horse barn, walker building and indoor riding arena. A bunkhouse would be constructed on top of a new storage garage to house a property caretaker.

The company also would construct a compost building to handle manure generated on the property. A mechanical system would convert manure into compost that Bell Farms would put to use.

Two neighbors across Nelson Road said they were concerned about the large size of the buildings and their close proximity to the road.

Bell Farms needed conditional use permits to allow construction of the bunkhouse and the riding arena, which is larger than 5,000 square feet. The City Council approved both.

Jason Sievers asked the City Council to approve a variance that would allow him to construct a home and garage addition attached to his existing house. The council directed city staff to draft an approval resolution and findings of fact and bring them back to a future council meeting.

The Sievers property is located on 2.37 acres at 1180 County Road 83 in the Rural Residential zoning district.

This was Sievers’ second attempt at getting council approval of a variance from the setback from his north property line. In his first attempt, he asked for a 12.6-foot variance. City Councilors said they could not find a hardship that would justify granting a variance. They tabled Sievers’ request to give him time to reorient the proposed garage addition so that it would be located further from the property line.

Sievers and his builder tweaked the design of the proposed additions and came back with a request for a smaller variance of six feet, so that the proposed garage would be set back 24 feet from the north property line.

City Councilor Brad Spencer asked what would be considered as a hardship. He noted that Sievers was proposing a three-car garage. Spencer said a three-car garage was “a luxury” and a two-and-a-half car garage would fit on the site without a variance.

City Councilor Ray McCoy said the unique shape of the lot was causing Sievers’ problem.

City Attorney Bob Voss said the State Legislature has changed the hardship requirement for granting a variance. The new legal language talks about “practical difficulties.” He said McCoy was correct when he pointed out the unique shape of the lot as the reason for Sievers’ problem.

A realtor representing Sievers said he was attempting to save an older house. Shifting the location of the garage would require cutting down significant trees, moving the driveway and making a new curb cut onto County Road 83. Shrinking the size of the garage would limit the additional housing space that could be added above the garage.

Then Spencer said he supported granting of the variance.

The City Council decided that it needed more information about a request from Richard and Kari Stromer pertaining to their property at 2828 County Line Road. The council tabled their request for a variance to allow a subdivision of their property into two lots.

The Stromer property spans 19.47 acres in the Agriculture zoning district. The couple asked for a subdivision that would create a 15.15-acre lot and a 4.32 acre lot. One lot would have access from Maria Road and the other from Nelson Road. A creek bisects the original property.

City zoning regulations do not allow a rural view lot subdivision for properties smaller than 40 acres. This is the reason that the Stromers are asking for a variance.

David Osmek, Minnesota State Senator for District 33, gave a report on happenings at the State Legislature. Mayor Marvin Johnson thanked him and State Representative Jerry Hertaus for their efforts in obtaining state funding for safety improvements to Highway 12.

Osmek said he is working with Loretto and Medina to obtain funding for railway quiet zones in their cities.


The Independence City Council will hold its next meeting at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Independence City Hall. The council holds its regular meetings at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

The City Council also approved a temporary gambling license for an Aug. 28 charity golf tournament at Windsong Farm Golf Club.

Lastly, the Council also approved a large assembly permit for the Sept. 9 Dylan Lane block party in the Lake Sarah neighborhood.