The request seemed simple enough.

The owners of a proposed senior housing development appeared before the Monticello City Council on Monday, June 24 seeking a conditional use permit to allow for a 125-unit facility on County Road 39 at Hart Boulevard.

But instead of getting Earlier  this year, the City Council amended its land use plan to allow the 5-acre development. The City Council also has rezoned the site of the proposed development from B-4, regional business to R-4, medium and high density residential district. On June 4 the Monticello Planning Commission recommended approval of the conditional use permit.

But a 2011 ordinance dealing with development within the wild and scenic shoreland designation zone along the Mississippi River threw a monkey wrench into the plans of Headwaters Development- at least for a month or two.

The 125-unit sits within the wild and scenic shoreland district. The height of the project exceeds 35 feet.

Why is the height of the proposed senior living complex important?

State statutes cap developments to 35 feet tall within the district. In 2011, the City Council approved a more restrictive measure, limiting the height of developments to 25 feet.

Mayor Brian Stumpf raised the issue of the discrepancy between the state and city regulations and how they might affect the request for the conditional use permit.

Stephen Grittman of Northwest Associated Consultants, Inc., the city’s community planning services consultant, said it was his understanding that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said at the beginning of the approval process that the 35 foot height restriction would be grandfathered in because that was the regulation at the time the property was annexed into the City and the property platted.

“As early as today...the DNR said the State would apply a 35-foot requirement,” Grittman said. “We have proceeded to this point with the understanding that were no variances and that this was consistent with the DNR’s interpretation of the height requirement,” 

But Stumpf said he wanted further discussion because he didn’t understand how a more restrictive city ordinance could be overlooked in regards to this matter.

He also noted that a decision on the senior living facility could set dangerous precedent for future developments within the City’s wild and scenic shoreland zone.

Stumpf said he would like city staff to research why the city put in place wild and scenic shoreland rules that are more restrictive than state statutes. He noted that the Council in 2011 took action for a reason, and he wants to know what that reason was. He also asked City staff to research what the developer needs to do if the City adheres to the 25-foot height requirement set in 2011.

So that can be done, Stumpf recommended that the Council table the issuing of the conditional use permit.

The Council did vote to table the measure.

Two things could happen in the next couple months.

Headwaters Development could ask the City for a variance from the 25-foot requirement. The City Council could also revisit its ordinance and amend it to change the height restriction from 25 feet to 35 feet. Both options would require a public hearing at the Planning Commission level, a recommendation for approval from the Planning Commission and eventual approval by the City Council. 

The Council appeared hesitant to favor amending the ordinance, because all property within the wild and scenic shoreland zone would be subject to the higher height restrictions.

Reach Jeff Hage at



Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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