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Residents living near 405 First Street E. are worried a change from residential zoning to a general business district will increase the likelihood of car versus pedestrian or bicycle accidents in the area, boost noise levels and auto exhaust pollution, and create a potential drop in their property values. Many of them attended a Milaca City Council meeting Thursday, Jan. 13 ,to learn more about why Jay and Rosemary Lunn wanted to have their property at 405 First St. E. rezoned from residential to general business district to allow it to be used for new purposes within the community. Eric Sannerud, another Milaca resident and CEO of Mighty Axe Hops, wants to transform the historic 1926 brick building into a brewery and taproom.

Residents filled the Milaca council chambers Thursday, Jan. 16,  to learn the fate of a controversial zoning request involving a historic city business building.

Jay and Rosemary Lunn wanted to have their property at 405 First St. E. rezoned from residential to general business district/

Eric Sannerud, another Milaca area resident and CEO of Mighty Axe Hops, wants to transform the historic building into a brewery and taproom.

The Lunn Construction Co. building was built in 1926.

In an application for rezoning that was reviewed Jan. 13 by planning commissioners, the Lunns stated that over time, the building was surrounded with residential properties.

During the council’s Jan. 16 meeting, Mayor Pete Pedersen asked Zoning Administrator Marshall Lind to summarize the Milaca Planning Commission recommendation made earlier in the week in support of the rezoning request.

Zoning area review

Lind said commissioners made a recommendation to approve rezoning of the property at 405 First St. E. from R-2 to B-2.

He used a large color copy of the city’s zoning map to briefly explain the change and property location.

Pedersen then opened up the council meeting and the agenda item to public comment and discussion.

Residents living near 405 First Street E. are worried a change from residential zoning to a general business district will increase the likelihood of car versus pedestrian or bicycle accidents in the area, boost noise levels and auto exhaust pollution, and create a potential drop in their property values.

Resident sounds off

Resident Nancy Fetzek spoke first.

She stated that the rezoning was a poor idea.

“It will add a lot of traffic,” she said. “That’s the stated purpose of the overall ordinance. With the traffic will come noise. There have been a lot of studies done regarding pollution, and a number of research organizations have data regarding noise and its impact on human health.”

Fetzek told the council that a letter sent by city staff to residents had very little information about the proposed rezoning request.

“That letter gave no information about what a B-2 district is. It just gave the legal description,” she said.

Fetzek also had an issue with the Jan. 13 planning commission meeting.

“Maybe I’m misunderstanding this, but I thought the planning commission was supposed to be unbiased and not be skewed in one direction,” she said, as far as being pro-business or pro-neighborhood. “It was kind of disappointing to me.”

According to Fetzek, residents who spoke at the planning commission meeting really didn’t seem to be heard. She again mentioned concerns about more traffic.

“Adding a brewery to this neighborhoods just seems to be a very poor decision,” she concluded. Pedersen replied that the proposed rezoning, if approved, would receive regulation under a number of city ordinances. “If we make this a B-2, we still have to follow ordinances that would control traffic and noise,” he added.

Fetzek said that information should have been included in the letter to residents.

Additional city info

Lind said the B-2 zoning ordinance does allow for more traffic in a given area.

Pedersen had Lind use the zoning map in the meeting room to demonstrate the differences between the city’s business zoning districts in B-1 versus B-2.

One resident asked Lind to explain why the Lunn property was zoned residential.

“Originally, there was a lot of commercial zoning around this property, and over time, those businesses all disappeared,” Lind said. Some property was bought by the manufactured home park, and other property became residential housing.

“The only building that was left was Mr. Lunn’s,” he said. “The building has always been used for commercial purposes. We could not leave it alone as a business.” Doing so would have been spot zoning, which isn’t allowed by state statue.

Pedersen used the Coffee Corner as an example of a property located in a B-2 district. “That can never become a residential again,” he said. “It stays a B-2.”

Traffic noise concerns

Fetzek was still concerned about the potential for traffic noise.

She said that the city’s noise ordinances were not very well enforced. Pedersen replied, “Then talk to the guy behind you,” referring to Milaca Chief of Police Todd Quaintance.

Council Member Cory Petersen had a question for Quaintance regarding a question that was brought up during the Milaca Planning Commission meeting.

“From a law enforcement perspective, with this rezoning, if it were to go through, are there any additional concerns or would it create any unmanageable work for your department if this was rezoned B-2?”

Quaintance said he didn’t see any greater concern regarding the potential for increased vehicle traffic associated with the Lunn property parcel when compared with any other parcel in town.

“I would be more concerned if this would be creating an on-street parking issue,” he added. “It’s my understanding this change would require off-street parking.”

Quaintance said that First Street would be able to handle the vehicle traffic because it was already established as a vehicle route in and out of town.

Lind pointed out that people would still be able to park on the street if a business was located on the Lunn property or within the current building.

Commission concern

Resident Tom Stoll said he was dismayed by the planning commission’s actions on Monday night.

“There were only three of the five planning commission members present,” Stoll said. “I know a simple majority quorum of three people is OK, but this recommendation comes to this council with two votes out of five. I’m the type of person who believes in excellence in city government. The letter to residents was not that clear about the other four property that would be affected by this.”

Four properties - 325 First St. E. Volunteers of America, 305 First St. E. Kaila Carroll, 110 Fourth Ave. S.E. Conrad Broschofsky, and 120 Fourth Ave. S.E. Carol Brock - would also have to be rezoned to B-2 if the Lunn’s request was approved.

“It was mentioned at the end of the planning commission meeting that the city council would be dealing with this tonight,” Stoll said. “This has gone very fast. This could have been done in a way with better communication,” he added.

City attorney speaks

Pedersen had City Attorney Damien Toven explain the planning commission’s procedures and how residents were notified about the rezoning request.

Toven said the commission’s handling of the zoning request met all requirements, rules, and regulations.

“That’s the purpose for having a quorum,” he said. “You are not always going to have a full body. You can’t stop action from taking place because you don’t have an entire political body present,” Toven added.

According to Toven, all five members of the city council were “well-versed” with what was going on with the rezoning request and would have the final say.

Stoll praised Cory Petersen, the Milaca City Council’s planning commission liaison member, for his efforts to gather information during Monday night’s meeting.

Milaca Pizza Central business co-owner John Scharber spoke in favor of the proposed rezoning.

“It’s a very historic building,” he said. “I like what’s being proposed an intended use. Having something like this join the Milaca community would help business thrive. It would be great to revitalize the building.”

Proposed business

Brewery and taproom developer Eric Sannerud also addressed the city council, reading a prepared statement that addressed a number of resident concerns.

“We are really excited and humbled for the chance to bring a new business to our community,” he said. “We feel in small towns like ours, it’s imperative for each citizen to use their talents forward for the betterment of the town. For us, we believe it’s bringing a craft brewery to Milaca. The folks who are here tonight with misgivings, we hear you. We hope you don’t make up your minds before we even exist. We still have many more hoops before we could even hope to open our business. We hope to prove to you that we can be a very good neighbor.”

Sannerud said as proposed, the craft brewery in the Lunn Construction Co. building would be open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, opening around 4 p.m. on Fridays and closing any night of the week by 10 p.m.

“Those hours follow along with the culture of brew pubs,” Sannerud explained. “This is not a bar. This would be a community asset, a third space where people can go to build community. We are dedicated to developing a comfortable and welcoming space with Internet that can be reserved for company outings, birthdays, and meetings. Breweries are a tourist attraction and bring people in.”

Sannerud closed by saying the new business would partner with local groups regarding community event and organizational fundraising. “We want to enliven and enrich the community and be a good asset. We hope to get your support.”

More from the mayor

Pedersen said Sannerud had a lot of hoops to jump through with the city, namely ordinances associated with developing his business.

“That will address some of your concerns,” Pedersen told those who had filled the council chambers. “That doesn’t mean because we rezoned this, the brewery automatically goes through.”

Katie Zimmer and Arlyn Wall, who own the Milaca-based Brookview Winery, spoke in favor of the rezoning effort and Sannerud’s plan at the council meeting.

“We’ve had many people at our establishment talk about bringing additional things to our community,” Zimmer said. Wall added giving people another reason and location to stop locally would be an important way to bolster local business.

Petersen asked if the owners of the four residential properties were present and would like to address the city council. No one responded to Petersen’s request.

Owner speaks out

Property owner Jay Lunn addressed the council and residents during the Jan. 16 Milaca City Council meeting.

Lunn said his 94-year-old building has always been commercial in use and nature is currently considered residential property.

“It’s taxed commercial,” he said. “We talk about this being grandfathered in, but I can’t sell it to another business. The only thing I could do would be to make it residential, but it can’t be more than two families in that large building.”

Lunn said Eric and Rachel Sannerud have learned a lot during the exploratory phase of research to consider his building as a site for a new local business.

“I was amazed at their patience and through nature,” Lunn said. “Eric would not be getting involved if he didn’t think it was possible. He’s hired an architect and had contractors in the building. I’m confident they understand what it’s going to take to make this building into a microbrewery. They have the costs figured out.”

When Pedersen finally called for the question regarding the rezoning, the motion passed unanimously. “I’d like to thank all of you who showed up tonight,” he said.

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