WINTHROP - By a 3-2 vote Monday, it appeared the Winthrop City Council approved rezoning property from R-1 to C-1 and a United Farmers Cooperative (UFC) Conditional Use Permit (CUP) request for a new island and pump system to dispense diesel fuel on Highway 19 just east of the existing C-store.
City councilors Pete Machaiek and Lyle Muth cast dissenting votes on both resolutions. Machaiek cited particular concern with the issues before voting.
"This is by far the hardest vote I've ever had to do. We're damned if we do or don't," he explained.
Upon further review later in the meeting, it was learned that the resolutions actually failed. According to Minnesota Statute 462.357, Subdivision 2,... "The adoption or amendment of any portion of a zoning ordinance which changes all or part of the existing classification of a zoning district from residential to either commercial or industrial requires a two-thirds majority vote of all members of the governing body."
Winthrop City Attorney Don Lannoye said after researching the statute, it was determined that the resolutions failed since they didn't have a two-thirds majority (.600 majority instead of the required .667 majority).
Earlier in the meeting, Machaiek asked Winthrop City Attorney Don Lannoye if the issue involves "spot zoning" as some people felt. "In my opinion, no it does not," Lannoye said. "But all conditions must be met for the permit to be renewed. State permits including the MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) and MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) are necessary too."
Muth said he felt for residents and businesses. "It's a difficult deal. You have to weigh everything. Our city growth is along the highway," Muth said.
Councilor Rob Edwards asked that the CUP be amended to expire and must be renewed 13 months after actual operation of the new fueling island and pump system begins.
Edwards said he tried to set up a meeting between himself, Machaiek, UFC officials and Shelley Zacate, who lives with her family just south where the project would be done, but he said Zacate declined his attempt to meet.
"This is tearing our community apart," Edwards said. "We have a solid charge to govern in this chamber. Isn't there enough bickering and splintering in Washington and St. Paul? We can do without that in Winthrop."
Councilor Ed Pelletier said he discredited most of the project's concerns. "We'll have more safety with the trucks because they'll be moving slower when they turn to get fuel," Pelletier said. "I don't see a big affect on property values."
During a public hearing earlier in the meeting, Winthrop Planning Commission member Mark Santelman said the issue involved "spot zoning" and violated the City's Comprehensive Plan. Santelman read extensive notes during the hearing but was cut short due to a two-minute per person time limit.
Other people spoke in favor of and against the project. "I'm thrilled with the project," a woman said. "I don't see a lot changing. The trucks are already here. I see a cleaned up corner."
Zacate said she, like most people that live near the C-store, didn't want the project because they will lose property rights including peace, quiet and safety.
Lowell Burns, who said he represented First Lutheran Church, located several blocks away, said he asked a trucker where he'd prefer buy fuel and he said near the elevator east of town. "The place is too small for this. Do it where there is more room," Burns said.
Another man said MnDOT will remove the Highway 19 stoplight within the next year and the road will have to be widened.
The city council discussed residents owning chickens within the city limits. Peter Schuckber said he owned three chickens and showed councilors photos of them. "Let's have a committee look at this at a work session," Mayor Dave Trebelhorn said.
Lannoye said permits should be required for residents to own chickens and regulations should be enforced by the police department.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).