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Morris City Council gives zoning ordinance first reading

The Morris City Council gave a first reading to a city ordinance that would update the city zoning map and make two small changes to the city zoning code at their meeting on Tuesday.

"This has been a long time in coming," said City Manager Blaine Hill.

The list of 20 changes to the zoning map came to the council from the Planning Commission. On the whole, Hill told the council that he didn't think most of the changes were particularly controversial.

At a public hearing on the proposed changes in September, the only point of extensive discussion was changing a strip of land through the middle of downtown, along the railroad tracks, from Heavy Industrial to Light Industrial, said Hill.

"It really sets us up for the future of allowing people to do the things in the areas that we designated," said Hill.

Council Member Twig Webster expressed concerns about the change from Heavy Industrial to Light Industrial, asking whether changing the zoning in that area unnecessarily restricted development and might deter a business from moving to the area sometime in the future.

"One of the things we talked about at the Planning Commission was that this is a very small piece of land, so the chances of finding any industry that is going to want to come in there and do it is probably going to be pretty slim," said Hill.

"I think the statement from the Planning Commission is that we do not want heavy industry in that neighborhood," said Hill.

"If we do a light industrial with it we retain the control and can allow things with conditions," said Council Member Jeff Miller. "If we don't, it's pretty much whatever... heavy industrial."

"But can it be rezoned if there's a potential ... 'threat' of industry coming into Morris?" asked Webster.

"I just wanted to make sure that change would do no harm," added Webster.

The new ordinance also includes two language changes to the city zoning code: adding Fairgrounds as a permitted use in Highway Business zones and moving residential, single-family homes from a permitted use to a conditional use in a Highway Business zone.

In order for the new zoning map to take effect, the ordinance will get a second reading at the next meeting where the council can take it up and decide if they want to adopt it or not. If approved, the ordinance will need to be published and would then take effect 30 days after publication.

Other business

• The council approved a grant agreement with the State of Minnesota for maintenance and operation at the Morris Municipal Airport for 2012 and 2013. Under the agreement, the state will reimburse the city for two-thirds of eligible maintenance and operation costs, with a maximum reimbursement of $22,345.

• Giese appointed Laura Walton to the Tourism Board.

The council will meet again this Thursday, Oct. 27 at 4:30 p.m. for a budget work session. Hill said the plan is to provide the council with some updated budget information, then open discussion with department heads to consider their budgets.

Hill said he would also like to discuss vandalism at the old elementary school property and changing the assessment policy for street reconstruction.