City Planning and Zoning Department a Resource for Builder

9 May 2018

With the advent of spring, the temperature rises, the ground thaws, grass starts to green up and buds start to form on trees. Spring is synonymous with growth, so it’s fitting that the season also ushers in a busy time for building projects.

Marina LodgeMarina Lodge

The City of Fairmont’s Planning and Zoning Department has a collaborative stance when it comes to development. Anyone looking to develop can benefit from the fact that it’s a small department, with knowledgeable staff available for consultation.

Megan Boeck, planner and code enforcement technician with the city, notes the department can help simplify the building process. “In planning, being proactive will always positively impact a project,” she says. “What sometimes happens is that people come to the city with building plans already drawn up. I would suggest checking with planning staff first to make sure what is being proposed will comply with all applicable codes and ordinances.”

Boeck says the city’s planning department can serve as an important resource for developers. She points to the recent Sisseton Lake Shore Development project as a prime example. Owner Scott Unke approached the planning department early about his plans for Marina Lodge Rentals, a condominium development on Sisseton Lake.

Marina LodgeMarina Lodge

Unke’s plan included the construction of four condominium units at 445 Lake Avenue in Fairmont. The property is located in the Shoreland Management District, which has specific guidelines to ensure protection of public waters and the natural characteristics of land. Structures have to comply with a 50-foot setback from the ordinary high-water mark and there are also impervious surface limitations, for example.

Boeck says Unke met with planning staff before he hired an architectural firm to design the development. This meeting allowed him to gain insight about regulations for the lot layout and to ensure the development would comply with the Zoning Code.

After the development’s layout was designed, Unke went back to the planning department for a preliminary review of the projects site plan, floor plan and proposed storm sewer improvements. The process took about three months — from the initial meeting to the time the final permitting was in place. In part, this was because the project required a variance for the side yard setback and density evaluation, which necessitated a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

Despite the lengthy process, Boeck points out that the Sisseton Lake Shore Development project progressed smoothly because the builder was in touch with planning staff throughout the entire process. She recommends that all developers, no matter the project scope, consult with planning staff to streamline the permitting process and to ultimately save both time and money.