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Olivia opposes zoning change east of city limits

OLIVIA -- The city of Olivia is asking Renville County not to meddle with an urban expansion zone east of the city limits and to reject a zoning change on an approximate 11 1/2 -acre parcel on the zone's outer limit.

Shelby Lindrud / Tribune Renville County is considering a request by Sawyer Tersteeg to rezone his property east of Olivia to allow him to rent out space in the former Palmer bus garage to seed corn companies for seed storage. The city of Olivia opposes the change as spot zoning in the area designated as an urban expansion zone.
Shelby Lindrud / Tribune Renville County is considering a request by Sawyer Tersteeg to rezone his property east of Olivia to allow him to rent out space in the former Palmer bus garage to seed corn companies for seed storage. The city of Olivia opposes the change as spot zoning in the area designated as an urban expansion zone.

OLIVIA - The city of Olivia is asking Renville County not to meddle with an urban expansion zone east of the city limits and to reject a zoning change on an approximate 11½-acre parcel on the zone's outer limit.

Sawyer Tersteeg is asking Renville County to rezone his property on the south side of U.S. Highway 212 and immediately west of 360th Street from an urban expansion zone to agriculture. If the county does so, Tersteeg said he would apply for a conditional use permit to rent out space in the former Palmer school bus garage he moved to the site for the storage of seed corn.

Calling it the "best and highest use'' for the property, Tersteeg and his attorney brought his request for the zoning change to the Renville County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday. While he can farm the property and store his own corn in the building, he cannot operate a commercial enterprise there under the urban expansion zoning.

"These limited uses are causing me great hardships as I am not able to achieve the benefits I wanted for the community or myself,'' Tersteeg told the commission. He said the zoning restriction is unfair because renting storage space for seeds is a permitted use on land to the east of his property, which is all zoned for agricultural use, as his property originally was.

Attorney Dan Schleck, representing Tersteeg, called the expansion zone classification "arbitrary.'' He said the commercial use his client would like to pursue would be permitted if the city annexed the land, which it could do at any time. Tersteeg said he is not interested in annexation, explaining that he does not need water or other city services and does not want higher taxes on the land.

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Planning Commission members tabled the request after also hearing from city representatives, who, also accompanied by their attorney, voiced their opposition to a zoning change. City Attorney Aaron Walton said the city does not believe the parcel within a larger urban expansion zone can legally be rezoned without changing the county's comprehensive plan for the area.

Most important, Walton and other city officials charged that rezoning the single parcel would represent "spot zoning'' and undermine the intent of the urban expansion zone. The city, county and Bird Island Township all approved the urban expansion zone in 2016. Its goal is to protect the area for eventual urban commercial and residential development.

Having "chunks" of separately zoned properties and activities within it would disrupt the orderly transition from farm to urban use, George Stadther, Olivia planning and zoning chair, told the commission.

The city of Olivia invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure improvements as part of the RC Hospital project to accommodate future urban expansion in the zone, Mary Jo Halliday, city zoning administrator, told the commission.

Halliday and Olivia Mayor Sue Hilgert said the city is willing to work with Tersteeg on his commercial project, if the land is annexed and an orderly process is followed. Halliday said city officials had not been informed of Tersteeg's plans for the site.

And, Halliday said the county should not have issued a permit for Tersteeg to move the former school bus building to the site if it was known that he intended to use it for a commercial operation in violation of the urban expansion zoning.

The Bird Island Township Board of Supervisors will be discussing the rezoning request Tuesday. Jason Rouse, representing the board, said the supervisors do not oppose Tersteeg's commercial plans, but also support the urban expansion zone.

Scott Refsland, Renville County environmental services director, said the county's land use attorney, Scott Anderson, has concerns that rezoning the parcel could be legally interpreted as spot zoning, and challenged in court.

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The Planning and Zoning Commission will take up the issue again at its meeting Sept. 10.

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