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Renville County tables zoning request

OLIVIA -- The Renville County board of commissioners voted three-to-two on Tuesday to table a request by Sawyer Tersteeg to rezone property he owns east of Olivia along U.S. Highway 212.

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 file photo 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 rezoning.

OLIVIA - The Renville County board of commissioners voted three-to-two on Tuesday to table a request by Sawyer Tersteeg to rezone property he owns east of Olivia along U.S. Highway 212.

Tersteeg wants to open a commercial seed storage operation in the former Palmer school bus garage he moved to the site. The commissioners made it clear they support his plans, but are conflicted over how to allow it.

The property is part of an urban expansion district the county and the city of Olivia created in 2016. It does not allow for the commercial activity Tersteeg is proposing, unless he would annex the 11Β½-acre site into the city.

If rezoned for agricultural use, Tersteeg could apply for a conditional use permit to operate the business. The county planning commission recommended in favor of rezoning the site.

Commissioners John Stahl, Bob Fox and chair Randy Kramer voted to table the rezoning request, while commissioners Rick Schmidt and Doug Erickson voted no. Schmidt said he would favor rezoning. Moments laters, the commissioners unanimously voted to instruct the county planning commission to draft an amendment to the urban expansion zone that would allow for commercial seed storage operations.

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While it will take more time, changing the language of the urban expansion zone is seen as a clean way to allow the commercial use and protect the integrity of the urban expansion district.

Also, the supporters of tabling the request noted that they can still approve the rezoning request. They must hold an up or down vote on it no later than Nov. 29.

"I think we all want the same thing,'' said board chair Randy Kramer in reference to support by all of the parties for the proposed commercial seed storage operation.

The votes came after the commissioners met with Sawyer Tersteeg and his father, Randy, their attorney Dan Schleck, as well as representatives for the city of Olivia, including council member Blanca Ferguson, planning director Mary Jo Halliday and city attorney Aaron Walton.

Walton said the city does not oppose plans to change the text of the urban expansion zone ordinance to allow for commercial seed operations. The city remains opposed to rezoning. The city is concerned that it will open the floodgates for other piecemeal zoning requests and erode the purpose of the expansion zone, which is to manage the area for orderly development.

Schleck proposed that the county rezone the site as part of an agreement in which Sawyer Tersteeg would rescind the rezoning once new language for the urban expansion district is approved.

That proposal raised concerns among some of the commissioners. "I do not want to be sitting in court,'' said commissioner Stahl. He expressed concerns that such an approach would be subject to legal challenge. He was also among those who said the process that has now reached the board should have been moved forward months earlier.

Schleck said his client is looking for a way to move forward, and is concerned that the delays are costing him money and business. He also said that changing the urban expansion district language could take more time than the commissioners realize.

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Randy Tersteeg told the commissioners that his son purchased the property when it was zoned for agricultural use. He said his son was provided misinformation by a former county official who he said stated that he was placing a moratorium on the site that would not allow for his commercial plans.

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Submitted map of proposed rezoning

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