Vern Eide GMC’s quest to rezone the parking lot it has been utilizing since acquiring the former Coca-Cola property in 2015 cleared its first hurdle Monday at Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the local auto dealership's application to rezone the lot -- which is located east of the 219 E. First Ave. Buick, GMC and Chevrolet dealership -- from an R2 Residential District to a Transportation, Warehouse and Commercial (TWC) District. The City Council will now have the final say in approving the rezoning application at the July 15 meeting.

“Somehow over the years, the zoning of the lot changed to an R2 district,” City Planner Neil Putnam said. “This would essentially switch the zoning back to what it originally was.”

The auto dealership’s rezoning application comes on the heels of a May 13 Planning Commission meeting, in which City Attorney Justin Johnson discovered the parking lot was rezoned from a TWC district to an R2 at some point in the past. The revelation of Vern Eide’s zoning shakeup was also one of the businesses with a parking lot located in an R2 residential district, in which Mark Puetz referenced during his proposal to construct a parking lot next to Puetz Corporation’s headquarters on 800 N. Kimball St.

An R2 residential zoning district doesn't allow for a parking lot to be utilized for commercial use like Vern Eide has been over the past several years. That meant Vern Eide was technically utilizing the parking lot against the city’s zoning ordinance code. Therefore, the auto dealership was mandated to apply for rezoning the lot to continue operations on the former Coca-Cola property.

In addition, the Planning Commission included rezoning two lots that are located adjacent to the car lot Vern Eide currently uses for displaying vehicles. The two lots on the east side of the car lot are zoned in a Central Business (CB) district, and Putnam said rezoning the corner lots to a TWC district would make for a more consistent zoning map.

“It makes sense to switch the lots back to make it all a TWC district again,” Putnam said.

Commission member Kevin Genzlinger said the parking lot had no business being in an R2 district, given its past history of being used as a commercial lot.

The Vern Eide office headquarters being located in a TWC or commercial district -- meaning it’s not completely surrounded by residential zoning districts like Puetz Corporation -- is an important factor for the decision to approve the rezoning application, because that excludes the lot's rezone from being considered "spot zoning."

In an attempt to discover any similar zoning district changes that may have occurred during past zoning ordinance re-adoptions, Putnam said he’s in the midst of examining updated zoning maps.

“I’m looking at aerial photos of the existing zoning ordinance map and comparing it to previous maps to carefully look into any zoning changes over the years that may have happened,” Putnam said. “And we might at some point look at correcting anything that we feel needs to be corrected.”

Dog training facility receives approval

A dog training facility may soon be welcoming furry friends after the Planning Commission approved the applicant’s conditional use permit.

Michele Hanten, the applicant of the dog training facility, provided the Planning Commission with details of the facility, which will be located at 1104 W. Havens Ave. should the council approve the conditional use permit at the July 15 meeting.

“I train service dogs as well, and I help dogs learn social skills among many other things,” Hanten said. “I will operate the facility similar to a dog day care.”

Hanten said there will be an enclosed fencing area outside of the facility, which is designed to lessen the volume of the dogs barking.

“Everything will be pretty much inside, except for potty breaks,” Hanten said.

John Hegg, the city of Mitchell’s building inspector, supported the dog training facility contingent upon a thorough plumbing inspection and proper protocol for the waste disposal being excreted from the dogs.

“Last I knew, it was state law that says you cannot mix human and pet waste down a sanitary sewer,” Hegg said. “Just to give you a heads up on that, and I need to know how you plan to handle your pet waste.”

In other business, the Planning Commission unanimously approved Jay Larson as the chairman and Doug Molumby as vice chairman.