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Meeting Date: 01/27/2022  
By: Chris Anderson, Community Development

Consider Site Plan and Variance Request for Northstar Marketplace Multi-Tenant Retail Building at 7912 Sunwood Drive NW (Project No. 22-101); Case of Northstar Marketplace LLC
The City has received an application from Northstar Marketplace LLC (the "Applicant") for Site Plan review for a new multi-tenant, retail building at 7912 Sunwood Drive NW (the "Subject Property").  The proposal also includes a request for a Variance to the build-to requirement along Sunwood Drive.
The City attempted to notify all property owners, as reflected in the Anoka County Property Records, within 700 feet of the Subject Property of the request by U.S. Mail. The Public Hearing notice was also posted in the City's Official Newspaper, the Anoka County UnionHerald.
General Project Overview
The Applicant is proposing construction of a 7,200 square foot, multi-tenant building on the southern portion of the Subject Property.  The building could have up to six (6) tenants and does include a drive-thru along the western (non-street facing) side.  This project would result in the full build-out of the Northstar Marketplace retail node. The Subject Property is located in the COR-2 zoning district and is guided as Mixed Use in the Comprehensive Plan.  The proposed uses, retail and restaurants, are permitted based on both the zoning and land use designations.

Parking Summary
As a stand-alone project, a minimum of fourteen (14) parking stalls would be required and a maximum of twenty-eight (28) stalls would be permitted (based on retail uses).  However, the Subject Property is part of a retail 'campus' that shares a large parking lot.  There are currently 468 parking stalls serving this retail node, which includes four (4) existing buildings, plus this proposed building.  This project would actually decrease the parking from 468 stalls to 452 stalls.  Looking back at the initial review of the Ramsey Town Center 3rd Addition Site Plan, a minimum of 440 parking stalls were required (this included the build-out of the Subject Property).  The project proposes to provide nine (9) parking stalls abutting the south elevation of the building.

The proposed building will have an exterior finish consisting of a combination of facebrick, integral colored rockface CMU, glass, aluminum, and EIFS.  This design is very similar or matches the exterior finish of the other buildings within this retail node.  While the south elevation, which faces the parking lot, will serve as the front entrances for these tenants, the north (street facing) elevation will essentially match that same look, including ingress/egress doors. 

The Site Plan includes a twenty foot by twenty foot (20' x 20') fenced in patio off the northwest and southwest corners of the building.  This would provide an outdoor eating spaces for prospective food tenants in the end cap units, something that the Applicant has noted as being important, especially considering the impacts the pandemic has had on the food service industry.  The Applicant has noted that the fencing material would be aluminum.  Staff is working with the Applicant to ensure that the fencing would be consistent with The COR Design Framework.

The project does include an exterior trash enclosure near the northeastern corner of the building.  As of the writing of this case, Staff has not received a rendering or description of the enclosure materials.  The Applicant is working with their architect to provide additional details on the enclosure.  Since it is not internal to the building, the design of the enclosure should appear essentially like an extension of the building itself.

The COR-2 zoning district does not have minimum required setbacks from the side or rear property boundaries.  However, there is a build-to requirement from the building front to the public road right-of-way of no more than fifteen (15) feet (Sunwood Drive is designated as a Destination Street).  As proposed, no part of the building meets the build-to requirement.  The northeast corner of the building (the portion nearest to Sunwood Drive) is about seventeen (17) feet from the right-of-way boundary.

Sunwood Drive was realigned circa 2012-2013 to accommodate the Armstrong Boulevard overpass.  While the road was realigned, the existing utilities, including trunk sewer and trunk water lines, remained in place, as they were serving the western most building within this retail node.  These utilities, as well as the existing drainage and utility easement that encumbers the northern half of the Subject Property, prevent the building from meeting the build-to standard.  Furthermore, not just the drainage and utility easement, but the utilities themselves, create barriers to a knee wall or other decorative means to create the desired street presence.  Even as proposed, a small portion of the building encroaches into the drainage and utility easement (Staff is working with the Engineering Department to determine whether a partial Easement Vacation or an Easement Encroachment Agreement would be the most appropriate way to address this matter).  Due to these constraints, the Applicant has requested a variance to the build-to standard.

When considering a Variance, the Planning Commission shall consider the following factors:
  1. Will the variance allow the property owner to use the property in a reasonable manner?
  2. Is the plight of the landowner is due to circumstances unique to the property and not created by the landowner?
  3. Will the variance, if granted, alter the essential character of the locality?
The Subject Property is irregularly shaped as a result of the realignment of Sunwood Drive.  The irregular shape, combined with the existing utilities and easement, were not created by the Applicant and are unique to the Subject Property.  The proposed multi-tenant building is a permitted use and will hopefully attract more retail and restaurant options to the area, a strong desire of the residents.  The proposed building location will not impact the essential character of the locality as there are already two (2) buildings within this retail node that sit much further away from the public road right-of-way.


Alternative 1: Motion to adopt Resolution #22-029 approving a variance to the build-to requirement and recommend City Council approve the Site Plan for the new, multi-tenant building on the Subject Property.  The proposed building not only provides more opportunities for retail and restaurant type businesses to enter Ramsey, but also is very similar in style to the other four (4) buildings within this retail node.  Due to the realignment of Sunwood Drive and the location of existing sewer and water utility lines, the building cannot meet the build-to requirement for a Destination Street.  The circumstances appear to satisfy the 3-factor test outlined above.  Staff supports this alternative.

Alternative 2: Do not approve the requested variance and recommend that the Site Plan be modified to comply with The COR Design Framework standards (specifically the build-to requirement).  Based on the unique shape of the property, existing access into the Subject Property, and location of utilities, this does not seem to be a reasonable action and Staff does not support it.

Funding Source:
All costs associated with this request are the Applicant's responsibility.
Staff recommends approving the requested variance as well as the Site Plan, contingent upon compliance with Staff's review comments in ProjectDox.
Motion to adopt Resolution #22-029 granting a variance to the build-to requirement.


Motion to recommend City Council adopt Resolution #22-030 approving the Site Plan.

Site Location Map
Existing Conditions
Site Plan
Color Elevations
ProjectDox Changemark Comments
Resolution #22-029: Variance
Resolution# 22-030: Site Plan

Form Review
Inbox Reviewed By Date
Brian Hagen Brian Hagen 01/20/2022 11:27 AM
Form Started By: Chris Anderson Started On: 01/18/2022 10:31 AM
Final Approval Date: 01/20/2022


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