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Zoning change approved for BOF expansion

Striking a balance between a growing company's need for space and the encroachment on nearby residential areas was a challenge for Perham city officials.

Rapid growth at Barrel O' Fun snacks prompted an application for a zoning change, from residential to light industrial. The change was requested for truck and employee parking space at Barrel O' Fun.

The proposal raised questions and some opposition from the neighboring residents. Five neighbors attended an initial hearing before the city's planning and zoning commission Sept. 21.

Two residents voiced their concerns at the final approval by the city council Oct. 12.

Stormwater runoff, dust, safety and heavy truck traffic were among the concerns.

"We have too many trucks running in residential areas," said homeowner Eugene Malikowski, who recommended designated truck routes not only for Barrel O' Fun, but to service other industrial sites in town. "We have blacktop parking lots all over town, which creates problems where the surface water will go."

Stormwater runs from Barrel O' Fun directly to his lot, contended Malikowski.

Another issue for residents is the lighting for the lot. One resident at the planning commission meeting feared the neighborhood would "look like a WalMart at night."

"Right now, I can read the newspaper at night at my house by the Barrel O' Fun lights," said Malikowski.

Also expressing concerns about parking, and buffer zones between Barrel O' Fun and nearby homes, was Robianne Schultz.

In order to remedy those issues, the planning commission included several recommendations along with the zoning change. Among them:

--A lighting plan that complies with the city's zoning ordinance.

--Measures to control dust.

--A plan for stormwater runoff has been prepared by Ulteig Engineering.

--A 30-foot tree buffer zone between the Barrel O' Fun parking area and the residential neighborhood.

"Most cities would die to have the truck traffic we have," said Councilman Jim Johnson, referencing the economic benefit of large employers like Barrel O' Fun.

In making a motion to approve the zoning change, Johnson also stressed that the remedies need to be in place to satisfy neighbors.

The motion to approve the zoning change passed by a 4-0 council vote. Mayor Kevin Keil, who is employed by Barrel O' Fun, abstained from the discussion and the voting.