Zoning dispute

Several Minot residents are suing the City of Minot over a zoning variance that is allowing a bank to build an addition next to their neighborhood.

The lawsuit states that the city failed to follow its zoning procedures in granting the variance to First Western Bank and Trust in March 2013. Residents are asking that the variance be repealed.

Cindy Hemphill, acting city manager, said Monday morning that she is unable to comment because the city had not yet been served with the complaint. An attorney for the plaintiffs said the complaint was delivered to the Ward County Sheriff and would be filed after it is served by the sheriff.

The complaint is being brought by neighbors Joe Schmidt, Kelly Buettner-Schmidt, Barry Hoffer, Susan Hoffer, Michael Lucy, Nancy Lucy, Steve Muus and Fae Self, all residents of Brooklyn Addition in Minot.

The complaint relates to an addition that First Western Bank began building on its bank at 900 S. Broadway a year ago. The bank had requested three city zoning variances to reduce the required parking from 113 to 105 spaces, to reduce the setback from the required 25 feet to the existing setback of four feet and to alter the requirement for screening between commercial and residential districts on the west property line.

The Minot Planning Commission on Feb. 25, 2013, tabled the bank’s requests to allow bank representatives to continue discussions with the neighbors, who had voiced concerns about the size of the building proposed near their homes with minimal setback.

Planning staff had recommended denial of the screening variance and laid out suggested conditions for stormwater management, landscape plans and water and sewer fees if the commission chose to approve the variances.

On March 4, the Minot City Council voted to grant the variances with conditions that the planning staff had recommended.

According to the lawsuit, the action violated the city zoning ordinance, which requires that grants of variances be acted on by either the board of adjustment or the planning commission. Before granting a variance, the planning commission must find that the variance can be granted “without substantial detriment to the public good and without actually impairing the general purpose and intent of the comprehensive plan as established by zoning regulations and provisions,” the complaint stated.

The city council can enact, disallow or change planning commission decisions. However, the complaint noted, the planning council had only decided to table the bank’s variance requests and had not decided whether to grant or deny.

Neither the planning commission, board of adjustment or city council specifically found that the bank’s variance requests can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and without impairing the general purpose and intent of the comprehensive plan, according to the complaint.

“Without such specific findings, there is no authority to grant a variance,” the complaint stated.