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Farmington parking lot gets OK despite neighbor concerns

Despite arguments from residents, a proposed parking lot in one downtown neighborhood received support from the Farmington Planning Commission.

Residents on Main Street, mostly between Third and Fourth streets, have waited more than nine months to find out what is happening with the property to the north of their lots. Now they know that a parking lot is planned.

The property in question is owned by Farmington businessman Colin Garvey, who acquired it in May, 2001. The property was once a spur line owned by Canadian Pacific Railway. The railroad company abandoned the line in 1998.

Although it abuts a residential neighborhood, the property has been zoned for heavy business use since Farmington started zoning property in 1969, according to planning commission chairman Dirk Rotty.

Garvey approached the planning commission in January to request a conditional use permit to locate a truck repair shop at another property he owned on Fifth Street. He received approval for that business. At the same time, Garvey asked the commission to allow him to use the land he owns between Third and Fourth streets as a parking lot for some of the vehicles associated with his business.

Neighbors' concerns with the plan started last summer when they came home to find stakes in their properties. Those stakes, it turned out, represented a survey Garvey had done to identify the property lines between his lots and those of his neighbors.

Around that same time, work was done on the property to cut down and tear out the larger, older trees that had been growing on the lot. Much of the brush remains on the property.

Residents signed a petition to show their opposition to Garvey's plan. A few of them attended the April 9 planning commission meeting, as well.

"You can understand, this is our neighborhood. This is where we live. This is where we carry out our day to day activities of families in our back yards," Joseph Gentry said.

Gentry said neighbors are concerned for the safety of the children in the neighborhood, particularly if there are going to be large trucks on the otherwise residential street. He also complained about a lack of communication between Garvey and the residents in the neighborhood.

"We would like to see some order to what's happening in our back yards.... We need some sort of comfort level with him. Right now it's somewhat adversarial relationship, but we would much rather work in partnership with him," Gentry said.

Former Farmington city council member Julie May also had concerns with the proposal. She owns a rental property that abuts Garvey's land.

"Now there's going to be a parking lot there. You can't tell me that's not going to affect the value of my property," May said. "I have as much right as he does to try to bring as much value to what we own, as he does."

Farmington city planner Lee Smick has been working with Garvey to set up some parameters for the project, should it go ahead. Those guidelines dictate that no equipment will be stored on the parking lot, and no maintenance of vehicles will happen there. It calls for screening to block the view from the adjacent properties, and requires any lighting to be directed away from the homes.

Additionally, Garvey must clean up the remaining trees and shrubs on the property by June 1.

"The residents came out and they signed a petition. Anyone would have to abide by this," Smick said of the parameters. "This would happen to anyone because of the level of scrutiny by the residents."

Garvey was only given approval to construct a lot on the west side of the property at this time, and the lot is limited in size. That is all he plans to do right now for financial reasons, he said.

Garvey addressed some of the resident concerns at the planning commission meeting. Some of those concerns, he said, could have been discussed sooner, but no one contacted him.

"I never said this was going to be a truck site or anything. It just gets stirred up by some person and they run around making up all (these lies). That gets the neighbors all worked up. No one has ever come and talked to me. No one has called me. We'll get it cleaned up. We'll stay on our property," Garvey said.

The parking lot proposal was approved on a 5-0 vote of the planning commission. Garvey is working on funding for the project, Smick said Monday. Construction will not go ahead until he has that funding and signs guidelines for use of the property.

Garvey will have to get approval from the planning commission if he ever wants to expand the lot or make any other changes to the property, she added.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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