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Garage dwellers in Afton?

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What started out as a simple application for several variances to construct a non-conforming accessory structure, turned into a lengthy discussion about residents of Afton acting illegally.

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At the May 19 meeting of the Afton City Council, the council reviewed an application from Mike and Trudy Berggren requesting several variances so that they may tear down three dilapidated accessory structures and construct one new 940 square-foot structure. The structure is proposed to be a story and a half in height.

Since the Berggren's property is located at the head waters and has several ponds and streams on their property, they would need a variance from the road setback, a pond variance, a bluff variance and a variance for the allowed number of stories.

The council saw no problems with the majority of the variances, but when it came to the variance on the number of stories, that rose a red flag.

During the meeting, Mike Berggren presented the council with photographs of at least ten properties that have accessory structures with at least two stories, if not more.

The council was very hesitant to grant this variance on the sole purpose that the Berggren's were playing by the rules and there was evidence of other's in Afton not.

During their discussions, council member and acting-mayor Peg Nolz informed the council that the initial purpose of the ordinance requiring one story accessory structures was to eliminate the possibility of having anyone live in the accessory structure since only one dwelling per lot is allowed in Afton.

The Berggren's said they had no intention of having living quarters in their accessory structure.

Council member Bill Palmquist said he was in favor of approving their application because they should not be punished for other Afton residents' actions.

"Just because they'll have an extra half story doesn't mean there's going to be somebody living up there."

Nolz informed the Berggren's that one way around these stipulations is to have the extra half story be a loft, eliminating a stairwell, and including a ladder-type structure.

Mike Berggren said he did not feel this was safe for his young children or logical for hauling up large equipment.

Ultimately, the council approved the Berggren's application, with the condition of a ladder-like structure being used to access the extra half story.

The council also agreed to look at the current ordinance addressing multiple stories for possible amendments. The council is also going to discuss enforcement and penalties for properties that do no go through the proper steps for accessory structures and simply acting on their own.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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