Upstairs apartment in Harris, can it be used?

By Clark Natalie—

The issue of whether the residential apartment above Big Daddy’s could continue to be used as an apartment was discussed Monday night at the Harris City Council.  The county assessor has asked the city if the apartment should be assessed as residential or commercial.

As a business, Big Daddy’s building is zoned commercial, which does not allow residential use.  But the upstairs had been an apartment when the zoning went into effect, and the residential use was granted as a nonconforming use.

The criteria was that there could not be a time when the area was not used as residential.  There was a time, between transfer of owners, when the apartment was not continuously rented out, so the city notified the owners that either they had to evict the present tenant or apply for either a change in the zoning laws or conditional use permit (CUP).

Owner Jill Novalany was at the meeting and said the required escrow of $2,500 to apply for a zoning change or CUP was not possible as both real estate taxes and liquor licenses were due before May 1.  Both are extremely expensive, and the operation could not afford an additional $2,500, she said.

Novalany said the upstairs has been inspected by Harris’ building inspector and fire chief, and the area is not suitable for commercial use, just adult residential unit.

It was decided that to continue using the area as residential, the planning commission would have to review three items.  First, a statement from the owner that she had actually occupied the space as residential when no one was renting it on a sporadic basis.  Second, that the building inspector agrees the area is suitable for an adult apartment.  And third, the fire chief, as the city’s fire marshall, prepares a written statement that the area is safe as a residential unit.

The planning commission will review these items and bring a recommendation to the council as to whether the continued use requirement has been met and it is safe to occupy as an adult residential unit.

In other business:

The issue of snow plowing, grading of city streets and mowing was discussed at great length.  The question was whether to hire another part-time public works employee or contract out.

Councilor Judy Hammerstrom asked why there had been an ad run for the public works employee when the council had not decided to hire or contract the work.

Miller, feeling the city needed to move resolution of this issue, called for applicants, should the council decide not to contract.  Hammerstrom pointed out that calling for applicants was a council decision.  The mayor said it was a misunderstanding.

The city will advertise for the snow plowing, grading, and mowing services.  On April 12, the council will compare the RFP’s to the cost of an employee and equipment to see which is cheaper.

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