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Detroit Lakes may amend zoning rules to allow business tents

After two months of talk of allowing or not allowing Zorbaz to put a tent up for next summer, and possibly future summers, the talk hasn't halted yet. In fact, it's become more complicated.

After Tom and Cole Hanson appeared separately to ask that Zorbaz be allowed to erect a tent for the summer of 2010 as they did last summer for their 40th anniversary celebration, the city discussed amending the zoning ordinance to include tent structures.

At Thursday's Community Development Committee meeting, City Attorney Charlie Ramstad presented a draft of an amendment.

"I felt if the council is inclined to approve it ... it should be under conditional use permit ... it would allow neighbors to speak" at a public hearing, Ramstad said.

In his drafting of the amendment, Ramstad said he tried to have the existing ordinances still stand, like the noise ordinance, water run-off taken care of, a direct link from the tent to the business owner, impervious surface requirements, setbacks and parking requirements.

"Do you want to amend the city ordinance to allow this to occur and if so, under what circumstance," Ramstad said.

Which led to the main question. Before taking up the planning commission's time to tweak the amendment, the council first needs to decide if allowing tents on buildings is something it wants to allow in general.

Ramstad also advised that if the council decides not to pass the amendment, the Zorbaz request would not fit under the existing ordinance. It is one thing to allow a business to put up a tent on a temporary basis, but a five-month period every year is not temporary, he said.

"When you cross the line between a temporary event tent rather than a substitute for a permanent structure," he said, there is a problem.

He added that if the amendment is passed, it should be done so that once the permit is given, the business has a limited time the tent can be up. The council could determine that time period on a case-by-case basis, according to the needs of the business.

The group also discussed the responsibility of the business owner to be in compliance with the state fire marshal regulations.

Shorewood Pub owner Shirley Cervenka asked if Zorbaz -- or anyone who had a tent by their business -- would have to pay property taxes on it like she has to on the addition to Shorewood Pub. When the answer was no, she pointed out the unfairness.

The group agreed that the issue will go before the council at 5 p.m. Tuesday. After discussion and input from the public, the council will vote on whether to go forward with the amendment, and if not, what to do about the Zorbaz request.