Tags: Geneva Linn, Top of page
July 24, 2012 | 02:19 PMLINN — It was two strikes and you're out Monday night for John Trossen.
For the second time in two years, the owner of the Pier Country Store, N1806 Linn Road, saw his idea for expansion shot down.
And Monday night it was shot down twice — first by the town's Plan Commission and then by the town board. Both times it was by a unanimous vote.
Last summer, Trossen made a bid for a more ambitious plan which included an expansion of his business. This time it was comparatively modest — a switch to B1 from a residential designation for a portion of his property so he could construct a storage shed. That shed would house commercial vehicles, a company lawn mower, ice shanties and similar equipment, his proposal stated.
Monday night about 80 people filled the Linn Town Hall. When those against the proposal were asked to stand by their attorney, Steven Koch, more than 50 did.
Only a handful of people spoke in support of Trossen — basically arguing that he was asking to build what amounted to a garage and that it would do nothing to increase traffic or other problems.
Trossen's attorney, Mike Grubb, argued that his client used the second floor as a living space and that his large family has outgrown it, and that Trossen simply needed more storage space.
Grubb argued that the proposed change "was about as vanilla a change as you'll ever see."
He said that Trossen would be willing to allow inspections to assure the community that he wasn't doing anything more than he said he would.
Longtime resident Lothar Thiel said he supported Trossen, in part, because he backs the little guy.
Another speaker said the Trossens were "lovely people" and that the traffic problem "has been around forever."
A variety of reasons were presented by those against the proposal: It ran contrary to the town's 2025 comprehensive plan, it would worsen traffic problems in the area, and it would set a precedent.
But the most persuasive argument seemed to be that the B-1 designation allowed for a variety of businesses, from restaurants to beauty parlors. Even if Trossen were true to his word and only planned to build a structure to store his boats and other equipment, the opportunity would exist for further development.
Several speakers, including plan commission member Cully Pillman, said that Trossen already had opportunities to solve his problem through the current residential designation. They acknowledged it wasn't the solution Trossen wanted. But, they argued that under the current designation, Trossen could build a house and a large garage for storage.
Several residents arguing against the plan said that very little was known about specifics, and Koch said Trossen's application was incomplete.
Those arguing against changing the comprehensive plan noted that more than 50 percent of the residents took part in its development and the town shouldn't start making deviations now. Grubb, however, said that there had been several changes already approved by the board.
One resident said that The Pier was essentially grandfathered — the area has been used commercially for more than 70 years-but that only meant the property could be maintained, not expanded.
Cindy Skarda, a former town supervisor who took part in developing the comprehensive plan, expressed concern that a future owner of the property might take advantage of the B-1 designation even if Trossen didn't. Skarda's arguments were cited by several board and commission members as instrumental in their decision.
While Town Chairman James Weiss voted along with the majority to deny Trossen's request, he took issue with the argument that the master plan couldn't be changed. "It's fluid," he said.
When it was Trossen's turn to speak, he thanked those who were regular customers of his store, even those who argued against his proposals.
As for the lack of information he said that he's been at his store seven days a week, up to 16 hours a day, and that all people had to do was ask him for details.
"I'm only asking for what I need for myself," he said.
Neither the plan commission or the board was persuaded.