Planning Commission recommends permit for home-based produce business

David Phillips

The Spring Valley Planning and Zoning Commission approved the first step for Scott and Dorothy Holland to expand their home-based produce business at 525 North Section Avenue.

After a public hearing Wednesday, June 26, the commission unanimously approved a recommendation to the Spring Valley City Council, which has the final say on the matter, for approval of a conditional use permit with several specific conditions. The council will vote on the permit at its July 8 meeting.

The Hollands already operate a home-based business called Green Dot Produce Plus out of their home, but nearly all their sales are at farmers market and other off-site locations. The permit was requested to allow people to pick up produce at their home on a regular basis and erect a sign so people could more easily find their location.

During the hearing, the Hollands stated that they started selling their produce from their garden to locations out of town, then expanded with a greenhouse in the back yard and since then have had requests to make their products available locally.

“While we’ve been going to farmers markets in Preston and Pine Island, we want to bring the business here to town, to keep people coming here,” said Dorothy.

Some people have already come to their home to pick up various items — and occasionally the Hollands have set up a canopy similar to a lemonade stand to sell in front of their home. However, they want to set up a storefront in the garage to sell year-round and erect a sign for people to know where they are located.

The site is the former home of Gordy Mosher, who had an electrical business in the garage, although he didn’t have customers on site and the property was always zoned residential.

Planning and Zoning Commission members said they want to support new businesses, but also wanted to make sure they comply with the regulations to protect the value of nearby residential property. They attached a couple specific conditions to the permit regarding the sign, hours and other things.

Only one resident spoke at the hearing. He pointed out that there are a lot of commercial areas already in the city and he was concerned about the potential for decreasing residential values if extensive commercial activity is allowed in the neighborhood.

City administrator Deb Zimmer said another neighbor had come into City Hall to support the request. Others also contacted City Hall with questions about issues such as noise, but seemed satisfied with the answers given.

The Hollands said there would be little noise as most activity is inside the greenhouse. The greenhouse has one fan that exhausts to the outside.

The hours for customers would be 3 to 7 p.m. certain days of the week with no sales on Sunday. Customers would come to pick up items without lingering on site, they noted.

Commission members were concerned about a free-standing sign sticking out in the neighborhood, so requested that it be attached to the structure or landscaped so that it fits into a residential area. They reminded them that the sign ordinance for home-based businesses has a maximum size of two square feet.

The permit also requires off-street parking, which the Hollands said they had, and prohibits commercial truck delivery. Also the sign must come down within two weeks if the operation ceases operation and the home-based business must also comply with local and state codes.

There were some questions about permitting the existing greenhouse, so the Hollands will provide a site plan that shows the setbacks and other details of the greenhouse as well as the location of the proposed sign.

The couple said that in the future, expansion is a consideration with plans to possibly hire someone if the business continues growing.

The Planning and Zoning Commission stated that home-based businesses are restricted to residents only and it can occupy no more than 25 percent of the residential space. The members said they look at this conditional use permit as a process to allow an incubator for the business to get started. If it decides to expand, there are commercial areas for it to go.

The Hollands said they plan to be active in the community and have already attended the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Sprout! event last spring and spoke to the Spring Valley Kiwanis about their operation.

They both have full-time jobs, but do this on the side. They grow tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and herbs as well as starter plants for gardens. They also have some flowers and items such as jams, jellies and relish, which require a state cottage law license.

The couple told Kiwanis that some produce is grown on other land, such as the community garden plot, and the two are looking for other land to grow on as the business grows.