A public hearing was held immediately prior to the May 13 Mabel City Council meeting. The hearing was in regards to a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) request from Clayton Provost, regarding 118 South Main Street. Provost’s CUP application noted that the property is currently zoned C1.
Mayor Westby pointed out that, “Under the city ordinance, it’s a 60/40 split. The 60% in the front of the building is supposed to be for commercial use… Living quarters is supposed to be 40% and supposed to be at the rear of the building.” Provost’s current plans, as noted in the CUP application, do not meet this requirement. Council members also commented about expectations for off-street parking for such a CUP.
After discussion, Mayor Westby said, “The only way we could do anything with this is we’d have to rewrite the whole ordinance.” Karen Larson agreed, saying the city attorney had stated that the city could not legally approve a CUP that doesn’t meet the ordinance’s specifications.
The regular council meeting began around 7:20 p.m. The council discussed what to do regarding the city’s planned summer rec activities, in light of the COVID-19 concerns. Mayor Westby and Karen Larson said they have spoken with other cities in the area, and most are in the same situation as Mabel, with more question than answers. Mayor Westby shared an example of a city that took a poll of residents, with 50% in favor of opening the swimming pool, and the remaining 50% against it. He said in such a case, if that city chooses to open the pool for the 50% who want it open, there likely wouldn’t be enough usage to make it financially feasible.
Kirsten Wyffels stated, “I think we revisit it in June… We don’t know. This is changing still every week, every day, and when we start opening things up, we’re going to have more cases.” She added that her opinion is that Mabel probably won’t have any summer rec this year. The council consensus was to table the issue until the council’s regular meeting in June.
Larson informed the council that the city sold the retired police car via online auction, through Public Surplus. She said the winning bid of $6,100 was accepted, and that the entire transaction process has been completed. She stated, “It actually worked pretty well, and now that we’re set up that way, it might be something to look at, going forward, when we have something to sell.” She suggested this could also be used when the fire department has items to sell.
Mabel’s citywide clean-up day was also discussed. Larson said she’s had calls from citizens asking what Mabel’s plan is, and she added, “Some people took their stuff directly to Preston.” The council chose to wait until the June council meeting to decide if and when to offer citywide clean-up.
There were 12 zoning permit requests from citizens planning to make repairs, additions or upgrades on their properties. After reviewing the applications, the council approved all 12 applications. The council discussed how to do the annual property inspections (looking for possible violations of the city’s “junk” or “nuisance” ordinances). It was suggested that having a deputy ride along at the time of this citywide inspection could be beneficial. The city will coordinate with the sheriff’s department to schedule this in the near future.
The council revisited the issue of late fees and disconnections for overdue utility bills. Larson explained that although Governor Walz has left it up to each city to decide how to handle this during the current pandemic, there is logic in delaying late fees and disconnections while citizens are dealing with the current added stresses. The council chose to waive late fees and disconnections for now, but will revisit the topic in June. The city will also look into installing appropriate barriers (possibly a plexiglass “sneeze guard or other device) at City Hall to help prevent the spread of illness.
Jeff Rein informed the council that a “side by side” ATV has come up for sale from another fire department, and he said the price is very reasonable, and includes the trailer. He said it would help the department battle grass fires and other situations that are tougher to get to. The council approved the purchase.
Larson brought up the topic of voting by mail. She said some small cities qualify to hold elections entirely by mail, but that Mabel had been narrowly above the maximum voter count necessary to qualify for this. But, she added, in the “new normal” of coronavirus, those rules may be relaxed. She said she believes voting by mail could be a good option for Mabel, if and when that option becomes officially available.
The council’s next regular meeting will be June 10, at 7 p.m. at the community center.