The September 1 Rushford Village meeting saw the council unanimously approve proceeding with securing of quotes for the first step in easing water woes in South Rushford. The area has historically seen issues, largely due to its placement at the base of the bluffs and poor culvert and ditch water flows. The area’s streets are “rural” with no, or very little curb, and no storm sewer system. The increased occurrence of flooding has added to frustrations. Without the funding available to incorporate any type of expensive storm sewer system, the city has looked to City Engineering firm Bolton & Menk to find ways to mitigate the issues.
Bolton & Menk provided analysis and mapping over the last few years and brought forth a multi-phase plan in 2019. Since then, engineer Derek Olinger has worked with both MnDOT on the state highway portions and property owners to move the potential projects forward. This first step is two land grading projects; one north of the intersection of Sherwood Street and Highway 43 and the other north of the intersection of Meadow Lane and Highway 16. Culverts at the location may be replaced by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) during future scheduled roadwork.
Verbal drainage easement negotiations with property owners are done and no significant issues were brought forth, according to Olinger. “There isn’t room for any further significant change,” he added. The next steps are seeking bids for the work and securing final drainage easement agreements. The work was initially planned for 2020, but will now be pushed to 2021. Because the projects are relatively small, Olinger suggested leaving the timeline open to any time during the 2021 construction season to provide greater contractor flexibility, which may result in better pricing as well. The work is estimated at $50,000-60,000.
“I would hope it’s going to come in lower,” he stated. “Just because you ask for quotes, doesn’t mean you’re married to the project. There’s a lot of variables depending on who’s looking at it.”
Public Works Supervisor Kyle Chiglo spoke favorably of the project plans, having had several discussions with Olinger and driving around south Rushford during the last heavy rain. “They’re spot on with what they want to do there,” he said. “It’s hard to fight mother nature though. What concerns me is water levels in the river coming back. There’s options that may need to be incorporated into it.”
During Planning and Zoning discussion, the council also approved the sending of a letter to property owner Dave Lind, 29705 State Highway 43, voting 4:1 with Councilor Roger Knutson abstaining. Last month, Lind was fined $250 for constructing a building on the property without securing a permit first. At the time, the council was not prepared to take action on declaring it non-compliant in ordinance setback requirements. The state has now confirmed the right-of-way and the building is in violation.
Zoning Administrator Jon Pettit earlier informed the council that at the time Lind had secured a permit for a concrete slab, he was told the slab was for a compressor. He reiterated that during that conversation, a trailer with the building components was on the premises and that Lind was informed he could not construct the building on the slab, adjacent to an already non-conforming structure, as it would be within the right-of-way. Pettit stated that Lind assured him he would not be putting a building on the slab, but that after the discussion, and without a permit, he did.
“He had the information prior to construction. It leaves no doubt they voluntarily put up a building within a restricted area,” added Pettit. “There’s enough information for the council to enforce the ordinance that states that he must remain 30 feet off the right-of-way. It’s a very straight forward ordinance and with this clear information, it’s pretty black and white what happened.”
City Attorney Joe O’Koren noted that with ordinance issues, property waste, or the tearing down of a structure, is typically the last option. Moving the structure 30 feet to the west, out of the right-of-way and where space is available, is preferred by the city. It was clarified that the building in question is portable. Chiglo, who noted experience with this type of building, further indicated it is simple and quick to both assemble and disassemble.
The question of the building’s purpose was also discussed. Currently, it is being used as cold storage for Lind’s business, Grandpa Don’s Market. It was confirmed that the area may be used commercially within zoning guidelines.
“I’ve never been down this road,” noted Councilor Mike Ebner. “What is our next step?”
“It doesn’t meet state set back or ours. According to that, it has to be moved,” responded Mayor Dennis Overland.
“I told him he needed to apply for the building and he said he didn’t need a permit. I informed him what he needed to do and he informed me I was wrong. Under that pretense, I feel he thought he could do what he wanted to do because it’s not on a foundation. He followed through with that instead of taking the normal route of a permit and seeing this thing through,” said Pettit. “That’s exactly what happened in my mind.”
“I hate to see a resident construct something, even if it’s non-conforming, and then have to remove it,” said Councilor Bob Hart. “Legally, if there’s a way to save the building, I’d rather seek that. If you’re telling me the only way to accomplish that is to move it 30 feet west, then we need to write Mr. Lind a letter and say this is the only way for it to be conforming.”
It was further noted that Lind has not discussed the issue with the city. “He’s making us play the hard card by not talking,” added Ebner. “He needs to move this back 30 feet to come into compliance with ordinances. This isn’t a hardship case and there’s room for it to the west. It’s not a permanent structure; it can be moved.”
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, September 15, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall. The final discussion of the 2021 budget and setting of the preliminary tax levy will be included.