The July 21 Rushford Village Council meeting was largely follow-up on previous issues, but the council did act on several related items.
Zoning Superintendent Jon Pettit presented information at the July 7 meeting regarding two potential zoning violations at the Lind property, located at 29705 Highway 43 South. According to Pettit at the time, it was his belief that property owner David Lind was in two violations of the city’s zoning ordinances and wanted the matter reviewed and decided upon by the city. The suspected violations were construction of a building without a permit and non-compliance with setback standards within the ordinance. The Zoning Board has since met and further discussed the issues.
City Clerk Mary Miner was able to secure some information from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) regarding right-of-way on the state highway. “We reviewed it again tonight,” stated Pettit. “As you can see on the drawing, it’s really not easy to read. From the narrative, 75 feet from the center of the road is the right-of-way. They can’t really say for sure.” MnDOT surveyors are currently in the area and are able to flag the right-of-way per request of the city. “They’ll find it absolutely,” added Pettit.
“The other thing we [the Zoning Board] were tasked to do, and we discussed it again tonight, was that we came to the decision that it is in violation of the ordinance and setback.”
Councilor Bob Hart questioned what could be done by the property owner to be within compliance. “With what he’s done, he can’t make it conform. I suppose the council could grant a variance on the setback,” responded Pettit. However, he later noted that a variance was likely not possible, as it would be more lenient that current county zoning standards. Cities are allowed to make zoning more stringent, but not less, that the county’s ordinances.
“There’s no way to make what he’s done already comply,” added Pettit. “What he could do is make an application, make sure zoning reviews and accepts, and setting it on the property setback.” It’s estimated that the building needs to be moved west 30 feet in order to be in compliance.
To his recollection, Mayor Dennis Overland can remember only one variance granted in his 27 years on the council. “The reason we didn’t do any variances was, if the rule isn’t good why have them?”
“The 105-foot setback seems a little harsh for this situation,” noted Hart. “The building that sits there, I understand it’s non-conforming. The difficulty of what we’re trying to do, to work this out, to make this work for the resident, is that we don’t want somebody to put that much investment in to have it taken away.”
Pettit responded noting a previous history between the property owner and the Zoning Board. “The history of this person for doing things; he has been fined before. He found out maybe it’s easier to ask forgiveness after, but that sets a precedent.”
“At our original meeting when he was told to get a permit and said he didn’t need one, someone told him it’s okay… that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need one. In this Village, every building project needs a permit. It’s not a secret,” continued Pettit. “Had the application been made prior to doing anything; it would have been speedy and a decision would have been made. Since that wasn’t done, that’s where the problem came. That’s what is causing us to be in this particular situation.”
The council directed city staff to contact MnDOT to have surveying and flagging done on the area to determine official right-of-way with Councilor Roger Knutson abstaining in the vote.
In other zoning news, a public hearing has been set for the purpose of discussing a solar array for the Gary Brown property. The hearing is at 6:45 p.m. on August 18.
Also at the last meeting, the city heard from AcenTek representative Brian Jervis regarding the installation of fiber optic cable in the right-of-way of Ekern Road. Mayor Overland indicated some dismay on behalf of the city because the cable is already in and connected in some portions ahead of the formal agreement. Apparently, the representative indicated a mistake or misunderstanding was made by their consulting firm, CNS, and fiber optic cable was curried under a field. “It’s an unworkable situation for us,” acknowledged Jervis.
Public Works Supervisor Kyle Chiglo continued to assert that the proposed area will likely create maintenance issues for his department. “It’s bad. It’s a tough location to maintain, probably one of the steepest and longest hills, as far as the grade, in the area. It’s a maintenance nightmare from my standpoint.”
Based on the new information, the council opted to rescind the motion from the previous meeting in effort to allow exploration of a more viable and cost-effective project. Upon recommendation, AcenTek will look to meet with possibly two property owners regarding alternative areas for the cable installation.
Several Public Works requests were approved by the council. They include the addition of a waterline to the maintenance shop, purchase of a weed sprayer handle with adjustment on the handle to avoid chemical contact, and the purchase of $500 worth of culvert markers. They also reviewed road sign replacement procedures and discussed how and when to replace them in the future.
Road work continues and is receiving praise from the council. “There’s a lot to chew on some of these roads,” noted Chiglo. “You might get calls about certain roads, but smaller things are being put aside until bigger problems are solved.” Seventeen hundred tons, roughly 50% of the contracted road rock, has now been delivered by Bruening Rock Products, despite the deadline for rock delivery being June 15, 2020. “Obviously that’s not happening. The call didn’t even go in until the end of June, so we didn’t get on their list until the end of June,” added Chiglo.
Priority lists from both public works and the council will be used in future goal setting. Clerk Miner will compile the lists from everyone involved to be discussed at a future meeting.
As a reminder to all persons interested in serving on the city council, all five council seats are up for grabs this election year. From July 28 to August 11, at 5 p.m., any person who is eligible to vote in the City of Rushford Village may file an Affidavit of Candidacy with the clerk for the cost of $2. The mayoral seat and seats currently occupied by Councilor Mike Ebner and Rick Ruberg are four-year terms, while Councilors Bob Hart and Roger Knutson’s seats are two-year terms.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, August 4, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall.