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The house that never gets built


Fri, Jul 14th, 2006
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - A letter signed by twenty-six residents of Hanover Court with accompanying pictures grabbed the attention of the Rushford City Council at their July 10 meeting. The “object of their ire” according to City Administrator Windy Block was a half completed house in their neighborhood. Started in the summer of 2004, the house still has exposed particleboard sheathing and uncovered house wrap. The house, open to the weather has a hole, guarded only by a waist high 2 by 4, to the basement below. Nails are rusting, scrap lumber is piled in the yard, two-foot tall weeds cover the property, and birds are nesting in the rafters. The neighbors’ complaints focused on both safety and aesthetics.

Developer Steve Dulman of Fountain City has continued to update his building permit. Block has not had a “discussion” with Dulman yet, but reported that other contractors said of the construction “it’s nothing that can’t be resurrected.”

The wide open house with its open stairwell worried the council. Mayor Les Ladewig wondered if an amendment could be added to the ordinance to put a time limit on construction. Block responded that if the developer could prove they’d “nailed one nail in 180 days they can keep going.” City Clerk Kathy Zacher reported Dulman has always responded in the past to calls about junk or weeds with favorable action.

Staff will check with the League of Minnesota Cities on the possibility of applying a nuisance ordinance or health and safety ordinances to the situation.

Home occupations

ordinance

The effect of home business on a neighborhood was the focus of the ordinance hearing as the council attempted to clarify an existing ordinance regulating home business. The regulation covers gainful occupations; hobbies are not affected by the ordinance. Meetings with customers in the home and package deliveries to the business increase traffic in a residential area; the purpose of the ordinance is to protect the neighborhood.

Block opined he felt the new ordinance gave the city “leverage to look at it and leverage to be reasonable.” The city will charge a one-time fee of $50, which will pay for costs of running a public hearing for the conditional use permit.

When asked how the city knows who is operating a home-based business, Zacher responded that people often come in and ask what is required before setting up their business or others inquire about a specific business. Roger Colbenson will continue to do the checking on compliance and the police will ultimately enforce offenders.

Ladewig closed the hearing, commenting, “We’re still rural America, Rushford, Minnesota. This is pretty loose.” The council later unanimously approved the new ordinance, which goes into effect upon publication.

Sewer rates

Concern for neighbors continued as the council reexamined the newly passed sewer rates. An ambiguous original sewer agreement between the city and Rushford Village caused BDM engineers to question whether the village should be charged for capital costs of construction. While this would change the monthly rate for South Rushford residents from $19.81 to $12.38, it would result in the village needing to play catch up on those expenses before the next contract takes effect.

Block, noting Village Mayor Gordie Johnson had commented at a recent joint city meeting that it would be easier to pay a little more all along, suggested a neighborly talk with the village would be the best way to handle the situation. Longtime council member Ron Mierau recalled the original intent was for the Village to help pay for some capital improvements.

Council member Larry Johnson interjected, “It’d be a hell of a sweet deal if they don’t have to pay anything more for upgrades!”

Block responded they might then have to pay a large lump sum later, which would be more difficult. Zacher added some wear and tear of the plant had been factored into the fees over the years. Council members Ron Mierau and Nancy Benson intend to meet with Village representatives about the issue.

Other business

In other business the council:

• accepted the single bid of $122,083.50 for a new ambulance after hearing the bid compared favorably to current vendor prices;

• approved transfer of $61,156 from the general fund reserves to the water fund; the water fund in turn will pay an interfund loan to the electric fund;

• thanked Kathy Zacher and Sue Hart for their successful work in obtaining a $15,000 Broadband grant from the Blandin Foundation;

• agreed to help with this year’s insurance coverage for Rushford Days pending approval of EDA (planning of the event will be changed next year to reduce the insurance costs);

• heard Richard Holle’s plea for help on behalf of Ferndale Country Club—Ferndale has a debt of over $160,000 and needs to take action before the end of this year’s season. Consensus of the council was that, while they empathized with the situation, there was little the city could do to help the club. Holle was invited to report back to the council on any specific requests following a Ferndale meeting.

Correction

In the last Rushford City Council report, it was mistakenly stated that Tom Serie of F&L Development estimated rental of his housing units to cost around $970 per month. Serie estimates the units to rent for between $700 and $800.

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