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Rushford Village continues commission and ordinance discussion

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Sep 20th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Village Government

By Kirsten Zoellner

The City of Rushford Village does not currently have a Planning and Zoning Commission and that is creating an issue according to City Attorney Tom Manion. “What you have is loose. You’re just going around and around. The city currently operates planning and zoning by statute. It states, ‘The city shall be board of adjustment in absence of planning and zoning commission.’ It’s been suggested, however, that the city have the commission identified as such, established by ordinance.

Using a League of Minnesota Cities template, Manion and the city have worked to tweak a definition of the Planning and Zoning Commission for their needs, merging the current zoning board into a joint entity. If adopted, the five-member commission will be in place to provide input on a comprehensive plan, as well as for reviews and recommendations to the city. Jon Petit would continue as zoning administrator, conducting all field work for the commission, such as the issuance of permits.

The city intends to continue review of both the current statute and the league document to combine the two into what suits the needs of the city.

The city is also in need of updates to several ordinances, per Manion, including those related to animal and fence issues, which have arisen lately. The council has been working through ordinance language to further define what will be ultimately enforceable. “It’s so much better than what you had before, which wasn’t much,” noted Manion.

In regards to animal control, the council has debated several defining factors, such as nuisance barking and dangerous animal standards. Now, items such as the number and type of animals, including exotics, in R1 and R2 zoning, are coming up. “We’re getting too close in regulations, stepping in too far,” cautioned Councilor Dennis Overland. “I don’t want to be accused of it when I don’t like it.”

Other key issues are how to handle known violations if no complaints are made and who will enforce the new ordinance. “We’re stacking the deck against ourselves if there’s not someone out there enforcing,” added Councilor Gordon Johnson.

“It’s a good document,” noted zoning board member Glen Kopperud. “I suggest you accept it and fine tune it later.” The new ordinance was passed 4-to-1 with Councilor Overland objecting.

The discussion on what language is appropriate continued with the fence ordinance. “As it is stated now, it can be on or up to the property line with a discussion with the abutting neighbor.”

“It’s your property. If you’ve got a permit, you’re good to go,” added Mayor Dale Schwanke.

“But if you’re never going to say ‘no,’ what good is it?” asked Manion. “The standards are there so you’re not leaving it up to the neighbors to duke it out.”

The idea for including neighbor discussion was to encourage good communication, but Kopperud argued that the ordinance be changed to say only ‘up to’ to the property line and to leave out the term, ‘discussion.’ “That’s just legislating good will,” he added.

I expect to have them communicate before it’s happened,” said Petit. “That’s why we took out ‘agreement.’”

“It puts you in the middle unnecessarily,” added Manion. “You’re trying to keep neighbor relations working, but it sets you up. It’s not good what you have.”

“We know what we want it to say, it’s just a matter of words and clarification,” noted Johnson.

An issue with water runoff has also been at the forefront of council discussion. Two instances of problems in the Village have been brought to the council’s attention for review. According to Schwanke, he believes the issue is one for Fillmore County Soil and Water. In at least one of the issues, a permit was required from the DNR for land alterations.

“You have no business interceding,” said Manion. “It’s a private negotiation between land owners. It’s something to stay out of. If you try to referee, you’re going to have problems.”

The meeting was continued until Tuesday, October 1, at 7 p.m., at City Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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