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Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
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Rushford Village goes ‘round with topic


By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Oct 4th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Village Government

The review of the city’s current zoning board and the establishment or merge of a planning commission continues to be kicked around and was again an agenda topic at the Tuesday, October 1 council meeting. “You need to go through it and put it to bed so we have something we can say we’re going to use,” stressed city attorney Tom Manion. “It’s important for the comprehensive plan.”

It’s been suggested by Manion that the language regarding zoning and planning is vague and needs clarification. Currently, the city has a zoning board and the city serves as the board of adjustment. However, that may not be enough to satisfy requirements for long-term planning.

The power and duties of a planning commission include the authority to conduct public hearings, to prepare and adopt comprehensive plan, to review all amendments to planning ordinance, and to make recommendations to the council for conditional use permits, issues involving subdivisions, and more. As stated at a previous meeting, the city has used a League of Minnesota Cities template to tweak the definition of a Planning and Zoning Commission for their needs, attempting to merge the current zoning board into a joint entity.

“Can’t we just say the planning commission is the zoning board?” asked Councilor Dennis Overland.

“Whether you call it a planning commission or a zoning board; it’s the same thing.”

Manion disagreed, citing the need for the city to determine the governing body, whether or not it’s established or appointed, and who has the final say. “It might be wise to still put something more in there.”

Even without the establishment of a planning commission, there’s a verbal headache lingering for the zoning board authority. According to Manion, the current language details a zoning board and that there shall be a board of adjustment, but in case no board of adjustment has been appointed, that the city council serves the role. “You can say the council is the zoning board of appeals. You want zoning board to be the planning commission, but want council to be board of appeals. The planning and zoning will make recommendations; the council will approve or disapprove,” said Manion. “If there’s a problem, they can bring it back to the board of appeals, which can be the council. It would be smart to put more details in so you don’t get yourself into a problem.”

“They’re one in the same, the council and the board of appeals and adjustment,” noted Mayor Dale Schwanke. “What’s the simplest way to do this?”

That, according to Manion, is having a planning commission, a zoning administrator, and a board of adjustments. “I don’t think it hurts to change ‘appoints’ to ‘establish’ and call the city council the board of adjustment. Right now, there’s back tracking language, which causes some confusion. I think you should say it straight out. Make up your mind.”

“I think the buck stops at the council anyway,” added Councilor Gordon Johnson. “If there’s an issue, it comes back to the council. We should identify that the council is the board of appeals. I think we should continue the dialogue.”

“Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel?” asked Schwanke. “We need to get this done fairly soon. We need to get comp plan done, but we need to be very sure we’re meeting the state requirements. Let’s put the suggested changes in, review it, and finalize it at the next meeting.”

“I’d like to say we made up our mind and it’s right in there,” added Manion.

The city is also preparing for details on the upcoming Street Improvement Project. Several streets have been considered for the project, which will include some street widening, sealcoating, and paving of selected crushed rock roads. Engineer Brian Malm, of Bolton & Menk, Rochester, has been assisting the city in road work plans, particularly on County Line Road.

There have been two schedules proposed for the road with opening bids in either November of this year or February of 2014. “We recommend going with option two. That way, you’re not asking a contractor to speculate on costs. There may be some value in having the number now, for budgeting, but I think it’s better to wait.” The city still needs to determine how far the road will be paved. Original plans called from Highway 43 to Laura Lane, but it was decided that the pavement should continue to the bridge. However, Malm has indicated that it would be advantageous to continue a hard surface on both sides of the bridge, citing maintenance as the reason.

The road will be wider in some spots unless the city decides to spend money widening the aggregate. There are several safety issues on the road, including the narrowness, a short culvert crossing, steep slopes, and no guardrails. “This project isn’t rebuilding road. This is a low volume local road. If you were to address all the safety issues, would be looking at two or three times the amount. The road will fit with the character of other roads,” said Malm.

In regards to project limits, in respect to the bond, Malm acknowledged that the city must stick with streets addressed at the public hearing, but that the scope of work to those roads can shift somewhat.

“Let’s put our planning hats on and look at the possibilities,” noted Schwanke. “Let’s think about them now rather than later and include in thought process now. If you never look down the road before you do these projects you end up with trouble.”

“If you look at all the roadways as a whole, the treatment method, preliminary costs, and schedule them out, you know that the money you’re spending is good money to spend,” agreed Malm. He went on to suggest a driving tour of the roads, giving each road a zero to 10-type rating. Malm provided an “off-the-cuff” estimate of $6,000-$10,000 to drive the roads, assemble the data and cost estimations, and map the roads. A map of the roads, with roads color-coded to show condition, would be presented to the city along with a spreadsheet of the work. “When you prioritize, schedule it all out in a capital improvement plan, it sets you up to doing the street improvement projects,” he added.

According to Malm, it doesn’t appear that most roads will get any widening, as there is lack of room. He hesitated to suggest overlay on several, as well, instead suggesting a pavement management plan. “It depends. What’s your tolerance level for reflective cracking? You still have life in that road, but it will be cracked. What’s your expectation?” he asked. “What are you expecting to see in the next 2-5 years? Some have structural failure and we should get down and do base repairs. Some may be better off until you’re at a point where you can redo the base, mill it, and put new asphalt down. Otherwise you’re just putting a Band-Aid on it, putting good money after bad.”

“We can’t afford to spend money on roads that’ll last a couple years,” added Schwanke.

Moving forward, Malm will draft plans, getting them to staff for review, and will prepare a proposal, including plans, specs, and engineer’s estimates, for approval at the next meeting. The city will wait for any bid letting on finalized plans and specs until after the start of 2014.

In other news, the city has received two bids on a land lease for the 3-acre parcel that abuts city hall. The two bids of $600 and $1,050 were both rejected due to having neither bid in writing. The city will negotiate a lease with the high bidder and current occupant, Featherstone Farms.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, October 15, at 7 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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