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Preston discusses residential issues

Fri, Nov 8th, 2013
Posted in Preston Government

The Preston City Council at their November 4 meeting again discussed whether or not to require a ‘green belt’ to screen the Brownsville Mobile Home Park. The issue was tabled after the discussion. A second issue concerning the possible purchase of the Knies home located partially in the floodway went a step forward.

Tim Johnston, the owner of the mobile home park property, was invited to attend a council meeting to discuss his plans. He had responded to city staff saying he would be out of town until November 20. He requested that staff keep him informed of the council’s decision concerning the green plantings.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman said he needed clarification as to how the council interprets the ordinance. Hoffman listed three issues that needed to be clarified. Is the ‘green belt’ required on the side of the mobile home park that abuts the street? If so, what is necessary for the ‘green belt?’ What period of time will be allowed for the ‘green belt’ to be established?

City Attorney Dwight Luhmann said the city could take either position; requiring a ‘green belt’ on the portion of the mobile home park that abuts the street or not. He added they should be consistent with their interpretation.

Councilman David Harrison said he interprets the ordinance to require a ‘green belt’ all around the perimeter of the park. Councilman Charles Sparks later said he thinks the ordinance requirement of a ‘green belt’ would include the street side. Luhmann suggested that the drafters of the ordinance probably assumed there would be an entrance to the park instead of individual driveways. Hoffman noted the mobile home park along Chatfield Avenue doesn’t have individual driveways.

Mayor Kurt Reicks stated the planting of trees would probably be the responsibility of the landowner rather than the city’s responsibility. The trees would likely have to be planted back of the boulevard area so as not to block visibility when a motorist backs on to the street. Council members were concerned about safety if the ‘green belt’ were established.

Kerry Soiney owns the home on the north side of the street across from three of the trailers. He said he offered three years ago to pay for some trees, but Johnston failed to return his numerous calls. Soiney said that about 12 Arborvitae trees would cost less than $1,000. He suggested that a landscaper should be consulted as to what plantings would be best.

Josh Krage said when he purchased his home the mobile home park was already there. He suggested a fence would be better as it would require less maintenance, noting that the greenery on the south side of the mobile home park is overgrown and dying. Reicks maintained the ordinance does not specifically mention a fence. Krage added he also was not successful when trying to contact Johnston.

The council suggested Soiney and Krage write a letter to Johnston. The city staff will ask Johnston or a representative to attend the December 3 meeting. A motion to table the issue was approved.

Knies Floodway Property

In September the council directed the city staff to start the application process for the Hazel Knies home on Main Street. She had come forward and asked about the possibility of selling the home to the city. It is now ranked fourth on the priority list drawn up in 2008 for floodway properties to be acquired. Three other floodway properties have been purchased and returned to green space.

Hoffman explained that because the home has been repaired since the last flood, the city must complete a benefit-cost analysis for the home which could cost $1,000. Because of the up front cost, it was suggested that the city enter into a purchase agreement to protect the city’s interest. The agreement is contingent upon the availability of FEMA and DNR funding to help with the cost of purchasing and demolishing the home to create a green space.

There was some discussion about the loss of property tax if the city acquired the property. The city gets about $600 per year in property taxes for this property.

If the FEMA grant and DNR funds are awarded, the city would be responsible for 12.5 percent of the total cost (approximately $115,000) to purchase the property and return it to green space. Hoffman estimated that the city’s portion would be about $15,000. A motion to continue the application process was approved with councilman David Collett voting no.

Other Business In Brief

•AT&T wants to expand its coverage in the area, placing antennas on the Verizon tower. AT&T would like to lease ground from the city for a 12-foot by 28-foot building. They proposed $300 per month over 25 years with a 7.5 percent increase for each five year period. Councilman Robert Maust suggested they ask for $500 per month. A motion was approved to request $500 per month for the ground lease.

•A proposal from Schwickerts out of Rochester was approved to repair the City Hall/Library roof. Maust suggested some core samples should be taken to determine the extent of the damage. The quote for $2,750 was approved with a request to do core samples.

•A portion of the meeting was closed to provide an update on the Forestville Trail eminent domain action.

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