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Peterson clarifies zoning; considers development

By Kirsten Zoellner

Mon, Sep 1st, 2014
Posted in Peterson Government

The city of Peterson continues to iron out potential issues within its zoning ordinance, particularly as it relates to the adopted Minnesota Basic Code. At the Wednesday, August 27 meeting, the council formally approved the updated basic code edition for 2014. The new edition may not directly highlight changes, but the updates are likely related to changes in and referencing state statutes. The update provided a suitable opportunity to further discuss clarification of why the city opted to use basic code, except for its zoning and chicken ordinances.

Mayor Jennifer Wood explained to the council that the code was adopted through a series of legal consultation by the League of Minnesota Cities specifically to assist small communities. In addition, the code is often more enforceable that existing ordinances in some cases.

Other points of discussion related to zoning included seeking clarification and definition of ordinances and/or basic code guidelines on sexually-oriented businesses, a private matter related to a purported land encroachment, variances on property, potential changes to commercial land ordinance, and rezoning land from commercial to residential and residential to industrial, as the city seeks to map out zoning areas within the city.

Also discussed was the need for clarification on livestock within the city. With property that is currently for sale, which has a currently conditional use permit allowing horses, it has come to light that that permit may not be transferred to new owners. The city zoning ordinance does not allow livestock within the city, excepting chickens. Conditional Use guidelines also do not allow for livestock, but basic code does. The council felt this could open the city’s three agricultural areas to unwanted types of livestock operations. A subcommittee will be formed to discuss verbage to clarify and allow, if approved, limits on number and type of livestock in agricultural areas, and the minimum distance to adjacent properties.

With land currently for sale within the city, the council also took the time to discuss what it envisions for future development, if any. “It’s a tough discussion, but it’s an important discussion,” noted Mayor Wood. “We have no room to grow.”

“I’m intrigued by the idea to develop growth within the city limits,” added Councilor Dave Colbenson. “There are a lot of possibilities. The opportunity is there. We have to think outside the box to draw people’s attention to a small town, other than the enclosed atmosphere that we’ve had for decades and decades.”

While the city admittedly has no funds for land development, there are areas within the city that the council felt presented opportunity to business growth and will continue discussion on ways to assist current and new businesses. “As part of our comprehensive plan, it’s food for thought,” added Wood.

Three spills within a month at Chuck’s Feed and Grain have drawn both caution from the city, as well as representative contact and soil sampling from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. A spill a month ago was immediately attended to and a tank moved. Two subsequent spills have caused further problems with loss of vegetation on city property and concern over contact with the city well. Mayor Wood noted that in the first two instances, the inspector didn’t believe the well was an issue. On the third instance, the city was contacted by legal counsel and the control agency.

“It’s really close to the well now,” added Councilor Barry Erickson. He also noted that a portion of the problem is spills when filling trucks and run-off from pressure washing contaminated equipment, as well as rain run-off from one site to another. “They have to do what has to be done. This is the state.”

The city maintains that a portion of the area being used as driveway by the business may be in fact city property, and potentially up to just feet from the building lean-to, according to Erickson. However, a portion of the area south of city hall may be private land. Discussion proceeded to include having the land surveyed for accuracy. The city will also contact the agency regarding proper cleanup of the site, as they felt what has been done, putting gravel over the area, was not acceptable.

The council also touched on discussion over the Rushford-Peterson referendum issue. Noting recent decisions by the district to cost share with the city of Rushford for architectural services for the Rushford facilities, it was suggested perhaps the district would consider covering the cost of an engineer’s analysis to determine facility status such as boilers, insulation, and more. “We’ve been warned that we don’t want to end up with an eyesore,” noted Councilor Gail Boyum. “If it turns out it’s not worth keeping because it needs so much, will they pay to demolish it?”

“They’ll want to try to get all they can out of it. It would be stupid not to,” added Councilor Dick Lee.

“But they want our vote,” stressed Boyum.

“What they say and what they’ll do are two different things,” responded Lee. “They’ll want our vote, but we’re getting the cart before the horse. I don’t think they’re going to do us any favors to get our vote.”

“They have something to gain,” added Wood. “They’ll have a new school in Rushford. We don’t. We don’t want to look like we’re pushing the vote.”

“I do find it perplexing that we’ve been told that the building is in such horrible shape, but that it’s an asset to our community,” noted Boyum.

The referendum vote for the new R-P facility is this November. Should it pass, the city of Rushford would retain ownership of the historic facility there. The Peterson facility, minus any related acreage sold back to the city of Peterson, would remain a district facility. “They’ll still need to maintain it. It’ll still be a cost to the district,” added Wood.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Wednesday, September 10, at 7 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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