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Chatfield discusses church request to vacate alley

Mon, Sep 1st, 2014
Posted in Chatfield Government

During the August 25 Chatfield City Council meeting, Allison Allen, representing Chatfield Lutheran Church, reviewed the improvement plan for the church and the reason for the request to vacate a portion of the alley behind the church. Mayor Russ Smith and councilor Dave Frank were absent.

The request was introduced and discussed at an August 11 Public Works Committee meeting. The planned addition to the church building would require building over the alley. The church expects to cover reasonable costs that may occur if the alley is vacated, for example moving utilities.

The church owns about three-quarters of the block and there is one other property owner on the block. The request is to vacate the alley between Fillmore St. and Winona St. from the middle of 300 block north to Third St. SE. The addition on the church would go toward Winona St. Pastor Mark Docken in a letter explained that the extra space “would benefit the community of Chatfield, especially youth and families.” He notes that the other property owner, Dave and Terri Dudek, supports the request.

The request at this time at this point in the church’s planning was to find out if the city council would support the request should the church decide to go ahead with the improvement.

Councilors Robert Pederson and Paul Novotny serve on Public Works. One issue discussed in committee was the problem the city may encounter when plowing snow if half the alley were to be vacated.

Docken spoke at the council meeting clearing up the question councilors had whether another option to build along Fillmore St. was reasonable. He said the consulting architect believes the design to build into the alley is the far superior design. Docken maintained that parking space is crucial to any public building. The church wants to do a feasibility study if the council signals they would be willing to vacate the alley. The study is not to decide which direction is more reasonable to build, but whether to do it now or later.

Pederson in committee stated that he does not like to vacate public right of way. This day he insisted the city’s alleys which are 20 feet wide were laid out for the people of Chatfield, adding we have to decide whether or not to take a real piece of the people’s property away from them. He went on to say it is great that the church wants to invest in Chatfield.

Novotny said he was open to the idea and it wouldn’t make a difference in his mind if the church owned the whole block. He felt the issue should go to Planning and Zoning to get input from more people and then send it back to the council.

Councilor Mike Urban said he was supportive of the idea, but noted that in four months two of us may not be sitting here due to the elections.

Vice-Mayor Ken Jacobson mentioned the other land owner has no objection. He agreed it should be sent to P & Z, since the public right of ways were platted for a reason.

City Attorney Fred Suhler suggested if all the neighbors are OK with vacating the alley, the whole alley should be vacated. He said the city can’t sell the alley. If an alley is vacated, normally half will go to each of the abutting property owners.

City Clerk Joel Young noted the request has matured since first introduced at committee and the church is at a point that it is not a matter of if, but when.

Suhler noted that unlike other cities, Chatfield has nothing in the system for a street vacation request. He suggested that the council should ask the Planning Commission for an ordinance review.

The council approved a motion to send the alley vacation request to P & Z for their review. Young added if only half of the alley were to be vacated, an agreement would be needed to allow the city to run its snow plow through private property. Jacobson said this is not a denial from the council, but a way for the council to get additional information to make an informed decision.

Freezing Water Issue

Young explained that Greg Forbes, Suden Circle NE, had gone to a Public Works meeting to describe his long time water freeze-up issue. It has been an issue for him over three decades as his water has frozen up two different times. He runs his water every winter to avoid freeze-ups. He insists the water lines and sanitary sewer lines are shallow in some places.

The Public Works Committee decided to ask the city engineer to study the problem. Dillon Dombrovski, WSB, submitted a proposal to evaluate and study the problem for properties located at Suden Circle. The cost of the study is to be $2,325.

Tony Lammers reported that it is a dead end main, which makes for a higher risk of freeze-ups because of less water circulation. The councilors discussed whether the study was needed. Novotny questioned whether it is the city’s responsibility if there is water at the main. Pederson said they have some responsibility not to waste water and that fresh water going to the waster water treatment plant is a no-no.

Lammers said he agreed that they need more information. Pederson noted that there are other problem areas. Lammers explained that the 4 inch mains are giving us problems and that there isn’t enough money to fix all of them.

A motion to accept the WSB proposal to do the study was approved unanimously.

Other Business In Brief

•Two resolutions of support were approved urging “regulatory authorizes to grant prompt approval to the Interstate Power and Light Company/Southern Minnesota Energy Cooperative sale.” Southern Minnesota Energy Cooperative on behalf of twelve rural electric cooperatives, including Tri-County Electric Cooperative and People’s Energy Cooperative, has entered into a purchase agreement with Interstate Power for the purchase of electric service territory, customers, and property.

Brian Krambeer, Tri-County Electric, explained they are going through the process with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and are asking for resolutions of support. He said the transition plan shows an actual decrease in rates for two years under the agreement. The only change for customers is the provider of local service, either Tri-County or People’s.

•A request submitted by Jeff Hare to extend the liquor license of Jac’s Bar and Grill to include the parking lot was approved for September 13 for a bean bag tournament.

•The council approved a revision to the city’s sign ordinance for noncommercial speech language, as recommended by P & Z, to bring it into compliance with Minnesota State Statute language. Noncommercial speech includes regulations for election candidate signs.

•Young reported that Help Our Neighbors has moved into the Tourism booth and now the booth is staffed seven days per week.

•The resignation of officer Grace McCallum was accepted effective September 4. She has accepted a position with another police department closer to her home.

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