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County asks for reconsideration for Forestvile Historic Meighen Store Site

Fri, May 1st, 2009
Posted in Government

The board approved a carefully worded letter to be sent to the Director of the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), Nina Archabal, and to our legislators at the board's April 28 meeting. The MHS proposes to close the site as of July 1, 2009. This is the second time in six years that the MHS has proposed closing the site.

The letter makes it clear that this is the only interpretive center in Southeast Minnesota. They emphasize the educational and cultural benefits for thousands of students with both the Meighen Store and nearby Mystery Cave. The board adds that the closure will be a loss to the county's economy. As such, they want more information as to the money the MHS expects to save. There will be costs regardless of the closure to maintain the buildings, artifacts, provide security and more. The letter suggests that the closure could even "result in a net loss of revenue for the State."

Commissioner Randy Dahl asked that the letter include language pointing out the State's proposed expenditure of millions of dollars to build a bicycle trail leading directly to the Meighen Store site in Forestville State Park. Dahl said, "It hardly seems appropriate to spend millions of dollars on a bike trail to a mothballed site."

The commissioners agreed to include a reference to the questionable logic of building up the Root River Trail System to Forestville State Park while at the same time limiting the attractions at the end of the trail.

Large Assemblies Moratorium

Zoning Director Christopher Graves discussed the deficiencies of the large assembly zoning ordinance (732). Apparently, there is a rumor that there may be an intention to organize a large assembly of as many as 50,000 people for an entertainment event. Graves was concerned that the county could not be prepared to handle the significant problems associated with such a large assembly.

As the ordinance is written the Conditional Use Permit would only require a preparation period of 120 days. Issues would involve the need for as many as 100 law enforcement personnel, numerous doctors, nurses, and ambulances on site, the handling of as much as 125 thousand pounds of raw sewage which wouldn't include other waste, and traffic control. Chairman Chuck Amunrud said the campground ordinance also needs to be studied as it would apply to a large temporary assembly. Graves maintained that security and public health are the biggest issues which are not addressed in the current ordinance.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen suggested a disaster plan in the event of bad weather should be considered. Dahl asked if a temporary moratorium should be put in place allowing time for the process of rewriting the ordinance. Amunrud remarked that the present ordinance is full of holes.

The board unanimously approved enacting an interim ordinance imposing a moratorium for twelve months on the consideration of any applications for a permit for large assemblies in the Ag District. The moratorium is effective immediately. Large assemblies include groups over 500 people. At this time there are no pending applications. A subcommittee will be formed to study the issue and will include two commissioners and people from public health and law enforcement. The subcommittee will eventually send their recommendations to the Planning Commission.

Other Business In Brief

• Assessor Ron Vikre explained the advantages of purchasing a Land Records Management System to improve efficiency and limit reentry of data in each office. Houston County has had a program in use for ten years. The board agreed to the purchase at a cost not to exceed $9,000.

The counties will split costs. Vikre added that they want to add Zoning information into the system which Houston County hasn't done at this point. Vikre added that Houston County is willing to give a baseline they already have. He stressed that not taking advantage of that would be a lost opportunity.

• The week May 3-9 was proclaimed by resolution to be National County Government Week. The theme for the week is "Greening Our Future." Local energy companies will have presentations on May 7 presenting information to employees on how to save energy in county buildings and also in residences. Preston Public Utilities will do an energy audit for the county.

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