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Rushford City Council discusses hardware store

Fri, Oct 31st, 2008
Posted in Government

At its meeting on October 27, the Rushford City Council wasted little time in approving all variance requests by Rushford Hardware owners Greg and Kim Norstad to pave the way for them to build their new store directly south of Rushford Foods.

The Planning Commission had met earlier in the day to approve the Norstad's requests. The council then approved the variances in customer and employee parking, loading docks and number of trees required, despite warnings interjected by Mayor Ladewig who wanted the council to consider the precedents they were setting.

The mayor explained that variances should be used in unusual situations or to prevent hardship, and he "can't see a hardship here, beyond the self-imposed hardship" of wanting to build an extra large store. Ladewig emphasized that he supports the Norstad's efforts, but fears that by granting variances so easily, the city risks losing control over downtown zoning and rendering previously set zoning regulations meaningless.

Since this past spring, it has appeared that Rushford Hardware would build north of town in the Rush Creek Business Park.

The council, having individually expressed wishes in recent months that the hardware store could stay downtown, did not agree with the mayor's warnings and approved accepting the current 52 customer parking spaces as adequate for both businesses, despite the fact that zoning regulations for businesses of this square footage would require 134 parking spaces for Rushford Foods and the new hardware store combined.

Zoning regulations also stipulate that the Norstad site plan include at least three trees: the planning commission accepted lowering this requirement to one tree, and the council agreed.

A third variance was sought regarding loading docks. Regulations state that the applicant should provide one off-street loading berth on the site that meets the zoning code standards, but the Norstads have requested to use the nearby public right-of-way, through a lease from the city, as an off-street loading area as well as employee parking.

This was the only point where city administrator Windy Block interjected a warning. "If you lease public property to one business, others will want to do it, too," Block said, but the council approved the measure and directed city staff to draw up a lease for the suggested amount of $250 per year.

As each measure was approved unanimously by the council, Mayor Ladewig quietly went on record as "opposed."

In anticipation of Old Man Winter's arrival, the council also did their yearly approval of the public works department snow removal policy, originally drafted in 2001. They discussed the "sticky" issue of some businesses having city-owned parking lots so that they get their lots plowed while others don't.

To that end, councilwoman Nancy Benson moved that the staff bring information to the next meeting about the possible sale of city owned parking lots.

Councilman Larry Johnson seconded, but expressed his fear that they might be opening a "messy can of worms."

In the information-only section of the meeting, the council learned from Block that the levee rehabilitation project is finally under way and will continue, as long as the weather holds. Sand and debris from the August 07 flood are currently being removed and placed on lots 9 & 10 of the Rush Creek Business Park.

Block also discussed possible authorization of a deer population control program, strongly endorsed by councilman Robert Dahl who lives near Maggleson Bluff and reports seeing up to twenty deer at a time on his lawn.

In general, council members felt it was too great of a risk to residents to allow the deer population to be thinned through hunting in town, but nonetheless asked Block to do some more research into what other towns have done and to present his findings at the next meeting.

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