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Commissioners Report: Commissioners grapple with zoning issues

Fri, Nov 30th, 2007
Posted in Government

PRESTON - A variety of Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requests were each approved by the board after thorough discussions at their November 27 meeting. Darin Funk of Spring Valley listed several concerns he and his wife Tori have about a plan to open a restaurant and bar on property owned by Terry Fetterly in Section 34 of Spring Valley Township.

The restaurant/bar will be located in an old creamery building on the east side of Spring Valley. Zoning Administrator Norman Craig noted that the Planning Commission has recommended approval. Funk whose house is across Hwy 16 from the old creamery is concerned about hours of operation, traffic and the possibility of increased accidents, snow plowing, septic requirements, dust control on a gravel parking lot, light pollution, cooking odors, and garbage containment.

Craig said that the area is zoned commercial and that the township had given Fetterly a five foot variance so that the building will be very close to the road right of way. Commissioner Duane Bakke assured Funk that the septic would need to be operated according to MPCA rules. Craig stated that the owner intends to keep the business low key and that rodent proof dumpsters will be used. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud explained that he understood the couple's concerns, but that they lived in an area along the highway that is zoned commercial. Amunrud suggested to Funk that it would have been more appropriate for these kinds of concerns to be addressed at the hearing held by Planning and Zoning where Fetterly would have been present to answer his questions.

Two CUP's for temporary meteorological towers for EnXco were also approved. Craig noted that there was no public comment and that the Planning Commission had recommended approval. The towers will be erected for a period of three to five years on Robert and Carol Miller's property in Bristol Township and on Richard Berg's property in Harmony Township. The towers will be about 4 miles apart.

A CUP was approved for a 40 acre expansion of Big Springs Quarry for Curt Roverud and J & C Farms in Harmony Township. Bakke added that expansion plans comply with the ordinances.

Bakke noted that a moratorium on the development of new campgrounds will expire February of 2008. The intent is to have a hearing at the Planning Commission on January 17 on ordinance changes that include campgrounds. Commissioner Randy Dahl insisted that the language of "currently licensed" be added for recreational vehicles and Bakke agreed. Craig said that he would rework the language and get it back to the commissioners on the 711 section of the ordinance dealing with recreational camping vehicles and campground regulations. Amunrud questioned the need to keep a campground 1,000 feet from existing dwellings.

Flood Grant

Donna Rasmussen, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), apprised the board of funds received to date and those expected. One-hundred and fifty thousand has been received so far for Fillmore, Houston, and Winona Counties from dollars allotted by the state legislature. Applications totaling $654,498 have been submitted. Rasmussen suggested money received may be less since applications may overlap. She sees a need for at least $218,655 so far and notes that inquiries are still coming.

Over $100,000 is to be used to seal about 300 wells in Rushford. Most of these are sand point wells which will cost $300 each to seal. Deeper wells will be allowed up to $800 to seal. She noted that Rushford is still unable to use two of its city wells due to contamination.

About $30,000 is needed to clean out rural ponds. Bakke made it clear that these funds are available throughout the county and not just in the Rushford area. Around $65,000 is to be used for agricultural areas for waterways, structures, stream bank repairs, and debris removal.

Kevin Kuehner, SWCD, said that about 400 acres will be eligible for a special easement. The value per acre would be $2575 in Fillmore County. The deadline for sign up is January 15, 2008. These are perpetual easements for flood impacted land and would be an alternative to cropping these acres.

Kuehner described a study for the Root River Watershed testing the amount of turbidity, suspended sediment in the water. Fecal Coliform testing has already been done. Rasmussen suggested the information would help determine the need for runoff control which is the source of many pollutants.

Final Budget

The final 2008 budget proposal has a 4.28% levy increase which by statute would not require a Truth In Taxation hearing. However, the preliminary budget proposed last September had a possible 10.53% increase. The preliminary budget was set high to allow for the possible loss of county funds due to the floods in August and the unknowns that would effect the tax base. By statute the hearings are required to be held because of the size of the proposed preliminary levy increase. Truth In Taxation Hearings are to be held December 6 and possibly December 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the board room of the court house.

Official Publication

Auditor/Treasurer Shirl Boelter advised the board that her staff had reviewed the state statute concerning the official newspaper. She noted that the statute allows the board to pick a newspaper on the basis of its circulation. Bakke suggested that she request a bid from the Bluff Country Reader which did not submit a bid last year. It costs the county more when department heads put advertisements in additional papers to get better county wide coverage. The board approved advertisement for bids.

Flood Mitigation Plan

Commissioner Dahl reported on meetings in Rushford which are starting the process of creating a Mitigation Plan. Chairman Prestby added that so far $59,000 has been dispersed for debris removal. Dahl suggested that the process has been slowed by the availability of contractors with the large cranes. Dahl questioned whether Rushford is in the flood plain. Bakke insisted that the old railroad bridge used by the DNR on the trails over Rush Creek contributed to the flood as it held back debris damning up the water. Dahl asked whether slash wood debris removal upstream is needed to reduce plugging of culverts and bridges.

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