At the October 2 meeting of the Preston, Minn., City Council, City Administrator Ryan Throckmorton explained the trail is getting close to completion, but it is not expected to be open until next spring. The debate, in which several citizens participated, is whether the trail should be considered a recreational use trail only (motorized conveyance prohibited) or should motorized vehicles also be allowed.
This discussion is a first step. A public hearing will be required if motorized vehicles are to be allowed to regulate their use. The trail connects Circle Heights Dr. NW (Branding Iron area) to the top of the hill where the veterans home is located.
Two citizens spoke against allowing motorized vehicles. Gary Feine said he was totally opposed to their use. Veterans Home residents will not likely be using the trail. He questioned whether it was legal to put the trail where it is as it was to be for utility use only, according to Feine.
Alex Daley said he owns three properties that abut the trail. He insisted usage should have been determined prior to building the trail. There are safety concerns.
Four people supported use of motorized vehicles on the trail like golf carts and side-by-sides. Mike Dahl said the trail runs back of his home. He suggested a five mile per hour speed limit. The trail should be closed to vehicles at dusk.
Brett Grabau, city engineer, said it connects the veterans home to the city of Preston. The name of the trail does not mean it will serve the veterans home residents. There are residences and a golf course up on the hill. A licensed side-by-side can be driven on city streets and county roads, but not on state highways. The trail is a safe way to get from downtown Preston to the veterans home, residential neighborhoods on that hill, and the golf course in a motorized vehicle.
Charles Aug said it would be another access route and he fully supported the use of motorized vehicles. He agreed an ordinance is needed to regulate their usage.
Mark Welch (Chatfield resident) has property on top of the hill, which he is developing. He supports the use of motorized vehicles. State license and insurance should be required.
Councilman Charles Sparks said construction of the trail was approved before deciding its use in order to get a better price on its construction. It was not only intended for the veterans home, but also for people who live up on that hill. He admitted he is hesitant about the use of motorized vehicles on the trail. Strict regulations will be necessary. It is a 10-foot-wide trail that is steep with curves. He felt golf carts would be less of a problem.
Councilman Steve Hall said he did not have enough information at this time for a decision. We need to look into it and do it right.
Councilwoman Flossie Schultz asked who would enforce the regulations. Daley commented that it will be a safety concern for his family, so he will install cameras.
Councilman Dean Aug noted he has used a snowmobile up there and feels it has always been a motorized trail.
Mayor Kurt Reicks explained when the decision was made to build it, it was a cost thing. It was affordable at the time and that direction is the way the town is growing. He admitted there is a safety issue with golf carts and ATVs.
City Attorney Dwight Luhmann said the purpose of the trail was to connect that part of town with downtown. If golf carts are allowed on the trail, they will also need to be allowed downtown. Daley said all citizens will pay for its maintenance and only a minority will use it. Luhmann noted other public infrastructure is used only by a portion of Preston citizens (examples include the swimming pool or a ballpark).
Throckmorton said he will send some sample ordinances to council members for them to review. An ordinance to allow motorized vehicles will need to include a city permitting process, vehicle requirements, hours of use, speed limits, lighting and signage, and age requirements. No action was taken this day.
Other Business in Brief
• Jim Bakken, general manager of Preston Public Utilities, explained the Utility is community owned and was established in 1907. It is a valuable community asset. Dollars stay in Preston and are reinvested in the utility, which is a not-for-profit organization. We ensure low electric rates for our customers and provide sustainable electricity. Reicks read a proclamation which proclaims October 1-7 as Public Power Week.
• Lindsey Reding, representing the EDA, reviewed an application from Swartzentruber Construction LLC for a small cities’ development loan in the amount of $10,000. The loan will help pay for improvements to property located at 212 & 216 St. Paul Street SW. Improvements will include an exterior canopy, HVAC, electrical, and bathrooms. The total project is estimated to cost $25,500. The loan was approved as recommended by the EDA.
• Rick and Sue Grooters requested a lot split which is located in the R-2 zone. A lot is required to be at least 7,200 square feet in the R-2 zone. Dividing the lot (parcel 17.0467.000) into two parcels will create two 60-foot lots (one about 7,300 square feet and the other about 8,800 square feet). The lot split was approved as presented.
• A request for proposals for next year’s official newspaper and city attorney was approved.
• A resolution was adopted for the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) enforcement program which provides federal funds to law enforcement agencies for enhanced traffic enforcement.
• The city council meets next on October 16.