Council OKs some Fins and Films requests

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Several requests for the Fins and Films event planned for Saturday, July 6, dominated a brief Spring Valley City Council meeting Monday, Feb. 11.

Greg Melartin, who organizes the annual event he created in 2017, appeared before the council to request street closures, camping on city property and a bonfire as he seeks to expand his event this year. Fins and Films features several automobile events during the day and a temporary drive-in movie experience in downtown Spring Valley at night.

After considerable discussion, the council approved the street closures as requested, but modified the camping request and denied the bonfire request.

The request for street closures in downtown Spring Valley expanded some this year as it includes Broadway Avenue from Main Street to Jefferson Street as was the case last year, but also Vine Avenue, which is the alley to the east of Broadway, from Main Street to Jefferson Street, Jefferson Street from Broadway Avenue to Section Avenue (Highway 63) and Courtland Street from the west alley along Broadway to Section Avenue.

“We grew quite a bit this year and there are quite a few modern vehicles that want to participate,” Melartin told the council during discussion on the street closures. The reason for closing off Vine Avenue, a new component this year, is to have a Friends of Fins and Films area for modern vehicles to park and show their cars, Melartin explained.

In his request to the council, he noted that access to the food shelf and local businesses, such as the Pizza Place, will be provided Saturday.

The most discussion centered on Melartin’s request for tent and camper parking in Willow Park along with vintage camping along Spring Valley Creek July 5 and 6.

 “The biggest thing is we want to have vintage camping in town,” Melartin said as he introduced his requests. The reason for camping is to draw people from farther away, he added, as the bigger events like his often run more than one day and allow camping to accommodate those who drive a longer distance.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Hadland, filling in for Mayor Tony Archer who was out of town during the meeting, pointed out that the area along the creek is usually wet plus construction may still be in effect on Washington Avenue.

“That is always one of the wettest areas as far as what we have in town for those guys to mow,” Hadland said.

Melartin said there are other options, but “ideally it would be fantastic to have vintage campers lined along Spring Valley Creek.”

“If we have too much torn up by the creek, if we have to do anything to rehab that, we have to work with the DNR, (which may include) some fencing, so that could be costly,” said city administrator Deb Zimmer.

When asked about attendance, Melartin said last year about 1,000 people took part. He added that that could grow another 500 if things stayed the same, but he is hoping for another 1,000 to 1,500 people with the expansion this year.

He estimated just two to 10 vintage campers, but also speculated that there could be 50 to 100 modern campers.

“I mean realistically, I’m trying to figure out where are you going to fit 50 to 100 campers?” Hadland asked.

Melartin answered that Willow Park would be the ideal spot, but Hadland pointed out that the area is also wet. More limiting is that it is under DNR restrictions. Hadland said the city can’t even mow the long grass in the park and the DNR restricts all fires there.

Councilor Luan Ruesink agreed that she “has great concerns about camping along the creek,” regarding the possibility of the need to potentially reseed grass as well as following city ordinances.

Councilor Chris Danielson noted that his estimates call for a lot of campers downtown. She wondered if he could use the city’s camper parking area off of County Road 8 east of Spring Valley.

Melartin said he would like to keep things close together so people could wake up and walk to events or ride vintage bicycles. “You kind of live in the environment is kind of what we are trying to do,” he said.

Bigger rigs could go to the city site, he said, but he would like to keep tents and smaller units downtown.

Melartin asked the council about the possibility of him reaching out to the DNR to get approval for camping along the creek, but Zimmer responded that “ultimately, it’s the city’s responsibility.”

“It’s a really great idea...but you just need to stay away from that area,” said Danielson. “You could still do stuff down in that area, but just not have the camping.”

The council suggested using the gravel area along Section Avenue just west of Willow Park where the lumberyard used to be located. Often semi trucks are parked in this lot, which is across from the utilities plant.

Regarding the bonfire, Melartin said he spoke to Fire Chief Brian Danielson about it prior to the meeting. Danielson told him it sounded like what is done for Kingsland’s Homecoming adjacent to the school, so he didn’t have a problem with it, according to Melartin.

Hadland said he has a concern with the fire proposal because city ordinances don’t allow them.

“You mentioned the school, that is actually outside city limits where they have that,” he told Melartin. The property where the bonfire is held is just across the city line, which runs adjacent to the football field on the east side of Section Avenue.

A city ordinance limits recreational fires to a three-foot by three-foot pit. When asked about making a variance, the councilors said they haven’t done that in the past and they were silent when asked about making one for his event.

“Our downtown is dying because we’re putting all of our efforts into the industrial park and not promoting our downtown,” Melartin said.

He had proposed the bonfire for the park off Park Street after sunset on Friday, July 5. He also had plans to exhibit cars with flamethrower exhaust and a fire performer along with live music at that time.

When discussion ended, Councilor Luan Ruesink made a motion to approve the street closures as presented and allow the use of the gravel semi parking area and the camper parking area outside of town for camping, but not Willow Park or the creek area. Her motion did not allow for the bonfire. The motion passed unanimously.

The council only had two other items of business during the meeting.

The council also gave the OK to hiring two new members to the Spring Valley Fire Department, pending passage of agility tests. Dusty Tart and Logan Zimmer have gone through the hiring process and taken physicals, but they still need to take agility tests before being instated.

The council approved a 2019 contract for ambulance services between the city and Fillmore County. Zimmer said the contract, which sets requirements of emergency services offered by the city’s ambulance service and provides $4,500 in county funds, is the same as it has been for the past several years.