Council re-organizes zoning ordinances

Jordan Gerard

The Spring Grove City Council met May 21.

Questions arose about Spring Grove’s zoning ordinances after concerns were voiced about two different properties in the city.

City staff and Police Chief Paul Folz received complaints at 401 W. Main St. (former site of the Daily Habit restaurant) and 5th Ave. SE.

As of the meeting, the 401 W. Main St. property (owned by Mulqueen’s) had been cleaned up.

The question still arises of “Are the city’s zoning ordinances enforceable?” Folz says they’re not.

“None of it is enforceable. There’s different definitions in different sections and different things,” he told the council. “One part says the business district is from the [Roble] funeral home to the school and another part says it’s from Division Ave. to the school or something like that.”

Mayor Sarah Schroeder said there was a reason for that, but neither she nor the council could recall it. 

The main problem was concerning how dumpsters needed to be secured. While one part of the zoning ordinance says dumpsters on commercial properties need to be “enclosed,” another part says they need to be “screened in.”

However, does enclosed mean in a building or behind a fence with a roof over it? How much screening needs to be around the dumpster? Should dumpsters on residential and commercial properties be treated the same or differently? These are questions that make the ordinance unenforceable, Folz noted.

“If you’re going to take the stance with that property, you have to do it to all of them,” he said. “I want some directive in writing to do it.”

The ordinance also says, “Waste material or refuse shall be kept in an enclosed building or container. ... Said container should be kept by wall or screen. ... [if] screening is required, it shall be of an attractive wall or fence ... three feet high. ... or [hidden by] landscaping.”

Planning and Zoning committee member Scott Solberg said they are still working on what permits people need for certain projects. They expect to talk about this part of the zoning ordinance by the end of the month and bring recommendations to the council by July.

The council itself can decide what they want in the ordinance and have Planning and Zoning take that into consideration.

Folz also mentioned he spent about 10 hours going through the ordinances noting changes that should be made and sent it to the council, but that document needs to be found again.

As for 5th Ave. SE, complaints were made about the road conditions and curb. Councilmember Karen Folstad said the road would be completely torn up and redone in 2020, Public Works Director Paul Morken told her.

City administrator on hold

The council agreed to tell applicants for the city administrator position they would keep their applications on file for 6 to 12 months, and that they were handling the position internally.

Internally meaning city hall staff including City Clerk/Treasurer Erin Konkel and staff Lyn Solberg and Stephanie Jaster.

Schroeder said the process was going really well, and she and the three had discussed which meetings to attend regularly.

Councilmember Travis Torgerson and Scott Solberg agreed having Solberg and Konkel at meetings was helpful.

“We get a lot of good information from Lyn at the Planning and Zoning meeting,” he said.

The council noted they were going to be careful of how much of a workload they put onto the three ladies. Jaster is able to step in at city hall when Solberg and Konkel attend meetings.

For now, it’s a continuous plan of connecting committees to the council and what should be done next for the city. Schroeder said monthly check-ins will be done to see how the process is going. 

They will revisit the idea of hiring or not hiring a city administrator in August.

No rate increase

The city received a letter from MiEnergy that they will not pass on a 1.5% increase to customers. Dairyland Power implemented an average wholesale electric rate increase of 1.5%, which would include MiEnergy, but as previously stated, won’t be passed onto their customers.

Lyn Solberg did note that summer rates would be starting in June and run until August. Customers will see an increase from that. The last increase was in 2017 at 1%. 

Golf cart/UTV permits

The council agreed to allow a replacement fee of $10 for golf cart/UTV stickers that are lost or misplaced this year. 

It was also changed in the ordinance that vehicles of those types no longer need slow moving vehicle signs displayed. They still need permits to operate in the city, however. 

Animal license replacement tags will also have a replacement cost of $10 this year. 

Other news

The council approved a mosquito abatement contract with Driftless Region Vector Control, LLC to control the mosquito population in the amount of $750.

The council also discussed ways to get Spring Grove Fitness Center memberships for members of the Spring Grove Fire Department.

Lyn Solberg relayed to the council that a firefighter had approached Fitness Center manager Brandon Bergey about working out after they fight fires, as it helps improve oxygen levels for the firefighters.

Bergey said the center and the city could work out something, be it a discounted membership to members or allowed after a fire.

The council asked for more details pertaining to how many firefighters were interested and how many would use it.

The council also received notice that it would receive $201,815.59 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) because of an overpayment on the Hwy. 44 project in 2013.

Whereas the preliminary estimate was $1,719,174.53 and the revised estimate was $2,008,545.50 (and what the city paid to the state), the final cost was totaled at $1,806,729.91, thus giving the city a refund.

The council could apply that refund to this year’s street projects. The city did need to make up about $334,855, as they were a little short of the $914,855 total cost.

The council also approved the wage scales for summer recreation employees and Swim Center employees.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Spring Grove City Council will be held June 18, at 6 p.m., at 168 W. Main St.