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Paynesville Press - August 17, 2005

City informed of plan for Ferche property

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

*The council discussed a development plan by Ferche Development, Inc., which recently annexed 230 acres to the north side of Paynesville. The concept plan still calls for 176 residential lots on the western 144 acres, as well as 4.6 acres of commercial development.

On the eastern 86 acres, 13 acres of industrial and four acres of commercial are still planned. One change is the addition of 20 townhomes on the western border of the current Industrial Park. Ferche proposed these units, along with a 50-foot buffer with berm and shrubbery, as a transition from industrial to multi-family residential. The concept plan currently calls for only 15 residential lots on the eastern 86 acres, along with 38 townhomes.

All this property was automatically zoned agricultural upon entering the city limits. Jason Ferche of Rice, who was looking for council response on his proposed layout, was directed to prepare plats for this development and then to pursue rezoning with each plat.

Ferche indicated that the first piece he planned to plat would be on the west side of Lake Avenue on the north side of the river, which could be ready for next spring.

The council also discussed Ferche's proposed realignment of Washburne Avenue, which is included in his concept plan. Under the plan, Washburne Avenue would jog west at Minnie Street to avoid the Credit Union, then continue north over the river (requiring a new bridge), and would connect to the new Highway 23 (if either the west or far west alternative is chosen).

Lake Avenue, which is the current road link to north of town in this area, would curve and intersect with the extended Washburne Avenue under this plan.

*The council reviewed its list of annual appointments, including official newspaper, city attorney, building inspector, treasurer, city engineer, emergency services director, auditor, and janitorial services. These appointments are made in January, but the board wanted to review some of these services before making reappointments.

The council approved looking at its building inspector and city engineer this fall, before annual appointments are made again in January.

Council member Tom Lindquist also wanted to review auditor services this year, because he is concerned over the lack of an operational statement, he said.

*The council approved a new ordinance regarding vehicle noise. It prohibits the discharge of exhaust except through a muffler; prohibits the intentional use of an engine-retarding brake that causes abnormal or excessive noise except in emergency cases; and requires motorists to abide by state statutes for noise emissions. Signs stating, "Vehicle noise laws enforced," will be erected at the entrances to town.

*The council agreed to pursue annexation for a plat owned by Keith Dombrovski, who earlier came to the city and asked about annexation but then proceeded to plat the lots in the township. However, the plat is close to three city wells, and part of the plat, lies within the city's Wellhead Management Zone. These special circumstances, said council member Jeff Bertram, make city sewer and water services desirable for this plat, rather than having a number of wells and sewer systems installed near these city wells.

The council agreed verbally that these special circumstances warranted some incentives (tax deferment, etc.) to get Dombrovski to consider annexation.

*The board approved a policy for the Paynesville Police Department for requesting or rendering mutual aid. The gist of the policy is that officers should render mutual aid when requested and able (or when in the case of a life-threatening incident, even without request) and that officers are authorized to request mutual aid if needed (though they should contact the police chief, if possible, before making such a request).

Last month, the Paynesville Police Department entered a formal mutual-aid agreement with the other police departments in the county, making this policy necessary.

*The council discussed the open meeting law and whether a quorum of council members at a city committee meeting required posting as city council meetings. Bertram and Lindquist said they did not want to be kept from attending a committee meeting to get information by fear of breaking the open meeting law.

If council members attending these meetings would break the law, then all these meetings should be posted as city council meetings, said Bertram. That, however, would require lots of additional work by city staff.

The issue has arisen because dramatic issues (the Ferche development, the new highway, etc.) are facing the city, said council member Dennis Zimmerman.

City attorney Bill Spooner, who researched this issue at the request of the council, said that state law is not crystal clear on this point. A 1983 decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court did find that a quorum of council members at a committee meeting was subject to the open meeting law. Though more recent court rulings seem to have softened this stand, Spooner still recommended that only committee members go to their specific meetings and that a quorum of city council members be avoided except at their posted regular meetings. Under any interpretation, this would not break the open meeting law and would avoid even the appearance of breaking it, he said.

As a compromise, the council agreed to try (for 60 days) to adopt a League of Minnesota Cities position that council members could attend committee meetings as spectators only without constituting a quorum. Council members wishing to attend a committee meeting (for which they are not an official member) should only listen to the information and discussion and not participate. If council members know in advance that they wish to attend a meeting, they will contact city staff and have the meeting posted.

In October, the council plans to review how many times this came up as an issue and discuss if they wish to continue with this practice or try something else.

*The council approved having city engineer SEH provide parcel legal descriptions and draw individual and composite maps of areas to be listed in a new orderly annexation agreement with Paynesville Township at a cost of $6,000. Potential land to be annexed, by owner request, in the new agreement includes: the new airport, the city sewer ponds, the rest of Section 16, the western half of Section 15, most of Section 17, the Ferche development, and portions of Section 8 and Section 21.

*The council approved nine budgeted general fund transfers, totalling $124,832.

*The council agreed to have 8,000 feet of irrigation pipe be sold by General Irrigation & Dewatering of Oakes, N.D., on consignment at $2 per foot. Valves, tees, and elbows will be sold for $35 apiece. The pipe had been declared as surplus property by the city.

*The council was informed by public works director Ron Mergen that the city once again did not receive a DNR grant for a new picnic shelter at Veteran's Memorial Park. Due to a transition at the park, less swimming and more boating, the park committee recommended using the existing shelter for now.

*The council approved a permit request from Queen Bee's Bar and Grill to have a liquor garden and band on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 12 noon to 12 midnight.

*The council also approved closing Augusta Avenue temporarily on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. in order for Queen Bee's Bar and Grill to host a street dance. Augusta Avenue will be closed from the alley to James Street.

*The council approved a gambling permit for the Quality Deer Management Association of Belgrade to hold a raffle at the Paynesville American Legion on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

*The council approved applying for a safe and sober grant, which the police department would use to pay for overtime for a seatbelt campaign or a DWI campaign.

*The council approved declaring three computers (monitor, hard drive, keyboard, and mouse) as surplus property and advertising for bids.

*The council approved the termination of employment of Tina Demo as a part-time liquor store clerk.

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