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Paynesville Press - December 27, 2006

Township holds December meetings

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors took the following actions at their regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.

*The board approved an ordinance requiring every township residence to have a garbage plan on file with the township. This decision came following a public hearing. (See separate story.)

*The board approved the establishment of a subordinate service district for the new Crow River Heights Addition. This new 10-lot development along the Crow River in Section 18 of the township has a common septic system.

The township has agreed to be the governing entity for this joint system and established the subordinate service district in order to levy and collect maintenance and replacement costs. Starting in January 2008, the township will be responsible for the septic system from the curb to the drainfield.

The subordinate service district - including only property in the new development - was the subject of a public hearing in November, which was continued at last week's meeting in order to notify new property owners in the development.

The township has identified $22,750 of the septic system to have an expected useful life of 20 years and another $68,250 to have an expected useful life of 50 years. Dividing by ten lots, this yields $113.75 and $136.50 respectively as yearly payments for replacement costs. The township also must pump tanks (needing easements to access the tanks on each property) and monitor the system yearly, adding another $100 in yearly costs.

The township, therefore, has proposed a yearly fee of $350 (with a discount to bare lots where there is no need to pump the tank). Since the subordinate service district must cover all the costs for this project, the billing will be reviewed annually in August and affected property owners notified. Property owners have until Nov. 15 each year to pay this fee or the township will put the bill on their property taxes.

Since the developers are responsible for the system the first year, the subordinate service district will start on Jan. 1, 2008. The first payments will be decided in August 2007 for collection next fall or via taxes (if necessary).

Property owners (none of whom expressed concerns during the public hearing) have 60 days to file written protests over the subordinate service district following its approval by the board and publication.

*The board approved following the recommendation of their attorney concerning a rezoning request by Marty and Nanette Frank. The Franks have requested rezoning their property from Transitional-20 (T-20) to Agriculture-40 (A-40), which actually is decided by the county with weight given to the decision by the township board.

The Franks' proposal was to leave 300 feet on the southern edge of their property as T-20 with the rest rezoned to A-40, which would enable them to build a new feedlot.

Their proposal was opposed by several neighbors, including five written letters. Marty Frank and Marilyn Lieser, who owns a residential development, ElMar Acres, with her husband Eldred, had a brief heated exchanged.

The Franks' request was supported by Don Thomes, who also farms and owns property bordering the Franks to the north.

Township attorney Michael Couri, in a written letter to the board, urged the township to reject the zoning as requested. Even with a 300-foot buffer zone of T-20, the rezoning would change the zoning of the Franks' present feedlot to A-40 and would require new houses in ElMar Acres to meet an 850-foot setback from it, thus making several lots unbuildable. (Currently, the Franks' 56.7-animal unit feedlot is located in T-20 which does not require this setback.)

On the other hand, new feedlots require a 700-foot setback from any platted lot, Couri continued, so even if the rezoning were granted the Franks could not expand their feedlot within 700 feet of the Lieser lots.

"In short," wrote Couri, "the propose rezoning (or at least the south 700 feet of it) would appear to hinder the Lieser property without benefiting the Frank property."

Couri recommended the township oppose the rezoning as proposed (or risk "inverse condemnation" where a landowner alleges that a government action caused the loss of their property rights).

"If any rezoning were considered, it would be my recommendation to leave that area within 850 feet of the Lieser lots in the T-20 zone," concluded Couri, "as the county will enforce an 850-foot setback from a feedlot facility for all homes that would be built on the Lieser property."

The rezoning request, with the township recommendation and with the letters and other local comments, will be forwarded to the county, where the issue will be reviewed by the planning commission (which will hold another public hearing) and for a final decision by the county commissioners.

*The board briefly discussed its 2007 tax levy proposal, after being given a copy of last year's levy by Pietsch, who suggested increasing the levy by $13,500, from $423,500 in 2006 to $437,000 in 2007. Board members will discuss their levy proposal again at their meeting in February. The levy must be approved by township residents at the annual meeting on Tuesday, March 13.

*The township was informed by Don Adams, director of Stearns County Environmental Services, that the North Fork Crow River Watershed District has funded a position in that office to check the septic systems of all residences in the watershed district over the next four to five years. The survey will start in the wellhead protection district for the city of Paynesville, said Adams, and then will focus on residences in the watersheds of Pirz, Rice, and Koronis lakes. Then river residences will be reviewed and, finally, rural residences.

*The board approved transferring $10,000 from the revenue fund to the trail fund to cover recent construction expenses that left the fund with a small ($7,100) deficit. The township's share of the trail from the city to Old Lake Road, constructed this fall, should be $9,000 or $10,000, said board chairman Don Pietsch.

*The board set a public hearing for Ken Evans to rezone property behind his Hilltop complex from R-5 to commercial on Monday, Feb. 12, at 8:30 p.m. He has some neighboring businesses that are looking for land to expand.

*The board discussed an informal rezoning request along the proposed Highway 23 bypass. Someone interested in purchasing property along the new route wanted to rezone the property as commercial. The supervisors agreed that when the new highway is built some rezoning will need to be done but thought that it was too soon to do it. *The board approved a trail ordinance and resolution allowing the Paynesville Police Department to enforce traffic safety laws on the new trail from the city to the lake. Violations ($75 apiece) will go to the township's parkland dedication fund.

*In response to a request for signs in the parking lot, directing overflow traffic at the Koronis Civic Arena to the township parking lot, the board recommended having the hockey association notify its fans to use the township lot on the south side of the arena in order to maintain space in the east lot for the visiting team's fans.

*The board approved billing $500 for a recent chimney fire at a residence in the township.

The Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors held a special meeting on Saturday, Dec. 23, at 11 a.m. after learning that it still needed to approve details concerning a ballot measure in March that will ask township voters to switch township elections from March to November.

*The board approved a plan calling for the township to hold its elections in November in conjunction with the general elections in even years. Winning candidates would then take office starting in January. The township would still hold its annual meeting each March.

Reasons for the switch cited by the board include: greater voter turnout, less expense for holding elections (especially with the township being required to use an electronic voting machine, which requires reprogramming for township elections), and better convenience for voters (who would not need to vote every March).

If approved by voters, terms for supervisors and the other officers (clerk and treasurer) would shift to four-year terms. Two supervisors would be elected one November and one two years later in November. The clerk and treasurer would come up for election in two-year intervals.

To switch to November elections, if the ballot proposal is approved, the terms of the current supervisors would be extended. Whoever is elected this March to a three-year term (Pietsch is up for re-election), would serve not just until March 2010 but to November 2010. Supervisor Pat Meagher, whose term currently expires in March 2008, would stay on the board until November 2008, when he would stand for re-election. Supervisor Harry Thielen, whose current term expires in March 2009, would not have to stand for re-election until November 2010 if this voting change is approved by township voters in March.

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