12/20/2018 2:14:00 PM Chisago City to
halt solar projects while code reviewed
In its final meeting of 2018, the Chisago City Council voted to adopt an interim ordinance that imposes a three-month moratorium on new Community Solar Energy Systems while the city reviews the current ordinance. Mayor Bob Gustafson refused to allow solar developers in the audience to speak during the open mic portion of the meeting, saying they were not residents of the city. (Only city residents are allowed to bring topics to the council during the public comment period.)
When allowed to speak very briefly after the moratorium was passed, the disgruntled solar project developers said it could effectively derail projects now in the planning stage. They said ordinances could be revised without the need for a moratorium.
State statute allows the city to place a moratorium on land use issues until a study is completed. The moratorium is imposed for a certain time period, in this case, three months from the date of publication of the ordinance in the newspaper. It prohibits acceptance of new applications and commencement of construction of solar energy projects in the city when no permit is required.
Councilmembers Jeremy Dresel and Mark Anderson had suggested the moratorium in light of the increasing number of applications to the city. Currently, small solar projects do not require review by the city council. The council wants to be sure that the required letter of credit protects city residents. They have also heard residents express concerns about setbacks, screening and limiting the zoning districts where they are permitted.
Councilmember Dresel wanted to extend the moratorium period to six months so that the study would not be rushed. Councilmember Marie Rivers joined him, but his amended motion failed on a three to two vote, with Councilmember Ron Swenson and Anderson voting no and Mayor Bob Gustafson also opposed. The original motion for a three month moratorium was then approved. The city attorney said that the three-month moratorium can be extended once, by vote of the council.
In other business, the council: - Approved construction of a 16 foot x 20 foot shed for Gregory Contracting at 10510 South Ave. The city recommended that the shed be placed outside the natural drainage areas and also asked for removal of an old free-standing sign and repair of a rooftop sign on the property.
- Approved rezoning of property owned by Peterson Companies on the west side of Chisago City from agricultural and rural residential to light industrial.The rezoning affects nine parcels at 8300 and 8326 Wyoming Trail totaling 30 acres. Some of the land lies in the City of Wyoming, which has entered into a contract with Chisago City giving Chisago the right to make decisions on the zoning. Chisago City’s only requirement was that double setbacks be required on the side yard facing neighbors. - Established the Chisago Lakes Area Library as the city’s official polling place for 2020 elections.
- Hearing no comments at a public hearing, voted to clarify the city ordinance allowing three youth members, two of high school age and one of middle school age, to serve on the Park Commission. The resolution passed with Councilman Anderson voting no because he felt there was no need to stipulate that only one of the three could be middle school age. - Approved a conditional use permit allowing Dan Neilson, 12080 284 St., to convert his single-family home to a duplex, saying the use fits the neighborhood. Neilson must provide two separate water meters on the units.
- Authorized spending $20,000 from gas franchise fees for upgrades to city hall and to repair the Clarion clock on Main Street. City hall upgrades will include new exterior LED lights on the front of the building to match new city street lights, and to install ADA-approved openers on doors at city hall and the license bureau.
- Appointed City Administrator John Pechman to represent Chisago City on the newly formed Visitor’s Bureau Board of Directors. Rivers was named as back-up. The Visitors Bureau Board, comprised of representatives of Chisago City, Lindstrom, Center City, Shafer and Taylors Falls, will oversee expenditures of the newly implemented Lodging Tax. Pechman told the council the Board hopes to meet in January to get organized to to start its work in April.