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March 5, 2021

1/15/2021 9:48:00 AM
Center City Council welcomes Pease; hears of wrongly-placed driveway

Center City Council heard of a mis-located driveway in the new housing area, east of downtown on Orchard Court, that has the potential to become a very costly mis-step.  The new neighborhood on a bay of South Center Lake, is riddled with wetlands and when laying out the plat the initial approach was to create a Planned Unit Development, with conservation easements protecting open acreage in the low areas.

Realtor Tony Randall was taking the council’s temperature for future remediation options, to see what council may support and may not.  He said parties are waiting for a determination from the region’s wetland Technical Panel on the status of the infraction.  If the project is considered a “violation” of the Wetland Protection Act the fix would call for a 4:1 ratio for acquiring  new wetland area to offset the lost driveway wetland square feet.  If the offense is of a lesser severity, replacement of impacted wetlands would still be 2:1 in scope.

Randall explained the “conservation easement’  areas created for the Planned Unit Development were not eliminated, however, when the plat move ahead as a regular city development, and Randall reports the DNR wants to see the easements maintained as part of any resolution to this issue.

Apparently nobody knows when the driveway was built, Randall said he believes the soil (fill) was leftover from the new Orchard Court roadway.  The street was built in 2017.

The driveway in question is a hurdle now because a party is interested in buying the residential lot.  As a five-acre lot there’s room to fix the error but, at  7,340 square feet the wetland affected is a considerable chunk of land.

Council had no action to take while waiting for the Technical Panel to rule, but the consensus was that the conservation easement area could be resituated within the plat if the driveway needs to be moved.  

The importance of correcting the wetland issue was not lost on council or the attendees and remains a priority.  As Randall stated, the wetlands improve lake water quality and that’s why the lots around here are in demand and are sold at premium prices.

~ Council handled a number of business matters, with new Mayor Jill Behnke absent.

Newly-seated Council member Ryan Pease attended his first council session. He succeeds Scott Anderson. Pease has been on the planning commission and has knowledge of most of what council is dealing with.

~ City employees were granted a two percent wage hike.  Acting Mayor Mark Wolcott said the budget adopted last month included funding for a 1.5 percent hike. The difference is not that huge to cover a half-percent.  The vote was unanimous.

~ Council adopted a letter format to be sent to state legislators complaining of unfunded mandates boosting costs for the wastewater and municipal water systems across Minnesota. Small cities are finding costs associated with state regulations growing beyond the capacity of citizens to handle.  Effluent standards, testing, staffing, lab costs, etc. are growing too large, the letter basically states.  Many other smaller Minnesota cities are sending similar correspondence.  Also—Anderson, who served as city liaison to the Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Treatment Commission, was replaced by Donna Higgins.

Speaking of systems’ costs, the water meter transmitters are nearing the end of their useful life.  Public Works Director Eric Garner said three units in the remote meter reading system have “low battery” indications and can no longer be read remotely.  The “transmitter heads” are about $150 each. Garner recommends the council wants to start planning now on a replacement method— either a quarterly fee or a one-time charge or a hybrid.

~ The City Clerk will schedule a special session so council and representatives for A T & T can once and for all settle concerns over the communications company’s use of the water tower.  

A T & T has been going back and forth on a request to change or add equipment to the top of the tower.  The most recent communication indicates the company plans to just show up with its crane and proceed on top of the tower without the city’s authorization.

The city wants a physical review done by a structural engineer to ensure the equipment isn’t a hazard and the company has balked at that.  The tower is decades old and weight and wind ratings analysis is needed as it pertains to the antennae and materials now in use for cellular networks.

Council members are willing to look at all options now, including terminating the tower lease, but the city gets $1,900 per month to rent the space and the budget relies on this.

~ A metal carport permit was approved for the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office/Public Safety Center.  The accessory structure will be built atop existing blacktop and will shelter boats and other equipment and vehicles. etc.
Center City also was informed that Cliff Sheppeck is taking-over the city’s sheriff patrol hours.

~ An electronic reader sign permit was approved. The readout is not allowed downtown unless by special authorization.  It will be added to a sign currently near the highway, at the mall.

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