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September 22, 2021

7/23/2021 11:52:00 AM
Vaping store closure appealed, council seats two to Water and Light Commission

The owner of the vaping goods store that North Branch officials shutdown recently for violating terms of licensing asked city council July 13 for another chance.  

Cloud X owner Courtney James did not attend the city council meeting June 22 where the council voted to revoke the store permit.  But, she got on the July 13 agenda to unsuccessfully defend the business.  

Council left their decision untouched after James said she has plans to install an I.D. verification device so employees don’t have to be responsible to check for age and valid I.D.s   James also said she fired problematic employees who had failed earlier sales compliance checks regarding legal aspects of the electronic tobacco device operation.  Violations presented by local law enforcement, included sales to minors, community complaints,  and other non-compliant actions related to the Governor’s emergency order.

City Council member Amanda Darwin said North Branch doesn’t need a business that ignores the health of minor-aged persons. Darwin said every teen she talks with knows Cloud X was where you’d go to purchase regulated products.  

Darwin said the city must have zero tolerance for a business that can’t follow the rules.

The action June 22 when council revoked the business permit will now be in effect.  The store shutdown was awaiting James’s opportunity to launch this appeal.

Taking action prior to the council session, there were two seated by appointment to the Water & Light Commission in a special session.  First, interviews were done individually of applicants, and two vacant positions were filled by unanimous votes.

Phil Carlson and Shawn Peterson are the new utility commissioners.

In other business:
~ Council accepted a study for Safe Routes to Schools, with graphics and maps and substantiating information,  to be used to apply for funding.

~Adopted a lease with golf course officials that formalizes maintenance, insurance, etc. The lease apparently fell off the radar with the multiple changes of law firms North Branch has experienced.

~ There was a closed session  also held July 13.  City Administrator Renae Fry summarized the session, saying council spoke with  its attorney and agreed to settle an unidentified lawsuit. Details of the settlement will be on a future council agenda, she said,  to be voted on in an open process.

On the consent agenda ordinances changes were approved for a variety of fencing materials allowed, for authorized locations for personal outdoor storage and surface required beneath these items,  and the ordinance requiring hard surface driveways was clarified as to which properties are included and when the surfacing has to be done.

Business Park Study
An Ehlers public financing representative presented a special financing and build out analysis commissioned by the city for Interstate Industrial Park.  

Ehlers covered what’s left to be paid off, what needs to be  done to complete streets and infrastructure, etc., what price points the city needs to hit, finance tools to consider and which types of projects qualify.  “From a high level” the city should be able to generate enough revenue to keep up with costs, debt and other expenses tied to what used to be called “ESSBY Business Park.”

To accrue enough money to allow the city to develop the property without leveraging any outside money North Branch needs to net about $1.94 per square foot.  

City HRA/EDA member Lorraine Moeller expressed her concern this is a relatively high expectation.  Comparisons to other business park marketing left her simply declaring “wow” when she heard about the “floor” price needed.

City Council member Amanda Darwin said she’s noticed a lot of land available in the region and asked how this fits in.  The Ehlers conclusion is $1.50 to $2 is “not unrealistic.”

The study also recommends assessing a 44 cent per square foot stormwater fee on future developments as well.

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