August 8, 2023 at 9:39 a.m.
Chisago Council talks quorums, cannabis, adds third voting precinct
With only three council members present, the Chisago City Council on July 25 amended ordinances to make it easier to get a quorum at planning and park commission meetings. No members of the public appeared at a public hearing on the proposed change.
The council voted to retain a seven-member planning commission but make the council liaison to the commission a voting member. The council’s alternate planning commission liaison also will be allowed to vote if necessary to achieve a quorum.
Council Member Nikki Battles, who serves as council liaison to the Parks Commission, then convinced the council not to reduce the park commission from seven to five members or eliminate youth members, as was proposed.
“The Parks Commission only has five members (due to unfilled vacancies),” she said. “They are uncomfortable with having only five members. She said they also wanted to retain youth members and were willing to work harder to recruit new members.
After hearing from Battles, the council agreed. They voted to retain a seven-member parks commission with the appointed council liaison and substitute liaison serving as alternates able to vote if needed to achieve a quorum. The addition of nonvoting youth members was also retained.
What to do about marijuana?
Stating that many other Minnesota cities were taking action to protect children from potential exposure to marijuana smoke in public parks, Council member Craig Meyer asked if Chisago City could simply include marijuana smoking in its existing ordinance prohibiting cigarette smoking in city parks. Administrator Pechman pointed out that Chisago City had prohibited cigarette smoking in one park, Rotary Park, because of its proximity to a school. Smoking is currently legal in other Chisago City parks.
Meyer then asked Police Chief Schlumbohm what action the council could take to make potential marijuana issues simpler for police to enforce.
Schlumbohm said Lindstrom City Council had sought legal advice and was looking at implementing a moratorium on marijuana sales in much the same way Chisago City had done when CBD products became legal. According to a July 24 County Press story, Lindstrom council members want a model marijuana ordinance to review at the August meeting. The City of Wyoming also recently voted to place a moratorium on cannabis business permits. (See story July 24, 2023, Chisago County Press.)
In other business, the council:
- learned they must now provide three voting precincts, not two as approved last month. The third precinct is necessary because parcels annexed from Lent Township contain more than 50 voters (112 registered) and the area lies in a different Chisago County Commissioner District from the rest of the city. The other polling place is at Lord of the Lakes Church. The third precinct will share polling space at the Chisago Lakes Baptist Church, Pechman said.
County Auditor Bridgitte Konrad tells the Press the extra voting equipment will be made available by the March 2024 Primary.
Council also accepted a $250,000 grant from the Department of Natural Resources Local Trail Connection Program. The .72 mile bituminous trail will extend the existing Swedish Immigrant Trail and the Old Towne Road Trail into Ojiketa Regional Park. Pechman explained that, since applying for the grant, the city’s share has increased to $213,000 due to the need to acquire an easement. Staff is recommending using $90,000 available in the city’s trail fund plus $123,000 of park dedication and natural gas franchise fees. The project must be completed by June 30, 2025; however, no grant-funded costs can be incurred until the city has a signed grant contract with the DNR.
Council denied a conditional use permit requested by Dylan Rybak of Minnesota Built Chisago LLC, for 28 portable storage units to be installed at the storage facility at 10512 Liberty Lane, Chisago City. Minnesota Built Chisago LLC purchased the storage facility in 2022.
Associate Planner Leah Nelson provided a detailed history. She said 14 portable storage units were installed by the previous owner without proper permits between 2016 and 2019. She reported that an additional 14 portable storage units had been placed on the property in May of this year without proper permitting.
Following a July 6 hearing, the planning commission voted to deny the request. They stated the property was looking cluttered and had failed to meet prior permit requirements. The planning commission expressed concern that tight quarters between storage buildings created possible fire and safety hazards. The applicant was not present at the planning commission hearing or at the city council meeting to respond to questions.
- in response to citizen concerns, the council voted to post a 30 mph speed limit on Wyoming Ave. and to install a dead end road sign, plus signs warning of curves on Jewel Avenue.
- in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources, council amended the Shoreland Overlay District Ordinance to include portions of the North Sunrise Pool and Sunrise River annexed into Chisago City from Lent Township.
- approved the final plat for the Chisago Lakes Car Condos at 29425 Karmel Avenue. The condos will serve as a garage/clubhouse for collector car enthusiasts but will not be occupied. The developer will pay the usual sewer and water access fees, $14,000 in Park and Trail fees, and must provide a 20-foot easement along Karmel Avenue for a future trail or sidewalk.