NEW ULM - The City Council questioned the wording of the proposed urban chicken ordinance at its Tuesday meeting.
The ordinance requires those raising chickens to receive permission from their adjacent neighbors. The requirement applies to neighbors across the alley, but not across the street.
Councilor Ruth Ann Webster questioned whether seeking approval from neighbors across an alley was necessary, because it was an additional burden for those hoping to raise chickens.
Council President Charles Schmitz argued the coop could be placed in the corner of a property making it closer to a cross-alley property.
City Attorney Hugh Nierengarten suggested the simple solution would be to put a set distance on the coop. Any neighboring properties in that range must grant approval.
City Manager Brian Gramentz also suggested the ordinance be reworded to specify that a person owning multiple lots not be allowed to exceed the four-chicken limit.
Councilor Ken RockVam expressed concerns about the spread of diseases caused by chicken manure used as fertilizer. He felt the ordinance as written was not sufficient. Gramentz suggested the manure be incorporated in the ground instead of surface applied.
Webster said she wanted to make sure people with the necessary space would be able to raise chickens.
RockVam responded that people who wished to raise chicken should move to a non-agricultural area.
No action on the ordinance was necessary. A second reading is necessary before the Council can approve it.
City Hall Parking
The Councilors considered options regarding the City Hall parking lot sign previously belonging to Marktplatz Mall.
The sign has fallen into disrepair and is inoperable. The City has obtained sole ownership and control of the sign. Businesses have inquired about leasing the sign structure. The cost to upgrade the sign is estimated at $50,000 to $80,000. Options included removing the sign, updating it to display community messages, or leasing the sign space to a business.
The Council agreed the third option was the best alternative. The Council felt the entity leasing the sign should have primary control because it would be paying for updates.
Nierengarten suggested the City prepare documents similar to the original arrangement when the sign was first constructed. The motion was made to lease the sign space to anyone who would update the sign for business use and direct staff to establish a list of items needed in a proposal.
In response to previous discussion about using an in-house attorney for city legal services, a report on practices in other cities was presented by Gramentz. Legal services are now provided by the Nierengarten & Hippert Law firm.
Out of 49 communities surveyed, only four used in-house attorney/employee with a budget range of $157,000 to $354,000. The remaining 45 communities use a contract/outside firm. Gramentz said that no consistent base system was used for the provision of legal services.
Councilors were reluctant to make any decision without all members in attendance. Councilor Les Schultz also requested additional time to review the information.
RockVam said he was not in favor of an in-house attorney because it seemed like a low priority in other communities.
Webster was reluctant to change legal services, believing Nierengarten & Hippert firm was best alternative.
Schmitz agreed to file the report, but he was interested in submitting a Request for Proposal because it has not been done since 1977.
The report was filed to be reviewed and discussed during a future meeting. The current contract with Nierengarten and Hippert reflects a $95 per hour (city) rate, with $190,000 of cost in 2013 for an average of 2,000 hours.
In other action, the Council:
Approved the Minnecon Park Water Access Site (WAS) project. MR Paving will do the bulk of the project at $223,041. Other project expenses include $29,600 for professional construction services to pay Bolton & Menk Inc. and $42,296.69. to MR Paving for paving the upper picnic area parking lot.
Approved a rezoning request and conditional use permit from Eric Bode on behalf of Vaharoslee to allow an apartment building at 301 N. German St.
Approved the Development agreement and Post-Closing Remediation and Access Agreement with Minnesota Strasse, an apartment complex planned for 103-123 S. Minnesota Street. The site will require additional remedial work during the apartment construction to remove contaminated soil.
A remedial TIF will be established to cover the remediation work and provide $75,000 worth of revenue to the City. The City would basically pay for the clean-up and be paid back a portion of the cost every year. At this time the remedial costs are unknown because the amount of site contamination cannot be determined until construction begins, which is scheduled for spring. Gramentz assured the Council that if the initial costs for remedial work were too high, the City can choose not to sell the lot.
Approved a tax adjustment of property located outside the city limits. Jean Prochniak of the Brown County Auditor's Office said an error in the coding put the site on the City of New Ulm tax roll. An amount of $111,192.46 was paid to the City of New Ulm in error from Milford Township. To correct the problem and refund the Millford taxpayers a payment of $111,192.46 to Brown County will be made by New Ulm by reducing the 2014 second half tax settlement payment.
Agreed to enter a cooperative effort with the New Ulm Baseball Association (NUBS) to create a Master Plan for Johnson Park.