City cuts number of parking stalls

NEW ULM — New Ulm City Council unanimously approved a variance request from State Street Apartments to reduce the number of required off-street parking spaces from 83 to 74.

The apartment project is currently designed for 55 units. City code requires 1.5 parking spaces for each unit. For this project, 83 parking spaces would be required. The project has struggled to create 83 parking spaces in and around the historic State Street Theater. To reach the required 83 stalls, street spaces would need to be permitted as apartment-only parking.

This issue was presented at the July 17 city council meeting. Initially, the apartment project requested the city designate street parking for the apartments to reach the 83-stall requirement. The council was reluctant to designate street parking for the apartment and instead directed project managers to apply for this variance.

The city approved variances to reduce parking in the past for senior housing projects. According to code, Highland Regency House should have 75 parking stalls but a variance allowed for only 51. Broadway Haus has 20 stalls, after reducing the requirement down from 60 parking stalls.

Taxi Licenses

approved for Ready to Ride Transportation

The city approved the license for three taxi vehicles belonging to Ready to Ride Transportation to operate in New Ulm. The business owner Abdulkadire Barre said his company typically works as a medical transportation company, but saw an opportunity to expand a taxi service into New Ulm. The vehicles are available on call 24 hours a day. At least three taxi cabs will be in New Ulm at all times.

Barre said they would also be interested in adding a cab with wheel-chair accessibility. The council was supportive of this plan because it serves a need in the New Ulm community.

With the approval of licenses, Barre said the business would be ready to start operating in the city immediately.

Art Wall Storage

Shed Demolition

The council voted to demolish the storage building at the Art Wall Park. The 40-by-50-feet Park and Recreation Department Storage building is located in the middle of the Art Wall park. Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said the building is patched together from concrete block, lumber, tin and steel.

The structure was acquired by the city with the acquisition of the land. Since the creation of the Art Wall, the building has proven to be incompatible with the park’s function. Numerous break-ins and vandalism have occurred, including another incident last week. In addition, the building is inefficient for department operations.

The equipment and materials stored at this location would be stored at the former impound lot next to the existing Park and Recreation maintenance shop after the demolition.

Demolition of the building is estimated to cost $6,000 or less. Due to its location, funding to reduce vandalism and break-ins would exceed $6,000.

Schmitz said only the building would be removed. The retaining Art Wall would remain. Only three walls and the roof of the building will be torn down.

The storage building was never intended to be used for graffiti art, but the Parks Department could not keep the artists from expanding onto the building. Now the art work is extending out to the walking path. Schmitz said the removal of the building could stop the spread of inappropriate art beyond the wall.

Councilor Les Schultz voted against the demolition of the building because he was concerned the loss of the building might cause even further spread of graffiti to other parts of the city.

Other News

• The council unanimously authorized submitting an application to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for financial assistance through the Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF) to assist Windings, Inc., with facility relocation and improvements.

In June, the council authorized staff to prepare the application to DEED for financing in the amount of $325,000. With the relocation, Windings, Inc., is looking to hire 12 new employees.

In the past, the city has secured funding through MIF programs to assist other businesses, including Beacon, AMPI and Kraft Heinz Foods.

• The Downtown Action Committee received approval to add historical plaques to the backs of benches in the downtown area. The plaques had previously been approved for the tables in the downtown area, but additional grant funding allowed the action team to expand the project to stand-alone benches.

Cara Knauf said the action team is still debating the design of the plaques. The intent is to create permanent plaques, but they could be removed if necessary.

Councilor David Christian made the motion to approve the plaques with the condition the Heritage Preservation Committee review the graphics before recommending final approval by the council.

• An Emerald Ash Borer Preparedness Plan was submitted to the council and adopted. The plan was created through the work of GreenCorps urban forestry service employee Shane Omersa. The average cost of removal, stump grinding, clean-up and planting a new tree is approximately $478. The total cost for all 44 ash trees is $21,032.

There are 316 healthy ash trees on city property at parks and facilities. Removal, stump grinding, cleanup and tree replacement would cost approximately $151,048. Preserving these trees through inoculation would cost $41,084 for one application.

Omersa is completing his second year and final year in New Ulm. Omersa thanked the council for allowing him to serve the city.

According to Omersa’s report, 44 poor-condition ash trees exist on city property at parks and facilities.