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Council approves wall plan for Hermann Heights hillside

NEW ULM — Hermann Heights will have a new wall after approving a recommendation from the Hermann Heights Hillside Committee, Tuesday.

Last September, the Hermann Heights Hillside Stabilization Committee was created to consider repair and replacement options for Hermann Heights’ hillside facing Center Street.

The cost for the approved design is estimated to be $461,637.50.

The walls on the hillside were erected in 1970 and are experiencing surface and sub-surface water-related problems requiring maintenance regularly.

Community Development Director David Schnobrich headed the hill committee and reported to the council. He said the committee considered five designs for the hillside and selected two retaining wall options, with cost estimates for further consideration by the council. 

The top choice of the committee is a three-wall design. In this option, the lowest wall would abut the sidewalk and extend 460 feet parallel to Center Street and only run part way to Summit Avenue. The maximum height of this wall is six feet. It would feature a curved turn-in to match the Martin Luther College side.

The mid-wall would be ten feet back from the lower wall and extend 216 feet at a maximum height of four feet.

The top wall would be ten feet away from the mid-wall and extend 185 feet with a maximum height of four feet.

The stones used for the project would be beveled with a color matching the current Kasota stone color. Ground cover plants would hide the top of each wall. Low evergreen shrubs at the end of each wall would keep pedestrians out and native wildflower seeding would be planted between the walls.

An alternative option was considered, in which the lowest wall extends an additional 190 feet further down toward Summit Avenue. This option is estimated to cost $573,080. The additional cost in this option is due to the new wall material.

Schnobrich said the committee and city staff had three recommendations. The first was to install the lower cost wall options. The second recommendation was to bid and construct the new wall and RENU parking lot together with separate cost accounting. The third recommendation was to amend the Bolton & Menk, Inc. project contract for the Hermann Heights RENU improvements to include the retaining wall project.

The council favored moving forward with this project. Council President Charles Schmitz said this has to be done and it was the right time plan as budget discussions were starting.

Councilor Les Schultz was a member of the hill committee and said all the members had opinions which were voiced during meetings. He thanked the members and city staff for helping create a sensible approach to the hillside improvements.

Councilor Larry Mack asked if eliminating wall-length could result in hill erosion.

City Engineer Steve Koehler said erosion should not be a problem. An early plan called for the elimination of all walls and slope the hill back. This plan was abandoned because it would eliminate too much park space.

Schultz made a motion to move forward with the recommended plan and included the amended service agreement with Bolton & Menk for the Herman Heights Park RENU project, to add design bidding and construction observation services for the Hermann Heights hillside retaining wall at a cost not to exceed $52,250. 

The schedule for the retaining wall project is to prepare plans and specification in the fall and winter of 2019. Bid opening would be Feb. 2020 with construction starting in April 2020. The goal is to have substantial project completion by Aug. 31, 2020.

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Alliance Bank will keep its old address at 322 N. Minnesota St. The bank is in the process of constructing a new building next to its current location. Alliance Bank requested a variance to move their current 322 address into the new building after construction was completed. 

The Planning Commission previously recommended approval on the condition the address change would take effect upon the occupancy of the new bank building and the existing building’s address would be changed.

Schultz had concerns about setting precedent. The city has no record of variance for address change being approved.

City Manager Chris Dalton said Alliance Bank was not moving the address to another block, but moving to a property next door and the bank-owned the surrounding property.

Schultz said if the bank were to later sell off the lots, it could be a mess for the city.

Schmitz said it would not be a big mess since the city had address numbers available for the block. 

They could approve the request three-to-one with Schultz voting against.

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A public hearing was held for a noise variance requested by Lamplighter Sports Bar & Grill. Lamplighter requested a permit for amplified music within the restaurant’s back parking lot from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17. 

The city received a phone call and letter from a resident of German Strasse against the music going to 10 p.m. The respondent believed 9 p.m. was late enough.

The council saw no issue with granting the permit and unanimously approved the request.

Dalton said the city code allows noise until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday but limits noise until 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

“It doesn’t make sense,” Dalton said, “But during the week it is 10 p.m. so this isn’t that far from the realm of what we normally allow.”

Council President Charlie Schmitz suggested they might need to update the code in regards to noise ordinances.

City Attorney Roger Hippert said the alcohol sales during this event would need to be discussed further with Lamplighter. The plan is to serve alcohol outside the building using a catering license. A catering license allows alcohol to be served if incidental to a prepared meal. Hippert was uncertain if the event met the requirements.

Hippert said the use of alcohol must be controlled. He informed the council the last street dance held in New Ulm is still under investigation with possibly several hundred violations of people carrying alcohol outside of the allowed areas in front of bars.

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