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City extends COVID-19 emergency till May 19

NEW ULM — The City of New Ulm extended the declaration of emergency related to COVID-19 health concerns.

City Manager Chris Dalton requested the declaration be extended to the second council meeting in May on May 19.

New Ulm initially declared a state of emergency during the March 17 city council meeting. During this meeting the council limited the declaration to the next council meeting on April 7. This is to give the council an option to extend the declaration if needed.

Minnesota statute grants the authority to the mayor to declare a local emergency. President Donald Trump and Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency declarations remain in place.

Dalton gave an update on city activities since the declaration was made. This includes closing Park and Recreation and roping off park playground equipment. City Hall was closed and staff that can work from home are.

He said as this progresses the Recreation Center may remain closed all summer because the facility was already scheduled for construction in July.

During council and commission meetings, the city is limiting the number of people in the Council Chambers. Dalton said they are working with call-in options.

City Attorney Roger Hippert said other cities are using call-in technologies to conduct meetings. He said as long as one councilor, city manager or city attorney is present in the room a conference, a call meeting is allowed, but all votes must be roll-call votes.

Dalton said they would likely try the conference call technology with a small committee before moving to the council.

The council received a communication from Ted Marti on behalf of Schell’s Brewing on developing the former Target building.

“I am out of room and this is the best option I have,” Marti said. “But it takes rezoning because, number one, we are going to use it as a warehouse; number two, ultimately I would like to move the Starkeller there and that involves a taproom and on-premise sales.”

Marti said the main reason Schells wants to develop the Target building is because the brewery cannot physically grow at its current location. The Target building is an option to solve these problems and could possibly hold fermentation tanks.

“I want to make sure zoning covers all of these if we are going to rezone it,” he said.

The council was supportive of using the Target building for this purpose. Council President Charlie Schmitz said he liked the proposal and thought it was good for the building.

Councilor Les Schultz said after three weeks of dismal news, this brought a smile to his face. It helps expand a brewery and repurpose a building. He called it a win-win for the community.

Dalton said this was a good use of the Target building. He believes the city could work to overcome some of the hurdles.

Community Development Director David Schnobrich said one or more land use recommendations will be needed from the council for this development to move forward.

“We actually have a variety of different approaches to this particular area,” he said. There are the options of rezoning the property or approving a conditional use permit (CUP). City staff is working to create a new zoning ordinance, and there is a plan to establish a separate zoning district for Schell’s Brewing because of its status as a mixed-use property. The former Target building could be included in this new district. The city could also approve an interim use permit (IUP).

Schnobrich wanted to review the different options with the Marti family before bringing anything to the city. Any zoning issues would need to come before the Planning Commission before receiving final approval from the city.

The council approved an increase to JLG’s contract in the amount of $127,305 and to RJM’s contract in the amount $30,442.50 for the Park and Recreation improvement project.

On Feb. 4, the City Council approved design option 1 with a construction estimate of $11,345,000.00 and ordered the bidding process to begin as soon as construction documents are complete.

The architect (JLG) and construction manager’s (RJM) fee is increased as it is a percentage of the total construction cost.

Dalton said the increases in soft costs will reduce the furniture, fixtures and equipment budget for the project.

Dalton said the contract is capped out at $11.345 million. If the bids come in higher than expected, JLG and RJM will not see another increase.

Dalton said this will allow the city to stay on track with the bids. Many projects are being canceled or halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Submitting a bid now could help secure more competitive bids.

The council authorized deferral of payments to current city revolving loans for three months with payments restarting on August 1.

Currently, four businesses have utilized the City of New Ulm’s revolving loan program. These loans have been used to bring businesses to New Ulm or provide funds to assist in expansion efforts. Each receiving business has been or potentially will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dalton said of the four businesses only one was requesting the deferral but said this option would be offered to the other three.

Schultz said a similar motion deferral was offered by the New Ulm Economic Development Authority.

A recommendation to establish a solar energy system standard was approved with first consideration of the ordinance.

Schnobrich said the ordinance was forwarded by the planning commission. He said most communities the size of New Ulm have a solar energy system ordinance. This issue was originally brought to the city’s attention by the Public Utilities.

A solar energy system is any equipment that collects and converts sunlight into energy. The zoning requirements for solar systems are found in most municipal zoning ordinances. The purpose of this ordinance is to provide locations and facilitate the development of solar energy systems.The ordinance also protects the public and surrounding properties from adverse effects.

The ordinance language would set regulations for residential, business, industrial and agricultural districts. Residential districts would be permitted to use solar energy systems that were ground-mounted, roof-mounted or architecturally integrated to the building.

The ground-mounted systems would be restricted to back yards and need to comply with setback requirements. They could not exceed 15 feet in height. The surface area of all ground-mounted solar systems cannot exceed 120 square feet.

Building-mounted or integrated solar energy systems would have clearance requirements. All solar energy systems must have a three-foot clearance around all roof edges to facilitate emergency responder access and no part of the system can project beyond the peak of the roof.

The installation of a solar energy system requires a building permit. The city must have proof of an interconnection agreement with the New Ulm Public Utilities before the issuance of a building permit.

Schnobrich said there are already 13 solar energy systems in New Ulm, seven commercial and six residential.

Schultz made a motion to approve the recommendation and was unanimously approved by the council.

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