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City tables decision on B&L Bar alley closure request

NEW ULM — The New Ulm City Council tabled a decision on allowing temporary closure of the alley adjacent to B&L Bar and extending the liquor license into the alley on weekends from April through November.

The request was to close the alley beginning Fridays at 8 a.m. to Sunday at 1 p.m. on weekends starting April 16 and running through November 30. A patio area would be placed in the alley during this period.

The city received letters from the Golf Project LLC and The Retz stating this closure would not interfere with their businesses.

City Attorney Roger Hippert addressed the council as the owner of the building across the alley. He had strong opposition to the proposal as it allows the B&L to close the alley at its discretion over the weekend.

Hippert said his building has been specifically remodeled by dental surgeons, who also operated out of the building and need vehicle access in the alley for traffic flow. This would prevent business operations on Friday or when conducting emergency surgeries on Saturday. Hippert said it also impacted his business. He is currently planning to move his office out of this building but will need alley access to complete the process.

Councilor David Christian asked if there was a way of placing a patio behind the bar instead of coming to the city for these city approvals.

B&L owner Rick Kamm said there is no direct access to the back of the bar. The alley door is the closest access point.

Hippert said other downtown businesses have put patios on the back of their building and create permanent back door access.

Christian said he was concerned this approval would give B&L a free ticket for seven months to close the alley. He asked at what point does the bar cut a hole out the back and create a back patio like other bars.

Councilor Les Schultz said this was not a new issue. The council has approved many temporary extensions into the alley but it needs to be careful about taking action that could shut down another business.

Councilor Larry Mack said the city wanted to help businesses impacted by COVID, but it was difficult to know how regulations could change in a few months. Mack also reminded the council that one year ago, the city went to great effort to find ways to accommodate businesses on Minnesota Street by allowing expansion into the street, but not one of them took the offer at that time.

Council President Andrea Boettger said the deal would need to be fine-tuned to work for all the businesses. She also wanted to hear from the dental office and other impacted businesses.

The council agreed to table the approval until the next meeting.

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The council approved speed limit and school zone signs on the alley running between the River Bend building and parking lot.

The action was taken following a request during the April 1 Safety Commission meeting from River Bend Education District Executive Director Doug Hazen. He requested to periodically close the south end of the alley with a gate. This request was for safety purposes with vehicles traveling in the alley and students and staff moving in the alley between the parking lot and facility.

City staff recommended an alternative suggestion of a speed limit and school zone signage to be installed on each end of the alley. The alley crosswalks would be re-striped and periodic closure of the ally with barricades instead of a gate. Staff believed the gate could create greater conflicts.

City Manager Chris Dalton spoke with Hazen before the meeting and Hazen was not interested in placing barricades on both ends of the alley because staff might have difficulty moving the barricades. He did like the speed limit signs and having the option of entering a license agreement for periodic closure.

Hippert said it was unclear what type of gate Hazen was requesting. He also was not sure closing one end of the alley would fix the problem as traffic would be forced to use the north end of the alley to enter and exit.

The city chose not to make a specific decision on how to close the alley, but instead unanimously approved placing speed limit signs, school zone signage and executing a license agreement for closure during school hours. The agreement would allow the city and school to discuss temporary closures.

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The council approved two conditional use permits (CUP) for businesses in the airport industrial park.

A CUP for K & R Towing allows the operation of a towing business at 9 Berens Blvd. This property is zoned as a general business district. Another CUP is for a hoist sales and installation business at 11 Berens Blvd. The permits were previously recommended by the New Ulm Planning Commission. In connection with the permits, the council will review a simple lot division on 9 Berens Blvd. This lot division was also recommended by the planning commission.

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The council approved a one-year extension for DLC Manufacturing & Fabricating, Inc. to comply with stated job and wage goals associated with a loan and participation in the tax abatement program.

Recently, DLC moved into a new building at 24 Somsen St. in the airport industrial park and received financial assistance from the city’s revolving loan fund and tax abatement. The two programs required DLC to meet job creation goals. For the tax abatement, DLC needs to retain six full-time positions and provide two new full-time equivalent positions with a minimum hourly rate of $14.48 per hour. The compliance date is Jan. 10, 2022.

The revolving loan required the retention of seven full-time positions and providing one new full-time position with a minimum hourly rate of $16.50 per hour, by April 24.

DLC submitted a letter to the city requesting the extension. DLC recently lost an employee and the business is trying to better position the company for growth post-COVID. One additional hire is now needed to meet the job creation goals, and the pending compliance date is before the end of the month.

The council supported the extension as there was a need to assist businesses impacted by the COVID pandemic.

Mack said a lot of industries in the community are suffering because of reduced raw materials to manufacture products. He believes this is also a valid reason to grant the extension.

The council unanimously approved the extension. The new compliance date will be on April 24, 2022. The tax abatement extension would be Jan. 10, 2023.

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An easement agreement for Boundary Street was approved. The approval was part of the North Ridge Public Improvements Agreement with HADC Ridgeway for a temporary slope easement and permanent highway easement. The council authorized the city engineer to execute the agreement on behalf of the city.

Brown County is leading the project design and management for the improvement project on Highway 13 and North Highland Avenue (Boundary Street) from Highway 29 to the north of the KC Road. The proposed project includes road improvements, sidewalk and trail installation, street lighting, storm sewer improvements and restoration.

As part of this project, the county is looking to acquire a permanent highway easement for a portion of 23rd North Street to realign that intersection with Highway 13 at a right angle to provide safer sightlines. Also included are temporary construction sloping easements along the HADC Ridgeway property to allow for restoration grading to match into existing ground elevations.

As New Ulm is participating in this project, it is listed as a signatory in the agreement. The city has no financial obligations within this agreement. The 2021 MSAS improvement project was included within the 2021 CIP and Engineer’s Report that was adopted by the New Ulm City Council on Dec. 1, 2020.

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The council authorized participation in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities Program. This is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve sustainability and quality-of-life goals.

This is a free, continuous improvement program, managed by a public-private partnership. It is based upon a selection of 29 optional best practices. Each best practice can be implemented, as decided by city elected officials, staff and community members. These voluntary actions are tailored to all Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction, and encourage civic innovation.

Derek Nelson gave a presentation on the program. He said cities join the Minnesota GreenStep program to provide a framework for sustainability efforts; save energy, water; provide access to technical assistance and other resources; and improve quality of life.

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The landscaping bid for Herman Heights Park was awarded. Seven bids were received for the project. Leading Edge Landscapes had a low bid at $19,085. The landscaping plan includes a shade for park visitors, species diversification, park beautification, low maintenance species, deciduous and coniferous varieties. All work will be completed by Oct. 31.

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