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Dancing ordinance is on the way out

If you're interested in dancing, drilling private wells, parking on the grass or holding signs on city property, you should have been at Monday's Alexandria City Council meeting.

The council considered ordinance changes involving all four of those topics.

An out-dated section of city code regulating dances may soon be rescinded.

The council voted 5-0 to take the first step of eliminating the 1992 ordinance, which required people to get a license if they held public dances that required dancers to pay a fee. Other rules prohibited alcohol, prostitutes, and inebriated persons from attending the dances, and required a police officer to be present. Sunday dances were also not allowed.

The city now issues special event permits for dances and events and outdoor music is addressed in the city's noise ordinance.

A preliminary measure to ban private wells was approved on a 3-2 vote. It prohibits the drilling of new private wells, including ones to replace a failed private well, on property that's served by city water.

Property owners will be allowed to apply for an exemption, if they could demonstrate that city water would be detrimental to their property or operations, and the well wouldn't be detrimental to the city's wellhead protection plan.

The council believes it has the legal authority to ban private wells. Well-drilling groups disagree and say the city is exceeding its authority and violating individual property rights.

Council members Virgil Batesole and Bob Kuhlman voted against the measure.

Language in the well ordinance that requires property owners who are annexed into the city to connect to city water within five years was eliminated on a unanimous vote. That part of the ordinance has never been enforced, said City Administrator Marty Schultz.

An ordinance that eases the regulations about parking on grass received preliminary approval.

The existing ordinance prohibits parking on grass in the front, rear or side yards of single and two-family homes.

The city is proposing to clarify the ordinance. Cars and trucks not exceeding a gross capacity of 9,000 pounds that are parked in the front or side yard, must be parked on driveway areas surfaced with a bituminous, concrete, or paver surface that controls dust and drainage. The same requirement is proposed for recreational vehicles and equipment.

Vehicles and equipment may be parked or placed on grass areas in rear yards as long as they're not closer than 5 feet to a property line.

Existing gravel driveways would be allowed to continue as a nonconforming use, but could not be expanded or relocated.

Another ordinance that clarifies the placement of signs also moved forward. It contains rules that people must obey while holding, carrying or wearing signs on city property. A permit isn't needed as long as they express noncommercial messages that are within the protection of the First Amendment.

The signs must be held by a person or personally attended; inanimate signs that are left unattended may not be displayed regardless of the type of message.

The maximum size all signs held by a single person would be 8 square feet or up to 32 square feet if held by two or more people.

People with signs may not stand in any traffic lane when a roadway is open for use, and those displaying signs on public sidewalks must give at least five feet width clearance for pedestrians or other traffic to pass by. Persons holding signs may not block the free and clear vision of drivers, bicyclists or pedestrians.

Covenant Church expansion

The council issued a conditional use permit to allow Alexandria Covenant Church to build a 15,000-square foot, two-level addition to its building on the east side of Dakota Street, north of the new Viking Bank.

It will include a large gathering area, small meeting rooms, support spaces and utility rooms.

The access to the church will remain on Dakota Street.

The existing site includes 15.17 acres, much of it wetlands.

Lake Geneva development

The council approved a planned unit development for Geneva Shores, east of Geneva Road about 600 feet north of its intersection with Birch Avenue.

Developer Ted Justice plans to build 12 detached market-rate townhomes on two parcels of land that includes 5.22 acres. It will include a centralized docking facility near the south end of the site.

Access to the site will be from Geneva Road. All the internal roads and driveways will be private.

Several conditions were attached to the application — a final PUD must be submitted before construction begins, public utility connections are required, evidence of title must be submitted and a park dedication fee of $38,230 or 10 percent of the estimated market value of the property must be paid.

New paths at Noonan Park

The council approved a low quote of $26,500 from Landscape Creations to replace the existing asphalt paths at Noonan Park with pavers.

The bid was lower than an asphalt bid of $34,982.

Parks and Facilities Director Bill Thoennes said that switching the paths from pavement to pavers has several advantages. If there are heaving problems or irrigation breaks, the pavers are easier to pull up, repair and reset. There is also no maintenance such as sealcoating, he said.

Pavers can also be sold as "memorial blocks" to allow the public to sponsor a paver in honor of a loved one.

The money will come out of the city's capital improvement fund, which has a balance of nearly $2.5 million.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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