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Alexandria City Council tables permit for VIE Church near Lake Victoria

Big concerns were raised over drainage, run-off and erosion.

EP Alexandria City Government 2
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ALEXANDRIA – At its Monday, Sept. 26 meeting, the Alexandria City Council voted 5-0 to table a conditional use permit for a proposed new church after Mayor Bobbie Osterberg raised big concerns over drainage, run-off and erosion.

VIE Church wants to build a new church in the shoreland district of Lake Victoria. The building, located on Rosewood Lane SE, would include an area of worship, fellowship and support space, along with accessory parking and other uses.

Osterberg said that even though the permit was recommended for approval by the city's Planning Commission, there are many lingering issues that have caused erosion and other problems in that area for years.

"I'm very troubled," she told the council. "We're not any closer to getting the drainage issues resolved."

Osterberg said that instead of trying to fix the problem, the city keeps "kicking the can down the road." She said the city should seek solutions with the church and residents who live in that area.

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The church wanted to keep the existing church building, House of Prayer, along with its parking area and space for youth activities, on the same 24.24-acre tract as an accessory use but the city’s Planning Commision and the council turned down that request because city code states “not more than one principal structure shall be located on a lot.” There are also no provisions in city code to allow youth activities as an accessory use.

Drainage and run-off were addressed in the 12 conditions that were required for the permit. In addition to a final drainage plan reviewed by the city engineer, the church would also have to provide a complete, engineered drainage plan for the entire 24.24 acre site.

Other key conditions from the Planning Commission — a building permit is required; one parking stall for every four seats; existing structures must be removed; right and left turn lanes for traffic entering the site from County Road 46 may be required by the county; final landscaping plan must be provided; and a public street must be built over the north 33 feet of the site, connecting County Road 46 with Rosewood Lane.

If a permit is granted, the church must also pay a deferred waterline assessment of $35 per lineal feet of frontage along County Road 46 and Rosewood Lane.

The new church would have seating for 431. The site plan calls for 148 stalls, which translates into a seating capacity of 592.

In other zoning related items:

  • New Testament Church, 2505 State Highway 29 North, received a conditional use permit to relocate its existing playground as part of an expansion project.The church is removing an existing detached school building and adding a larger school building and moving the playground a few yards.
  • A request to vacate a portion of a dedicated but unbuilt street, known as Fifth Avenue East, east of Nokomis Street and west of the SOO Line/Canadian Pacific Rail, was approved. When a nearby property owner, Evadne Wadsworth, sold her property last April, the title work indicated there was no evidence that the street had actually been vacated.

Following are other items from the Sept. 26 meeting not covered in other council stories.

Advertising benches come under scrutiny

Advertising benches placed around town caused a rift between the city and the owner of “Sit Down Advertising” but a solution is in the works.

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Steve Crane, the owner, has been putting up the benches since 1998 but the city contends that he has not complied with the terms of an agreement regarding advertising benches. Some of the requirements include getting prior approval from the city for materials, construction, design and location of the benches; approval of the property owners adjacent to each bench location; removing benches from any location the city requests; owners of advertising benches must provide liability and property damage insurance naming the city as an additional insured; and the process of how the city can terminate the agreement.

City staff said it has had a number of telephone conversations with Crane about his business’ failure to comply with the agreement but the necessary actions were not taken. City staff said it also contacted Crane by letter, detailing the non-compliance but no steps were taken.

After meeting with city staff, the city’s Legislative Committee supported the need to terminate the agreement, according to City Planner Mike Weber. A letter was sent to Crane on Sept. 9, invoking the default provisions of the agreement.

Crane appealed the administrative decision and a hearing took place during the council meeting.

Crane admitted he had not followed the requirements in the agreement but asked for another chance.

"I throw myself on the mercy of the council," he said.

City staff provided the council with several documents – a 1987 agreement regarding advertising benches, along with emails and memos dating back to 1998, insurance certificates, and copies of city code.

Crane said his business has been working with the property owners, getting approval for the benches to be placed near their property, and has received verbal agreements. Crane said in the future, his business would get formal written approval from the city and property owners.

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He included a list of 46 benches, their locations and clients that are represented.

“All the attachments included in this letter will meet the requirements and be in compliance with the 1987 agreement,” Crane said in his letter to the council.

Weber told the council that city staff believes it has acted in accordance with the provisions of the agreement and in the best interests of the city, and the Legislative Committee recommended the council to deny the appeal, based on the facts and evidence presented.

Mayor Osterberg said she toured the areas where the benches were located and found that some of them are unsafe for wheelchairs to get to and block pedestrian accessibility.

City council members Andrew Wiener and Scott Allen suggested revising the agreement with Crane. "I have a hard time taking away someone's livelihood," Allen said.

The council affirmed the recommendation of city staff to terminate the agreement with Crane and gave him until Nov. 15 to remove the benches. In the meantime, the council directed staff to draft a new agreement with Crane no later than Nov. 15.

Infant Loss Awareness Day

The council proclaimed Oct. 15, 2022 as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

Infants Remembered In Silence, Inc. and many other nonprofit organizations work with thousands of parents all over Minnesota and across the U.S. who have experienced the death of a child during pregnancy through early childhood, the proclamation says.

It added that many of these parents live in, deliver in, have a child die in, or bury a child in the community.

Bereaved parents around the world remember their children annually on Oct. 15 with a candle lighting at 7 pm. Some will remember their child/children in their homes while others will remember them in small gatherings around the state, across the nation and around the world, the proclamation says.

Grant will crack down on unsafe driving

The council approved a "Toward Zero Deaths" grant agreement between the city and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The Alexandria Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office will share a $26,000 grant to crack down on speeding, driving under the influence and distracted driving.

That's a jump from the $18,000 grant they received last year.

Airport gets design grant

The council approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation that will provide $320,000 for the design work involved in the 2023 Alexandria Airport improvement project.

The federal government will cover 83.7% of the design costs while the state will pick up 9.4% and the city 6.9%, which amounts to $21,534.

The total cost of the project, which includes reconstruction of the main runway and the replacement of the airport's electrical system, amounts to $5.8 million.

ABATE get gambling permit

American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education received a one-day, off-site gambling premise permit to conduct a raffle at a Dec. 10 event, which will take place at the Eagles Lodge.

Changes ahead for off-sale liquor licenses?

The council is considering adding a new section to city code for private off-sale liquor licenses.

The purpose of the changes is to bring clarity to the licensing process for private off-sale facilities, such as Cash Wise Liquor.

Key issues of the new code:

Annexation exception. A license issued before annexation by another jurisdiction will not be rendered invalid if it’s annexed to the city. Instead, the city may opt to allow the license to be renewed.

License fee. The ordinance calls for the license fee to be set at the state maximum, $580. The current license fee is $200.

Transfer of license. Any transfer of ownership must be approved by the council.

License premises. Once approved, an off-sale license is only effective for the improved premises, which can’t be expanded or moved.

The council gave preliminary approval to the city code changes.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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