Council tackles tall agenda

Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

With two public hearings, spending plans, and the needs of the Caledonia EDA up for debate, the Caledonia City Council had plenty of things to to talk about during their February 27 meeting.

Zoning administrator Mike Gerardy told members that LCAM LLC plans to put a 20 x 26 foot sun room addition on the front (northeast side) of the building which formerly housed the Fairbridge Inn, and a 12 x 30 foot addition on the back of the structure. The east side faces State Highway 44, and a variance of up to 107 feet to meet a 130 foot setback would be required. The rear of the building has a setback of 35 feet from the nearest property line. That addition would require a three foot setback variance.

Gerardy said that a records search of the original building permit did not reveal a variance being granted for the structure’s footprint, which is already over 100 feet closer to the east property line than the setback ordinance allows. “I don’t know why,” he stated.

All property owners within 350 feet of the parcel were informed of the public hearing.“We have had no mail back (on the variance application) the administrator reported. No representatives from the applicant were on hand either when the hearing began, so Gerardy called contractor Andy Allen, who arrived shortly thereafter.

Allen explained that the building sits at an angle in relation to the highway, so the front sun room would only be a matter of inches closer to the right of way than the northeast corner of the structure already is. Gerardy confirmed that assessment.

The contractor detailed the plans for the council, and asked members if those were acceptable. There were no objections. Ideally, “I’d like to see everything done and turnkey by the end of June,” he said. A number of prospective residents have already signed up to move to the facility, which will provide assisted living and memory care options.

Councilman Bob Burns made a motion to grant the variance application as requested. The vote to do so was unanimous.

Another public hearing was called to consider the renewal of an interim use permit for Mike Rogich. He appeared before the council, seeking the IUP to continue usage of a building in a transitional central business district (B-1-1) as a private storage facility. That structure is located at 231 East Main Street.

Once again, there were no objections from the public. Rogich asked for a longer term than the two four-year IUPs he was previously granted. Councilmembers noted that there have been no problems with the permitted usage, and Rogich has made improvements to the building. They voted unanimously to grant an eight-year IUP to the applicant.

Spending approved

After an hour of debate, the council approved spending requests from several departments involving enterprise fund (non-levy) purchases and projects. Those included: maintenance on well number seven (pull pump and check), a job estimated to cost anywhere from $17,540 to $35,540, repair and/or replace the grinder pump at the West Main lift station (approximately $12,000), rehabilitate the Badger Street lift station ($10,000 to $29,000), the purchase of a new brush chipper ($30,276), and a “composite sampler” for the sewer department. Members also green-lighted quotes for a new truck with a winch for the city departments.

Request for Caledonia EDA

The council also discussed a proposal from 36 Caledonia business owners, who asked members to hire a part-time director for the city’s economic development authority. Even a one day per week staff person could make a difference when it comes to locating funding such as grants and maintaining existing businesses while seeking more, several council members noted. City Administrator Adam Swann said that city staff already offers some support for local businesses. “We have been able to do some things, but I think that we could use additional help to be able to really go a step further,” he noted. “I was surprised when I looked at communities around the state. Almost everybody had somebody (staffing their EDA). That was kind of surprising, but I can see why.”

“We have to be able to compete,” Burns noted.

Mayor DeWayne “Tank” Schroeder said the issue needs more study. Both Burns and Swann offered to gather more information on the topic before the next council meeting.