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Crosslake City Council discusses planning and zoning charges

Web posted May 20, 2014
By Kate Perkins, Northland Press Correspondent

At its regular meeting Monday night, May 12, the Crosslake City Council discussed whether or not to offer a property owner a reduction in planning and zoning costs owed to the city.

Gordon Siemers currently owes the city $1,743.75 in fees incurred by the planning and zoning department from 2012, which Siemers said he believes were unfair charges.

Siemers’ fees, along with numerous fees owed by other property owners, were discovered after the city began contracting the county for it’s planning and zoning operations. Numerous property owners were billed for reimbursement of charges from work performed by the city engineer and attorney during the permitting processes.

Most property owners paid the charges; those who did not pay had their fees assessed to their property taxes. By request of council member Mark Wessels, Siemer’s fees were removed for special discussion by the council.

Records show that Siemers has already paid $2,968.25 to the city for city engineer and attorney charges related to planning and zoning, plus the cost of the permits themselves.

Gordon Siemers and his son, Scott Siemers, told the council that Gordon received a lot of bills that they didn’t believe were legitimate, including fees for several reviews that he didn’t believe were necessary.

“We feel there’s a lot of repetitious billing. We were thrown under the bus. I don’t think there’s anybody in town that went through the hell we went through to get a permit,” Scott Siemers said.

Wessels brought up an instance in 2011 when two property owners were offered relief on their high planning and zoning fees, and suggested the city might do the same for Siemers.

According to meeting minutes, in Feb. 2011 the city council reduced the fees of two property owners, whom owed more than $4,820.25 collectively, to $1,500 for one property owner and $500 for another.

City attorney Brad Person pointed out that many of the fees that Siemers had paid were related to code enforcement, which is different from permitting.

Council member John Moengen acknowledged that several other property owners had also owed high fees and paid them, and expressed concern that those who paid fees would wonder why they weren’t given relief and someone else was.

The council has changed the city’s planning and zoning procedures, so in the future there will be no reimbursement costs to permit applicants from engineering or attorney’s fees. That cost is now built into a flat-fee permit.

The council decided to table the matter so it has the chance to review information on the Siemers’ permitting process and past practices such as what was used in 2011. The issue will be revisited at a future meeting.

Public Safety
The Crosslake Police Department reported 109 calls to service in April. Those include, most notably, 21 traffic warnings, one traffic citation, 15 EMS calls, 23 alarms, four welfare checks and 16 agency assists.

For Mission Township, the department reported 37 calls in April, including 23 traffic warnings, two citations, five agency assists, two alarms, two EMS, one hazard in the road, one housewatch and one theft.

The Crosslake Fire Department reported 14 incidents in April, all of which were medical calls. That brings the total number of calls so far this year to 98.

In other business May 12, the council:
- Passed a resolution approving County Road 36 reconstruction project.

- Heard a fireworks update: The city received, for the second year in a row, a $5,000 donation to the fireworks from a private citizen. As last year, the donation is intended to enhance the fireworks, not pay the base fee of $10,000. Pat Netko, of the fireworks committee, told the council the committee is still $3,000 short of its funding goal, which with the anonymous donation would bring the funding to $15,000. Tax deductible donations in the form of a check can be made out to the PAL Foundation and mailed to 14226 Daggett Pine Road, Crosslake, MN, 56442. Donations are also collected in cans at area businesses.

- Decided to remove a cabin on community center land to make room for more plots in the community garden. The city will post the cabin for sale on Craig’s List stipulating that the buyer must move the cabin, which is listed for $1,500. If the cabin doesn’t sell, the fire department will use it for a practice burn.

- Approved an off-sale liquor license for Maucieri’s. The restaurant will not be opening a liquor store, but wanted the ability to sell bottles of wine during wine tastings.

- Hired contractors to remove a noxious weed, creeping Charlie, from the community center grounds, cemetery, city hall and the city shop.

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