Readers’ Views

Support appreciated

To the Editor:

The Fairmont Uptown Kiwanis Club thanks Hy-Vee for the hot dogs and buns and Perkins for the ice for the baseball fundraisers in June and July at the Fairmont Elementary School ball diamonds.

A special thanks to the volunteer coaches and the families of the players for their support throughout the season and for their patronage of the fundraisers.

Michael Lundgreen


Some clarifications

To the Editor:

Typically, when I disagree with a Sentinel editorial, it’s because it appears the writer doesn’t have all the facts or information. Although that is the case here, they certainly are not alone. Unless you are fully engaged in this issue, it can be very confusing.

Although the resident’s building project noted in the editorial exposed the flaw in application of the code, the zoning code change request Monday night has nothing to do with the stalled project. City Administrator Mike Humpal previously gave the resident the green light to proceed with his project as submitted. The reason it is stalled again is because an appeal of the city administrator’s decision has been filed. The appeal notes that the approved building permit violates side yard setbacks, nonconforming structures, shoreland overlay district, and building height.

As he has said publicly many times, Administrator Humpal felt the building height code could impact OTHER projects in the city this summer. He feels changing the code on height would solve those problems. I argued because the definition of building height affects many parts of our code, this single change would create more confusion. So, when I advocated using the variance process, it was for future projects that may exceed the height limit. I was not referring to the current resident’s issue.

I appreciate the Sentinel advocating for the resident that was given a building permit that he didn’t realize appears to be illegal. I agree with that sentiment. However, the neighbor who is objecting also has rights. Why should she have to accept a building that violates the zoning ordinance? The Sentinel should be advocating for both parties or none. Additionally, I believe the Sentinel should also be advocating for a complete review of the zoning ordinance, as well as a comprehensive review of how the city interprets and enforces its building code. I have heard many complaints about the inconsistent application of standards. Complaints like this do nothing to promote development in the city.

As an update to the story, it was announced this morning (July 27) that state statute was changed in 2001 via the Municipal Planning Act. It calls for zoning changes to be decided by a majority and supermajorities are no longer allowed. We will be voting again to provide a clear public record. Again, the fact that our City Code was never updated since 2001 or reviewed by city staff caused this confusion. As a councilman, I have the responsibility to read applicable sections of our code prior to meetings so that I know they say. I believe it is our staff’s responsibility to ensure that the codes are up to date, and consistently enforced.

Again, the passing of this motion doesn’t change the ongoing process for either of the residents noted above. The building permit may be out of compliance in three areas other than height. Had the city administrator followed my advice at the beginning to have this resident apply for a variance, he would likely be close completing his project by now. Now, the resident’s project is in legal jeopardy due to the city’s mismanagement of this issue.

Thanks for letting me clarify and update.

Tom Hawkins,

councilman at-large