Fairmont opts to let music play

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont City Council opted to take no official action Monday to regulate outdoor music in the city, leaving in place the existing “handshake agreement” with businesses to end the music at 11:30 p.m.

At the council’s July 23 meeting, City Administrator Mike Humpal read a letter from a citizen who lived near the Channel Inn and was upset about its outdoor music. A month later, Humpal offered to research how and if other communities handle the issue and report back to the council in mid winter.

“Outdoor bands and music have traditionally been tolerated as a fun experience as part of our summertime around our lakes,” Humpal said. “Enforcement of this type of music has been informal. Our City Code does not address outdoor music.”

In 2014, Humpal and then-Mayor Randy Quiring met with business owners and secured their cooperation to stop the outdoor music at 11:30 p.m. Since then, there have been 12 complaint calls about outdoor music, and only one occurred after 11:30 p.m.

“Twelve (complaints) in five years is not a whole lot, and three of the complaints were from the same individual,” said Humpal, noting that outdoor music usually occurs only from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

One complaint about loud music at the Channel Inn was actually from a band at the Chain of Lakes Yacht Club, which indicates how sound travels over the water.

City staff surveyed 13 communities with lakes and asked about regulating outdoor music around their lakes and received a wide range of responses, from flexible times, to ending as late as midnight to requiring a special event permit.

Humpal said the city’s chain of lakes is surrounded mostly by residential development so the occasional commercial property embedded with private homes can cause some conflicts, but that is the way the community was built.

“The City Council will ultimately decide what you want to do, but it’s not uncommon for communities to make exceptions for outdoor music,” he said.

He offered three recommendations for the council to consider: 1) Continue with the current ordinance, staying flexible and maintaining an understanding with the business owners to end outdoor music at 11:30 p.m.; 2) Amend the ordinance to allow outdoor music from Memorial Day to Labor Day and summer holidays with an end time at 11:30 p.m. or another designated time; 3) Amend the ordinance to allow outdoor music with a special event permit from the city with a stated end time.

Councilman Bruce Peters said he conducted an informal poll with random neighbors near the Channel Inn. The neighbors admitted the loud music can be annoying so Peters asked them if the council should address the issue.

“The answer was no. It’s good for the city. It’s good for the bartenders, waitresses. The businesses themselves employ a lot of people,” Peters said. “To a person, I got, ‘We get annoyed sometimes, but don’t shut it down. Don’t change it.'”

Instead, he added, the neighbors hoped the council would address the issue of vehicles with loud mufflers.

Councilman Tom Hawkins said his initial reaction was that the council should take action to deal with the outdoor music complaints, but he changed his mind after talking to a few people and seeing numerous posts on social media in support of the entertainment.

“For the most part, people are pretty supportive,” he said. “People in the community think we should have it. That surprised me. I thought people would be more concerned about it. Based on that, if the community doesn’t have a problem with it, I don’t either.”

“It’s something for people to do so they aren’t going out of town and spending their money going to some other community,” said Councilman Wayne Hasek.

Mayor Debbie Foster told the council about a meeting she, Humpal and Peters had with some of the bar owners who offered outdoor music during the summer.

“They are very understanding and are very respectful to stopping the music at 11:30,” she said. “It’s important for them to have music, and yet they also respect their neighbors around them.”

Foster thanked the council for its input into the matter.

“At this time, there will be no changes. We will continue on, but if people in the community have concerns about the noise ordinance, bring them to Mike or your City Council person,” she said.

Turning to another matter, the council set four public hearings for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 25 to sell four vacant lots resulting from razing tax-foreclosed structures this summer. Each of the properties will sell for $1,500 plus the cost of the $750 survey, for a total of $2,250. The city’s practice has been to sell vacant properties to abutting property owners at minimal cost. The city is required to sell property by ordinance, which requires a public hearing.

The public hearings will address the requests from Neil and Jane Jensen of 20 Downtown Plaza to purchase 26 Downtown Plaza, Mark Atkinson who owns 217 S. Main St. to purchase 30 Downtown Plaza, Troy and Lisa Fritz of 232 Sisseton Drive to purchase 304 Woodland Ave. and Lon and Heidi Luhmann of 511 N. Prairie Ave. to purchase 507 N. Prairie Ave.

In other business, the council:

o Approved a one-day liquor license for Pheasants Forever for an event April 13 at the Martin County Fairgrounds.

o Recognized Paul Hoye, city finance director, and his staff for achieving the Excellence in Financial Reporting Award for 2017 from the Government Finance Officers Association. Under Hoye’s guidance, the city has received this award for the last 10 years.