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Residents request one-way street

FAIRMONT– On Monday evening the Fairmont City Council heard from a number of concerned residents regarding Maple Street in Fairmont. At the end of June the group had submitted a petition requesting that the city consider turning the street into a one-way, from Prairie Avenue to Albion Avenue, for safety reasons.

In the petition, it said that residents have noticed that drivers tend to cut through Maple Street to avoid the stop sign at Albion and State and that as many young children live and play on the street, the extra traffic caused safety concerns.

Several residents who live on the street were present and shared their reasons with the council. One resident pointed out that the street is narrow and that there is parking on both sides so that when vehicles are coming from both directions, it creates a tight and unsafe space.

Another resident noted that they had received support on the one-way from 100 percent of residents on the street.

Following public comment on the matter, City Administrator Matt Skaret went over some options that the council could take regarding Maple Street.

“If we want to make Maple Street a one-way, it will need to be done by city ordinance,” Skaret said.

He said that the city does have a Safety Council, which has not met since 2021, but that the council could opt to activate that board which could the look at the matter.

Council Member Jay Maynard said he was not opposed to activating the Safety Council but that he had doubts on whether anyone would be interested in serving on it.

Council Member Randy Lubenow pointed out that there are several one-way streets in the community, which Skaret agreed with.

Mayor Lee Baarts told those present that the council will further discuss the matter, and whether it wants to activate the Safety Council, and will bring the matter back to a future council meeting.

Moving to other matters, the council held a public hearing regarding a proposed ordinance on the rural and urban service districts. The hearing came following a conversation the council had earlier this year on the topic.

Skaret told the council that there are several properties in the city that are unique and do not have access to a full array of city services. Because of this, he said that the rural service district ordinance allows those properties to be taxed at 20 percent of the normal rate the urban properties that do have full access to city services are taxed

“We need to adopt the ordinance every year, certifying the properties listed in the ordinance to the county auditor/treasurer by August 1,” Skaret said.

He noted that City Clerk Betsy Steuber has been very diligent on marking which properties qualify and he said that any changes made under the revised ordinance require a public hearing and would then be adopted at the next council meeting on July 22.

While no one from the public spoke up for the public hearing, Council Member Britney Kawecki shared that she had been requesting that the matter be looked at for quite some time. She said she had correspondence between herself, the former city administrator and the former city attorney pertaining to the topic.

She read a memo from a former interim city administrator that said, in part, that the city council could allow plated lands to be rural but only if neither sewer, water or streets are extended to the parcel. She questioned what city attorney Flaherty and Hood’s opinion was and she also expressed interest in what other Minnesota cities did.

“The council has the power to change the policy… it can be done by a percentage,” Kawecki said.

Baarts asked whether there were any cities the same size of Fairmont that could be reached out to. He also asked whether the council could hold a work session.

Skaret said any changes made would need to be done swiftly as the rural and urban service district ordinance had to be adopted by August 1.

Council Member Michele Miller said she was fine with the ordinance as is.

Skaret asked city attorney Cara Brown with Flaherty and Hood whether it was too late to make changes to the ordinance. Brown noted that the same issue came up last year and that the firm had said then that it was too quick of a turnaround time to make changes by August 1.

“I think there has been discussion about changing the percentages. I don’t believe that ever came up again following the 2023 version of this but that’s certainly something we could do. It is a pretty quick turnaround time to get it done by the next meeting and completed by August 1,” Brown said.

However, she said it was something they could look at in the future.

Kawecki said she knew it would be too late to to change anything, but she thought the council could look into possible percentages to charge for police, water, sewer, etc. Council Member Jay Maynard said he thought it was too late for that discussion, too.

Ultimately the council approved the first consideration of the proposed ordinance 2024-01 rural and urban service districts.

Finally, the council looked at creating a beekeeping ordinance. This came following a request from a resident at the June 24 council meeting. Skaret said the current interpretation of the ordinance is that beekeeping would not be allowed unless in an agriculture transition zone.

“Regardless of the interpretation, if council wants to allow beekeeping, staff recommends that there be an ordinance,” Skaret said and went on to list some items the ordinance could address.

He said that right now staff is in the process of drafting an ordinance using material pulled from ordinances in other cities.

Kawecki acknowledged that there are people in town with bees and she thought that the less restrictions they had, the better. Several other council members agreed, including Maynard, but he said he was curious what other cities do when it comes to beekeeping.

Council Member Randy Lubenow said, “With the problems we went through trying to get the rental ordinance enforced, I don’t think we need another ordinance dealing with beekeeping. I would put it in line with dogs– if we have a problems with a barking dog, the (police) officer goes and addresses the issue.”

Miller said she thought they should keep the ordinance wide open. Baarts said that staff would need to let residents who call know that bees are, in fact, allowed. No further action was taken on the matter.

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