Council moves forward on proposed downtown property development

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council at its regular monthly meeting on Sept. 9 approved a zoning change that would facilitate a proposed property development in downtown Guttenberg, accepted the donation of a portion of ponds along the highway, and considered numerous property matters. 

Mayor Bill Frommelt led councilmembers Mick Pierce, Austin Greve, Fred Schaub, Virginia Saeugling and Jane Parker through the evening's agenda. Also present at the council table were City Manager Denise Schneider and City Attorney Michael Schuster.

Development project

Austin Coon, representing the Guttenberg Economic and Development Commission, asked the council to change the zoning for several lots south of the municipal building from C-2 (general office retail) to R-3 (mixed residential).

Coon said a developer is interested in constructing three residential duplexes. He said that the lot at the south end of the block, known as the Jacobs lot, would be retained by the GEIDC for commercial development but could be used as a parking lot in the meantime.

Discussion was held on available parking in the area, and Councilmember Pierce spoke in favor of having a municipal parking area on the lot immediately south of the municipal building. Coon said all the duplexes would have off-street parking. He also noted that the lots have been vacant since 2010 and described the proposal as the only viable option thus far. Councilmember Schaub said, " I don't want to see the property set like that as long as it has."  On a 4-1 vote, with Pierce in the minority, the council approved the zoning change. In a related matter, the council, on a 4-1 vote, approved moving forward with the disposal of the city-owned parking lot south of the former laundromat building.

Closed session

The council went into closed session at the end of the regular meeting to discuss the purchase of an unspecified parcel of real estate. When returning to open session, the council, on a split vote, voted 3-2 to make an offer on the property with Schaub and Greve in the minority.  

City ponds

The council voted to accept donation from Dave Brown of portions of Herman and Harter Ponds along Highway 52, in exchange for a receipt for $110,000. Mayor Frommelt said he believed it was in the city's best interest to have the ponds dredged and used for recreational purposes. 

Property issues

Following up on a vote taken at last month's council meeting, a public hearing was held on the disposal of a portion of city real estate that is zoned residential to Jack and Linda Benskin for $4,000. Council member Saeugling, who was the lone dissenting vote at last month's vote, said she believed the city should  follow established procedures used for other property transfers, and suggested taking bids. After lengthy discussion the council voted 4-1 to approve a resolution authorizing with the transfer to the Benskins, with Saeugling voting nay.

The council also approved a resolution authorizing transfer of property to Steve Hansel, dba Deep Blue Seafood, for $8,500 of a parcel adjacent to Miners Creek Campground as discussed at last month's meeting. Realtor Gary Willman, representing Steve Hansel, was present to present another request to purchase a second piece of property in the same area. The council voted to move forward on the request.

The council moved forward on a request by Rick Jensen to purchase a city parcel in the north end of town near the railroad tracks.  

Other business

In the time set aside for public comment, former mayor Russ Loven addressed the council to speak in favor of the city purchasing property located at the corner of Schiller Street and Highway 52 to enhance Schiller Street as a "grand entrance" to the downtown district. He reminded the council that various committees, mayors and administrations through the years have recommended the purchase of property there. "I think it is important to get control of this property now," he told the council.

The council concurred with the recommendation of the city zoning board and approved ordinance amendments that add automotive display and sales as a special exception to the C-2 zoning and another ordinance that adds definitions relating to solar collectors.

Discussion was continued from last month's meeting about reserve officer staffing. Police Chief George Morteo noted that currently his department is allowed three reserve officers on call and he would like to increase it to five or six. He also introduced a new reserve office, Gage Lettman. The council approved having a roster of five reserve officers and to make the pay more competitive with other communities by raising it to $16.50 per hour ($17 per hour upon completion of certification) and to offer overtime for holidays and special events. 

The council approved an ordinance amendment regarding balconies, canopies and awnings. The ordinance does not affect current structures.  

The city manager gave an update on clean-up and repairs at a property at 510 Acre Street that has been deemed a nuisance property. The council voted to grant an extension to the cleanup deadline.

A bid from Wright Tree Company was accepted for the removal of a tree along the north highway hill for $400 per hour with crane service.

The council passed updates to three city ordinances to reflect recent legislative changes.

A low bid of $5,000 from Bries Construction was accepted for improvements on the city building located on Hadyn Street across from the swimming pool. 

At the start of the evening's meeting, the Mayor called for a moment of silence in memory of former city employee LaDean Fischer.

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