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Solar panel, wind turbine regulations discussed in Menahga

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Menahga Mayor Pat Foss asked the City Council Monday to begin discussing a proposed ordinance regarding front yard regulations for solar panels and wind turbines.

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"I think there needs to be a place for them - not in the front yard or near the street," he said.

The reason Foss brought up the issue was because he had heard from some residents who oppose solar panels in front yards due to appearance and possible visibility issues for driving. He added wind turbines to the discussion because he knows of other cities that have them in town.

Foss brought a proposed ordinance to the meeting. It states, "solar panel and wind turbine locations shall be restricted so that they are not located between the dwelling and the street."

The proposed ordinance would amend section 151.16 of the city's ordinance regarding land usage in an R-1 zone.

Councilwoman Kim Rasmussen said she was confused about the process and how the proposed ordinance showed up at the council meeting without any notice.

Foss explained that the issue was discussed at an administration meeting and was meant only for discussion at this point. A public hearing would still be needed before it came to the council for a vote, he said.

Councilwoman Maxine Norman questioned where the regulations would end as technology changed. For example, she asked if a solar panel that attached to the door of a house would be in violation.

Foss said more discussion was needed but he wanted the city to start looking at the issue.

The council directed the planning commission to discuss the proposed ordinance at a meeting and receive public input. Councilman Alden Yliniemi voted against sending the issue to the planning commission.

An update will be given at the August council meeting.

"I think we do have the responsibility to address this in our city," Foss said. "These issues will come up more and more."

In other business, the council:

n Heard one of Rep. Chip Cravaack's staff members will be in Menahga from noon to 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 17 at City Hall. The staff member will be available to talk with members of city staff, council members and members of the public.

n Approved a cooperative agreement with the Department of Natural Resources for a fishing pier on Spirit Lake. The fishing pier will be replaced on the east shore of the lake. The project is scheduled for this summer.

n Heard an introduction by JB Scherbenske with the West Central Regional Economic Development Alliance. He explained the alliance is an entity that was developed to provide support to area communities. His office is based out of Sebeka.

n Received a request from the Menahga Civic and Commerce Association for monetary assistance in securing lights for the city of Menahga signs on the southern and northern ends of town. The council received the request Monday and determined there wasn't enough time to make a decision. Staff was directed to do more research on the options for lighting and determine costs for the July meeting.

n Heard that about 15 nuisance letters were sent out to residents who needed to clean up their yards. Police chief Scott Koennicke said he has noticed some people who received letters have started to clean up their yards. There are habitual nuisance yards, however, and Koennicke said he will need to be persistent with those people.

n Received an update on the municipal liquor store from manager Tom Gerszewski. He said he is looking into getting a new ATM. The old machine has had some issues lately. Also, he will look into purchasing a new scanner for off sale purchases. The computer has been acted up, he said.

n Learned four new pumps have been installed at the lift station and they are working well so far, according to water/sewer manager Wayne Rost.

n Hired Carly Brockpahler as a fill in lifeguard for the city beach. The council also approved increasing swimming lesson fees to $15 for an individual and $40 for a family.

n Heard Greenwood Connections had 60 residents in the nursing home as of Monday. The nursing home is licensed for 65 residents.

"Year to date, the bottom line looks good," said Jim Kangas, president of the Greenwood Connections Board.

n Heard an update from city administrator Walt Salo on the cable franchise agreement with West Central Telephone Association. He said the administration committee has met to discuss the agreement and is still working on the rates for installation.

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