The Nevis Planning and Zoning Commission discussed a non-compliant RV and trailer park, chickens in the city, the city’s sign ordinance and more on Monday, July 26.

Crow Wing Inn

City Administrator Dawn Veit said she met recently with a city planner to discuss options for addressing the RV park and mobile home park operating at the Crow Wing Inn without the required permits.

In a recap of the issue discussed at last month’s planning meeting, Veit explained that someone came to her office asking to see the conditional use permit, variance or meeting minutes documenting that the city approved having an RV park on the motel’s property.

“I could not produce those,” she said, noting that the same was true of the two mobile home units on the property.

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Veit said the city planner asked to see the planning ordinance and determined that an RV park is not allowed, “nor do we have an ordinance for an RV park, because one has not come to town yet.”

Meanwhile, she said, the mobile home park does not meet the ordinance’s size requirements.

Veit said she wrote to the owners of the Crow Wing Inn, asking them to produce their permission to have an RV park and a mobile home park by Monday’s meeting, but she had not heard back from them.

Asked what the next step will be, Veit said she will try to reach the owners by phone. Planning commissioners also urged her to send another letter via certified mail.

Veit said the city planner suggested that the owners could petition the city to add RV park language to the city code, with stipulations of land size, number of units allowed on the property, water and sewer access, etc.

Regarding the two mobile homes on the property, Veit said one unit would be grandfathered since it has been there since before the current owners’ ownership and before the planning ordinance was enacted.

“When the second unit got there, we are not sure,” she said, noting that if it was before the current owners’ ownership, it’s not their fault.

Commissioner Sue Gray suggested asking the county assessor’s office when, or if, the mobile home was put on the property tax roll.

Commissioner Emily Whitaker hinted that any enforcement action should wait until the end of the tourist season, since they’re probably already booked.

“We don’t want to be vindictive,” Mayor Jeanne Thompson agreed, adding that they should also work on drafting ordinance language for an RV park.

Alley right-of-way

Following up on a complaint by resident Greg Poncelet at the city council’s June 14 meeting, commissioners discussed what to do about the alley right-of-way off Miller Street and 3rd Avenue.

Poncelet had requested relief after a neighbor built a fence across the right-of-way that was Poncelet’s only access to the back part of his property.

Commissioners noted that the neighbor’s garage, which encroaches on the alleyway, was part of a residential improvement project by the Hubbard County Housing and Redevelopment Authority under the property’s previous ownership.

Commissioners considered it unfair to expect the neighbor to move the garage at their expense, especially after Veit showed them documents she uncovered while researching the issue.

She noted that a previous city administrator signed off on the garage permit, based on a hand-drawn sketch, without doing a survey or going through planning and zoning.

Thompson concluded that the city bears some responsibility for the issue because it failed to do its due diligence.

Commissioners also acknowledged that Poncelet partially created his problem by building his garage tight against the property line, restricting access to his backyard to the alleyway.

However, Thompson noted that the fence the neighbor put across the alleway is an issue that the city can address.

Veit said the commission had three choices: force the neighbor to open the alleyway and move their garage, see if Poncelet can negotiate an easement from the neighbor, or leave the matter as is.

Thompson moved to leave the matter up to the owners to settle between themselves, and the motion passed unanimously.

Chickens and more

Veit reported that several people, including Whitaker, have approached her about a property in the city that has chickens running loose.

Veit said city code currently does not allow chickens in residential areas. Though it was permitted in the past, she said she does not know why the ordinance was changed.

Whitaker suggested looking at chicken ordinances that other cities have in place, including Park Rapids.

Veit asked how the ordinance would be enforced. Whitaker replied that enforcement could be based on nuisance complaints, adding that the city doesn’t need to “police chickens.’

Thompson urged moving quickly to adopt an ordinance setting standards for permitting chickens in residential areas. Meanwhile, she asked Veit to contact the residents with the free-range chickens to let them know this isn’t allowed, but that the city is working on a chicken ordinance.

Commissioners also discussed safety concerns about ATVs operating in the city. Whitaker moved to post signs summarizing the ATV ordinance at two strategic locations, and the motion passed unanimously.

Commissioner Katelyn Rittgers observed that people are constantly posting signs for events, sales, lost dogs, etc. and suggested creating a designated space for posting notices that could be kept looking good.

Veit noted that the city has a “huge” sign ordinance that requires sign permits, but it is not well enforced. She said even city officials should pay the permit fees – $25 for a temporary sign, $50 for permanent – but recalled some residents becoming hostile when told about this.

Thompson said they don’t want to stop signs from being posted, but signage needs to be cleaned up. She also suggested starting by reminding residents that sign permits are required.