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Brainerd City Council: Meeting set for public feedback on South Sixth Street project

Residents will have a chance to weigh in on whether Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street should be three lanes or five.

A reconstruction project for the road is set for 2017 and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials want to know how many lanes the city wants, so design concepts can be advanced.

James Hallgren, MnDOT project development engineer, appeared before the Brainerd City Council at the meeting Tuesday, asking what the preferred concept was for the project: Three lanes or five lanes.

"We would like to get a recommendation so we can finish the layout and then come back to ask the council for municipal consent," he said.

Hallgren said he'd like a recomendation from the council in a month or so.

City Council member Kelly Bevans said he wants to hear from the public on what they would like to see in the project. Other council members agreed.

The council will hold a special public input meeting to discuss making a recommendation, as well as hear from residents on what they'd like, at 6 p.m. March 23 at City Hall.

In designs drafted by MnDOT, Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street could a three-lane roadway or a five-lane roadway in the reconstruction project slated to start in 2017.

Both options would require the state acquiring right-of-way, including resident's private property. More land would be needed in a five-lane project, Hallgren said.

A five lane project would be more expensive than a three lane, but not enough to "make or break a decision," Hallgren said.

He will prepare a cost estimate for the March 23 meeting on both.

City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said there are pros and cons to both concepts, and there is split support for both.

He also noted that another design idea was presented to the Walkable Bikeable City Committee by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns, though Marohn has not met with city or state officials to discuss the design.

Hulsether suggested that if the council wants to consider alternate designs, whoever is making the proposal needs to meet with MnDOT and city staff to discuss their plan.

In MnDOT's plan, the project includes two proposed design alternatives for South Sixth Street that will begin at Joseph Street and run to Highway 210, or Washington Street. Joseph Street is located across South Sixth Street from Graydon Avenue and close to Bane Park and Little Buffalo Creek in south Brainerd. The project ends at the South Sixth Street and Washington Street intersection by the signal lights near the water tower.

Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street was first constructed in 1957. Since, there have been a handful of resurfacing projects, the most recent in 2009. The ride quality index given by MnDOT rates the road at a 2.8. Roads that rate below a 3.0 are typical for reconstruction projects.

The current volume on the roadway is about 12,000 vehicles a day.

In other city council news:

Directed the Planning Commission to create an ordinance amendment and amend the zoning map to possibly allow for food trucks permanently. The council in October extended the trial period to allow food trucks to operate in certain areas and during specific times within the city. The trial period extension ends June 30. Starting the process now will eliminate the need to extend a trial period again, said City Planner Mark Ostgarden.

Council member Chip Borkenhagen said he wants to explore more options with the policy, agreeing with council member Gabe Johnson that the restrictions originally put on the policy may have deterred some people from starting a food truck.

The Planning Commission's recommendations will appear before the council at a later date for final approval.

Directed the Planning Commission to perform a review and comment on the recently completed Complete Streets Policy, which was penned by the ad hoc Walkable and Bikeable City Committee.

In part, the proposed Complete Streets Policy lays out a process the city will use to evaluate what is wanted or needed with each new road project.

After the Planning Commission is done with its review, it will be brought before the council with a recommendation.

Voting against the move was Mary Koep, Sue Hillgart and Kelly Bevans.

Koep said there should be project by project consideration for what be added to work.

"You don't need to adopt a policy that would impact you forever" when you can look at it at any time, she said.

There could be added costs with the policy, she said.

Hillgart agreed.

Held the first reading of proposed Planning Department fee increases. The proposed fees are for permit services in the department, like rezoning, variances and zoning appeals. The current fee structure has been "inadequate for some time," Ostgarden said.

Voting against the move was Johnson, Hillgart and Koep.

Johnson said he didn't agree with the temporary sign fee and fence permit fee.

Denied a rental property owner's appeal of a late registration fee. The property in question, 602 Ninth Ave. Northeast, was identified in city tax records as "owner homestead," so no annual registration materials were sent to the owner. In November, the city learned the property was a rental going back to at least June 2013. That meant the city billed the property owner for two years of registration ($64), two years of late penalty fees ($900) and two citations ($200). Staff recommended denying property owner Tyler Hendrickson's appeal, and waiving the $200 in citations if the rest is paid by March 1.

Hendrickson appeared before the council Tuesday saying it was a "mishap" and he wasn't aware of the city's policy on the issue.

Held a public hearing and final reading of an ordinance amendment to allow testing labs in general business zoned districts. Currently, only medical labs are permitted. Recently, a testing lab inquired whether water testing labs would be allowed and current language would not allow for them.

Held a public hearing and final reading of an ordinance amendment to rezone recently annexed land adjacent to the hydro dam as rural agriculture. When the city bought the hydro dam, about 37 acres of land came with the sale. After the land was annexed, the council needed to zone it. The land is steep, which makes development unlikely, city staff said.

Mike Higgins, owner of Brainerd Industrial Center (which is the former Wausau site), questioned why they were rezoning it to rural agriculture.

He said his only concern is that he owns industrial property near that land and doesn't want someone to come in, build on it, and complain about noise on his land.

Held a public hearing to consider a petition to vacate a portion of Rosewood Street, between South Fifth and South Sixth streets. The vote is subject to reserving an easement for utilities for the road. Voting against the move was council president Gary Scheeler.

Approved disposing of a city transit bus due to age and condition.

Amended the city's Bus Maintenance Policy, which calls for maintenance to buses more often, among other items.

Approved the low bid of $43,461 from Pratt's Affordable Excavating for sewer replacement of a dead-end north of Holly Street in the alley between N. Ninth and North 10th streets.

Set a meeting for March 23 to review visual design concepts of a potential Mississippi riverfront project. For the past several months, the Mississippi Riverfront Steering Committee has been working with the Center for Rural Design on the concepts.

Approved an event application for the St. Patrick's Day parade March 14.

Heard a presentation from Planning Department intern Nathan Hall on his experience. His last day is Feb. 23.

Heard an update on the city's industrial park lots from Close Converse.

The Personnel and Finance Committee held a closed session before it's regular meeting Tuesday to discuss a level three grievance process for a personnel matter. Public notice was not given about the meeting, and city officials said Tuesday notice wasn't required.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

Jessie Perrine
Jessie covers the Brainerd City Council and the Brainerd School Board. Born and raised in southern Minnesota, Jessie attended Winona State University, where she majored in journalism with a minor in women and gender studies. She worked at the Winona Daily News, Tomah Journal and the La Crosse Tribune before starting at the Dispatch in 2012.
(218) 855-5859
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