Demolition ordinance change is tabled

The Stillwater City Council tabled a proposed ordinance changing the process to demolish historic structures in the city at Tuesday night’s meeting.

According to Community Development Director Bill Turnblad, the revised ordinance, tested during St. Paul’s Lutheran Church petition to demolish two vacant homes on church property, extends the research period to 270 days from 180 days to determine a structure’s historical significance. He added that the extended research period could lower the cost of the assessment.

“What we’re looking at with the new ordinance is some rewording to allow for more time at less cost. If we would agree with the HPC to save the building this change would give us more time than allowed for in the current ordinance and would give us time to go through the process.” Turnblad said.

Councilmen Doug Menikheim and Mike Polehna objected to the change for reasons they cited in the Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church petitionb. Both men feel an extended research period crosses the line of property owner’s rights.
But Councilman Ted Kozlowski and Mayor Ken Harycki said 100-year-old structures could be worth the 270-day waiting period.

The extended waiting period could also address building research costs. Turnblad said the problem he encountered with such a short turnaround is it could cost $12,000 a house. If there was more time for research, companies said they could charge in the $3,000 to $6,000 range. The amount would be paid by the parties seeking to tear down the structure with an ESCROW deposit.

“I still have a problem with people paying money to tear it down,” Polehna said. “I don’t thinnk it’s fair, and it was unfair to the church in the first place if we would’ve gone forward with it it would’ve cost $16,000. I don’t like going against commissions. They are our eyes and ears out there and I thought it was unfair what they (the church) had to go through.”

Ward 3 Councilman Tom Weidner asked if there was a way those wanting structures demolished could pay a higher fee to expedite the process instead of using 270 days to go through the research part. Council then discussed ways city staff could determine if structures are worth saving to begin the process.

“That’s when we get into the situation of those who think it should be saved who feel like they didn’t get a chance to voice their opinion,” Turnblad said. “Some of these cases are too close to call and that’s why we have the assessment process. We’d like to avoid being former planners and a judgement call could be debated and will be debated. That also puts a controversial decision at the administrative level.”

Council tabled the  ordinance for further revision.

Also at the meeting:

City Engineer Shawn Sanders gave an update on road improvement projects for this year. Street reconstructions will take place on Pine Street from Broadway to Third street South and Holcombe to Greeley streets and also on William and Martha streets from Willard to Pine. Mill and overlay projects are on Churchill and Pine streets between Third Street South to Greeley Street while Myrtle Street from Main to Third streets south will also be effected.

Total cost for the project is $1,263,400.93. The mill and overlay will cost $433,402 and $829,998.75 for reconstruction. The preliminary assessment rate is $1,734.11 per unit.

Sanders also discussed scheduled county road improvement projects. Orleans Street will be reconstructed from Fourth Street South to Fourth Avenue South.

That project costs $315,800 and is primarily funded by the county. The city’s responsibility is $39,479.50. Properties will be assessed $1,377.10 for lots and $8,271 for the school property located there. Construction is tentatively set from June to August.

A public hearing on both projects is 7 p.m. March 19 at 7 p.m.

  • City Administrator Larry Hansen noted the AFSCME contract has been sent along with a similar contract to the rest of the city’s unions. He is waiting for responses.
  • Council gave an explanation on the Brown’s Creek Watershed District project on the west tributary. The BCWD group hopes to remove phosphorous from the water using iron shavings and sand. It’s a cooperative agreement with the city. BCWD is one of the first groups to try this phosphorus reduction method.
  • Approved the Ironman Bike Race scheduled this spring in Washington County. Race organizers are moving the event to Washington County from its previous course in the Lakeville area. The race follows a course through the county.