Gerry Mrosla, chair of the Marine on St. Croix planning commission, presented information on terms of the short-term rental ordinance that the commission expected to present at a public hearing to be held sometime in July.
The terms included:
• Three (3) short-term rentals per zoning district (excluding the schoolhouse building), with rental occupancy allowed for a total of 72 days per calendar year.
• A short-term guest rental would be for fewer than 30 consecutive days.
• The owner may or may not be on the premises at the same time as the guest.
• The owner must physically inhabit the property for more days and nights than it has been rented.
• If the rental is in a multi-unit property, not more than 50% of the units can be used for short-term rental use.
• A short-term rental may only be operated in a principal structure, not a recreational vehicle.
The impact of this proposed ordinance would be to allow 15 short-term rental units across the five zoning areas of Marine, plus the units in the schoolhouse building. With a summer season of approximately 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day and no restriction on consecutive days, 72 rental days would allow for a building to be rented for most of the summer.
Council members were surprised and concerned that the proposal brought by the commission did not reflect what they thought was a consensus reached by the commission and the council at their May workshop. Following a heated discussion, the Council advised that they do not want to make changes to a proposed ordinance at an open meeting. They asked the commission to review the workshop guidance and come back with a final product more in line with what had been previously agreed upon.
Sex Offender Residency Ordinance
The sex-offender residency ordinance has not yet been drafted but council member Charlie Anderson explained his intent for the ordinance in greater detail. It would specifically apply residency restrictions on level 3 offenders (those most likely to reoffend) who had been convicted of sexual contact with a non-familial minor, or for production, possession or distribution of child pornography.
Roads Report Leads to
Behind the scenes, progress continues on the village center road project with submission of the state aid request and a cooperative agreement with the Watershed District, MnDOT, the DNR and Marine.
Residents were urged to submit comments to Washington County for its pedestrian and bike plan. The survey is located at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MOVEbikepedsurvey.
Marine resident Wendy Ward addressed the Council to ask about the decision-making process for the purchase of the $25,000 street sweeper, which had not been part of the regular budgeting process. She asked if this was the best use of city funds and offered a variety of potentially more beneficial uses toward which the money might have been directed, including a public restroom. The Council responded that the money was drawn from funds that were specifically earmarked for such purposes.
Another resident requested that the city pursue action to officially lower the speed limit on Highway 95. Council members said they do not have control over that decision. They have worked with MnDOT to get the crosswalk and speed detecting signage installed, and MnDOT was allowing trees to grow closer to the road, a design feature that has a traffic calming effect.
COVID safety signage has been created and placed in public gathering areas. The City has crafted a public safety plan, which primarily covers employees and people visiting city buildings. Only one sentence in the 4-page plan touched on public meetings, stating that the city has moved meetings to a larger venue to promote social distancing, along with offering an electronic option to participate.
During the June meeting there was no opportunity for members of the public accessing the meeting via ZOOM to participate, unless specifically called upon, as no one was monitoring the ZOOM account.
River Wake Taskforce
The city continued to discuss the formation of a river wake taskforce with initial members John Goodfellow and Bill Miller. The task force would take a two-pronged approach to the problem of excessive wakes with an education and awareness campaign, and support for enforcement efforts. The Council is generally in support of this effort but the taskforce is not yet formed.
Mill Stream and Parks Master Plan
Noting that Marine does not have any zoning for parks, council member Charlie Anderson proposed that a coalition be formed to vision a master plan for community parks, green spaces, the public-school property, and the Mill Stream. The coalition would include interested citizens and private and public land owners along the Mill Stream, city parks, school land, bike trails, and public spaces in Jackson Meadow. The goal would be to create a community vision and a master plan that protects the health of the Mill Stream and its shoreline and increases public engagement and enjoyment of parks and green spaces.
The Council discussed the need to begin setting aside funds for a new addition to the cemetery, to be located behind the public works building, off Old Guslander road. While acknowledging that a preferred location would have been across the street from the existing cemetery, a request to the state for a land swap with this William O’Brien State Park land was not approved. The land in question is already owned by the city. The addition will allow the city to offer burial blocks for families. There are currently 104 grave sites available, but only a few blocks of five.
The Communications Infrastructure Subcommittee has prepared a proposed survey for review by the Planning Commission. A representative from AT&T expressed concern that the project would not move forward this year, noting the public safety drawbacks caused by poor cell phone coverage. Council member Anderson said the Council was well aware of the safety issues but that it was in the hands of the Planning Commission to revise the ordinance and the process must be followed.
Council member Gwen Roden proposed having a town procession for the 4th of July, like the Memorial Day procession. The Council approved the idea but someone needed to organize it. Council member Anderson proposed another Founder’s Day event for the afternoon of August 23, in Burris Park, which was approved. The Council decided there would be no fireworks for New Year’s Eve.
Efforts continue to find a workshop date for the Council and the GreenStep Cities Committee. The committee has created a website detailing its proposed workplans and submitted that to the Council.
Good Neighbor Award
The Council approved the creation of a Good Neighbor award, to be given to Megan Lapos for her work organizing a “freecycle” event in May. Initiated from the Marine Buy/Sell/Trade/Barter Facebook page, Megan helped organize a community give-away event that included 17 locations, helping people pass along their unused items to new owners.
The Council voted not to waive tort liability insurance.
In a city with a demographic that skews far older than the county average of 38 (median age of Marine residents is 51), the move to in-person meetings in a building with limited ventilation was concerning to some, including members of the town Safety Committee.