Alexa Eickschen, board chair for the Arcola Mills Historic Foundation, came before the May Township Board of Supervisors on Nov. 4, asking the township for an exemption from the moratorium the township established over the summer. The Supervisors declined her request.
With major changes in the works in parts of the township’s conservancy districts, staff reviewed existing township codes and found them outdated and not reflective of the types of uses that were occurring in the districts.
The zoning code also allowed uses that didn’t necessarily make sense for a conservancy area, like the construction of duplexes, which are not allowed anywhere else in May Township.
The Board determined it would not consider applications or issue permits in conservancy districts for one year as it worked with the planning commission and staff to update the codes.
At the time of the Board’s decision, supervisors knew the moratorium might impact Arcola Mills, as the Foundation had begun the process of reapplying for a new conditional use permit (CUP). The foundation had submitted an incomplete application, along with a check for $5,000.
“Obtaining a new CUP with May Township is an action the Arcola board wishes to accomplish before May 2022,” Eickschen said. “This moratorium places Arcola in an extremely dire position, both financially and operationally.”
Eickschen asked if Arcola Mills could do fundraising events in the meantime. She said that before Arcola Mills received its previous CUP, it was able to host fundraisers and membership events while it worked through the application process.
“If we aren’t able to do fundraising or activities on the site until July, it won’t look good. Arcola might not be there.”
“One person’s fundraiser is another person’s disruptive event,” said the Township attorney Dave Schneider. “The code doesn’t speak to permitting fundraisers, or not permitting fundraisers. It talks about general uses.” He said it was an example of why the code needed to be changed.
Eickschen said some of the documentation that had not been submitted with their application earlier in the year were documents that the Board and planning commission had received when Arcola Mills applied for its first CUP. She asked if they couldn’t just refer to the prior submission.
The Board declined to do so, saying that the application had to stand on its own.
Scheider told Eickschen and the Board that there is no way for the township to process the application, in part or in whole, unless an exemption from the moratorium is granted. The ordinance establishing the moratorium does allow for an exemption.
Board chair John Adams said he was not inclined to allow an exemption and other Board members agreed. “How do I have a moratorium when I give somebody an exemption from it?” He said there were others seeking an exemption, too. No one had yet submitted a formal request in writing but the township had fielded inquiries from every property owner in the conservation district.
“Some of the uses that are proposed and engaged in by Arcola Mills are presently at odds with the current zoning code,” Schneider said, “but may be the subject of study and consideration for changes in the ordinance.” The Board invited Eickschen and Arcola Mills to be part of the process of reviewing and revising the code.
The township administrator suggested returning $5,000 to Arcola Mills. The Board approved.
Roadwork capital improvement plan
The Township engineer, Katie Koscielak, submitted a draft capital improvement plan for roadwork from 2022-2025, and from 2025-2031 and beyond. She explained that the draft plan showed an aggressive schedule of road improvements. The goal is to get roadways to a standard that is more maintainable.
“The difference between this capital improvement plan and a maintenance plan is that we are trying to get caught up on roadways. We aren’t at the point where we can be on a 5- to 10-year maintenance plan yet,” she said.
The draft plan covered crack fill improvements, chip seal improvements, and gravel road improvements for 2022-2025. Paved road improvements would occur in 2025 and beyond. Cost estimates for the work were:
The plan is based on visual inspections and the watch lists for the past 3-4 years. Koscielak noted that additional investigation may be needed. “What is under those roadways? The mill and overlay looks good, but if we drill a core out, we may find there is only 2” of pavement and more improvement is necessary.”
Supervisor Steve Magner thanked her for her work, saying, “This is exactly what I was looking for. Now I think we have a good start where we can dig into this and decide if this is what we are going to do.”
The pumps at the final lift station that push effluence to the drain field are no longer turning on automatically. Adams has been manually running the pumps twice a day for the past two weeks. An estimate for repair is expected soon. Magner will be a backup for manual operation.
The Board was asked to grant a variance for the installation of a 60’ cell tower at a 1-acre site at 13200 170th Street N. owned by Connexus Energy. The site is currently an electrical substation. Variances would be required for property setbacks and pole height (although a 60’ pole already exists on the site and will be removed).
The site is zoned rural residential. Transmission services are allowed in that zoning area by condition use permit. The uses on the site predate the township code and there is no existing conditional use permit so any expansion at the site would require a new conditional use permit.
The new tower would improve communications in the township by connecting with a 200’ tower in Forest Lake.
The neighbor adjacent to the property has no objections. They currently monitor the substation and asked that no additional screening be added so they can maintain a full view of the property.
Action on the variance request was moved to December to address issues with landscaping and a prior permit.
Norell Road project
Washington County engineer Kevin Peterson reviewed the Norell road project plan. After extensive public input, the plan is to improve the road surface while staying within the existing footprint, to replace asphalt curbs with concrete curbs, to add drainage control in some ditches, and to repair an area where the roadway is sloughing into a lake.
•Resident Ted Nesse was appointed to fill the vacant position of an alternate on the planning commission
• The town hall will be the polling location for 2022 elections.
• The township will sell two trucks.