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Rhonda Silence

City considers planning commission matters and priorities

The Grand Marais City Council met on Wednesday, June 9 and covered a variety of topics, ranging from zoning matters to the status of the sod in the ongoing Highway 61 project.

The meeting started off with public comments, both related to a street or alley in Grand Marais. Kathryn Ramberg appealed to the city council to do something about the condition of 4th Avenue, which had the failing pavement removed recently, creating a gravel road. Ramberg said without the potholes in the pavement, cars are speeding down the now-gravel road, stirring up a great deal of dust. Ramberg asked the city to consider repaving the road, or at least putting calcium chloride down to eliminate some of the dust.

The other comment came from Jeff Gecas, co-owner of GunFlint Tavern, who asked the city to consider repairs and paving of the alley behind the Tavern and other businesses. Gecas said the city could likely get a good deal on the work as the Highway 61 road construction is being done now.

The council agreed to put discussion of the roads on a future agenda. Councilor Anton Moody volunteered to check on the schedule for application of calcium chloride to see if that could be done soon.

Council adopts Planning Commission recommendations
The council reviewed requests for conditional use permits for two home occupation businesses at residences on Broadway Avenue. One was for a relatively new chiropractic office that sees limited clients. The other was for a longtime small engine repair business. The council followed the planning commission recommendation and approved both requests, with the conditions suggested by the planning commission. See WTIP’s report on the planning commission meeting here.

A third planning commission matter was a request for a variance for a carport. The planning commission recommended denial of the request which would have allowed construction of a carport closer than 25-feet from the lot line. The city also followed suit and denied the variance.

City Council considers priorities
The council has been reviewing its list of priorities for some time now. Brainstorming sessions and discussion with department heads led to a long list of things that the city should invest its time and money on. In an effort to narrow that list, councilors were asked to list their personal top priorities. There was considerable discussion as councilors shared some initial thoughts.

Among his choices, Councilor Craig Schulte said he would like to see general maintenance projects get more attention. There was discussion of whether that perhaps falls under “Capital Improvements.”

Councilor Kelly Swearingen said she would like the city to focus more on code enforcement. She said it seems the city is getting more and more complaints about the condition of properties in the city and there seems to be no enforcement.

Councilor Anton Moody, who serves as the city representative on the Cook County-Grand Marais Economic Development Authority, noted that housing has become an issue for the entire community. To bring economic success to the county, Moody said workers are needed and to have workers there needs to be housing. So Moody said that is one of his top priorities for the city.

Councilor Mike Garry said he would like to see the renovation and rebuilding of city hall and the municipal liquor store at the top of the list, as that is something the council has talked about and promised the public that this would be happening. Likewise, he said the Sawtooth Bluffs project is also something that people have been asking about.

Mayor Jay DeCoux gave similar comments but added that he would like to see sustainability in the face of climate change as a top priority.

The discussion continued and the council scheduled a special work session to continue with more time.

Highway 61 sod
The council briefly discussed the Highway 61 construction project, noting that with the good weather to date, the project is ahead of schedule. There were concerns about the sod put down in the completed eastern section of the project. Mayor DeCoux said he had a conversation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation about it and learned that the contractor does not get paid for the work unless the sod takes root.

Coast Guard Station may be closing
The Mayor also shared the news that is concerning for boaters on Lake Superior. The U.S. Coast Guard has notified the city that it will be completely closing the Grand Marais Coast Guard Station, taking away the small seasonal crew that has been here for decades. The mayor encouraged his colleagues to share their concerns with the Coast Guard.

Meeting closed for pending litigation
Finally, there was a closed portion of the meeting to discuss pending litigation regarding the city’s NPDES permit, which pertains to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System – the city’s waste system.
The city council can close a meeting due to attorney-client conversations in situations like this, but must announce later what it was about and the outcome of the case or of any settlement reached. WTIP will provide more information on this matter when it is available.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Grand Marais Mayor Jay DeCoux about all this.