Grand Marais City Hall entrance in downtown Grand Marais - Photo by Rhonda Silence
Rhonda Silence

Public comment leads city to assess a property for ordinance violations

The City of Grand Marais held its last meeting for the month of May on May 26 in a hybrid fashion—Mayor Jay DeCoux, Councilors Kelly Swearingen and Craig Schulte, and City Administrator Mike Roth were in council chambers, with Councilor Mike Garry and other city staffers participating remotely.

At the meeting, the council had two comments to consider from the public. The first was a request from a city property owner asking the city to do something about the condition of a neighboring property. The commenting party said they have their house listed for sale and have had several “sight unseen” offers. However, after visiting the property, the potential purchasers have withdrawn offers because of what they deemed the unsightly condition of the adjacent lot.

The residence in question has various vehicles, numerous old signs, and miscellaneous items in the front yard.

The council discussed the city’s options. There are ordinances about the storage of recreational vehicles, abandoned vehicles, and public nuisances, but the city wasn’t certain if these apply in this case. After some significant discussion in which councilors sympathized with the property owner attempting to sell their house, the council directed staff to assess the situation and see what could be done. If the property is found to be in violation of city ordinances, some sort of enforcement action could be taken.

The other public comment was from Andrea Orest of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). Orest requested the city’s assistance in a tobacco use control and prevention program. The city council agreed to put this on the city’s agenda for more discussion at a future meeting.

Dog pound planning moving ahead
City Administrator Mike Roth gave a report on the situation surrounding the animal shelter/dog pound in Grand Marais. The dog pound had to be moved as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources boat launch improvements started. After many stops and starts, all of the parties involved in the discussion—the city, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and Arrowhead Animal Rescue—met and decided that a dog pound is needed under both city and county regulations. Since then the city has taken the lead on pulling together information on the various actions that have taken place to date. The city also investigated the possible locations for a dog pound.

The site that seems to be the most feasible is a small lot in the Cedar Grove Business Park, which is owned and managed by the Cook County-Grand Marais Economic Development Authority. The EDA has tentatively agreed that the lot in question would work, but had questions about the special assessments for the infrastructure on the lot. The EDA pays that assessment to the city with each lot sale. So, if the lot if made available to the city, EDA board members wanted to know if the city would forgive that assessment.
There appeared to be a consensus among the councilors that the city would cover the assessment.

The EDA also asked for more information on what the building would look like and where it would fit on the lot which consists of a significant wetland area. The EDA asked who would be responsible for the stormwater management plan. City Administrator Roth said the city needs to work with the county to see what sort of wetland/site development actions need to be taken. He said this will be back on the city’s next agenda.

“Passion Pit Committee” update
Councilor Kelly Swearingen gave an update on recent meetings of the “Passion Pit Committee.” She said it appears that the majority of the committee wants to keep the lakeshore open to the public. The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has expressed interest in obtaining the land, as has a private party. Councilors agreed to send a letter of support for the proposal to cede the land back to the Grand Portage Band. A letter will be drafted and considered at the next council meeting.

Until the future ownership of the beach and access to it is worked out, the committee would like to see some measures taken to keep it a safe and clean place for the public to gather. The committee asked if the city could provide some trash cans and a pet waste station. The council asked city staff to see what might be available. If the city doesn’t have any to share, it may spend approximately $300 to provide those items.

There is a significant dip in the parking area in the area, which becomes a big puddle in rain incidents. The county has agreed to provide some fill.

The committee is also considering installing signage, but the wording, placement and who will pay for the signage has yet to be decided.

In other business
In other business, Mayor DeCoux gave an update on the Highway 61 reconstruction and the contaminated soil. Mayor DeCoux said good progress is being made and the work at this point is ahead of schedule.

The council acknowledged the list of council priorities compiled at a recent meeting. That meeting was a brainstorming meeting just to get all of the things the council would like to pursue at some point written down. The council will have other meetings to consolidate similar ideas and to fine-tune the list to see what comes to the top as the priorities to pursue now.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Grand Marais Mayor Jay DeCoux after the meeting about the agenda items and public comments. Their conversation is below.

The next city council meeting will be Wednesday, June 9 at 6:30 p.m. For information on how to take part, call Grand Marais City Hall at 218-387-1848.