Little Falls City Council, Planning Commission and Heritage Preservation Commission to meet Monday about sign ordinance

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
terry.lehrke@mcrecord.com

Monday night, the Little Falls City Council, the city’s Planning Commission (PC) and the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) will hold a joint meeting to discuss the city’s sign ordinance.

Several years ago, the city’s then-building inspector, Jake Depuydt, was beginning the process of updating the sign ordinance. When Depuydt left his post, the updates fell by the wayside.

Late last year, in response to resident complaints, a resident in the city, Robin Hensel, was asked by the city to remove signs in her yard because they violated the city’s sign ordinance.

Hensel then brought to the city’s attention other signs in the city that might also violate the sign ordinance, which she has called unconstitutional and in violation of free speech.

Although the Council has the final vote on an updated ordinance, it sent the ordinance to the PC to review and make update recommendations. The PC will make its recommendation to the Council once it is finished. The Council may at that time vote to approve it, or not.

The city’s attorney, Toni Wetzel, has been working with city staff, the PC and the HPC to update the ordinance, to ensure it is constitutional, clear, fair and enforceable, and completed as quickly as possible. Wetzel has cautioned the Council, the PC and the HPC to keep the ordinance as simple as possible, and that the content of signs cannot be regulated.

After Monday’s meeting, the PC will again review the ordinance at its April 9 meeting.

A public hearing must be held prior to Council approval. When the public hearing will be set will be determined by a number of things.

Lori Kasella, co-city administrator, said after the PC’s April 9 meeting, it will hopefully be able to make a recommendation to the Council.

Once the recommendation is made, the Council will call for a public hearing and the city must publish notice of the hearing.

Kasella said it may be May before a public hearing is held.

Monday night’s meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, and is open to the public.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

In other business at Monday’s meetings, the Little Falls City Council:

• Watched a video of the clay pipe under First Street Northwest at its work session. The video revealed multiple cracks in the pipe;

• Decided at its work session to do a little more research on which ways surplus items stored at the red barn on the former Dewey-Radke House property could be sold. The intention is to ensure the most members of the public would have access to the sale. The possibilities thus far include a public auction, an estate sale or a tag sale;

• Received Robin Hensel’s request for a public comment meeting on the sign ordinance. Co-city Administrator Lori Kasella noted the city is required to hold a public hearing before any ordinance is passed or amended;

• Received a petition from Jerry Steinert to vacate the alley on Block 16 in Rothwell’s Addition in Northwest Little Falls;

• Unanimously voted to approve a resolution to re-establish unchanged wards and polling places within the city of Little Falls;

• Agreed to the sale of more than 100 surplus books from the Carnegie Library in Little Falls. The books were appraised by and will be sold at Rural Origins Antiques, Appraisal and Estate Service in Royalton. The business will retain 30 – 35 percent from the sale of the books. Those books that are not sold, will be offered for sale during the Friends of the Little Falls Carnegie Library book sale, with the city to retain the proceeds of those sales;

• Approved a one-year agreement with the Morrison County Chaplaincy program, contributing $2,500 for the year. The agreement is in effect through March 31, 2013. The Council chose to revisit the agreement each year;

• Issued an exempt permit to Employment Enterprises Inc., for a raffle to be held May 24; and

• Approved a permit for TNT Fireworks to sell fireworks products at the Walmart parking lot in Little Falls.

The next regularly scheduled meeting for the Council is Monday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m., preceded by a work session at 6:30 p.m., at City Hall.

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