Council receives request for overnight camping at Le Bourget Park; park bench at city hall

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
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The Little Falls City Council received a request from Robin Hensel to hold an overnight gathering/rally in Le Bourget Park, June 22-23, complete with music.

In addition, she requested the city allow her to rent an advertising bench to be placed in front of city hall, with a commentary about city government.

City Attorney Toni Wetzel told the Council during its work session that the two requests were separate issues.

Hensel was sent a letter by the city, explaining the city code prohibits a party or gathering of two or more people from 10 p.m. – 7 am., from which noise emanates of a sufficient volume so as to disturb the peace.

Hensel’s request also included the fact that two-person tents would be erected. The city’s code, Section 10.20, states it is unlawful to “Set up tents, shacks or other temporary shelter for the purpose of overnight camping, nor shall any person leave, after closing hours, any movable structure or vehicle to be used for such purpose, such as a house trailer, camp trailer, camp wagon or the like, except as authorized and posted.”

However, Hensel made the Council aware that during the Antiques and Collectibles Fair held in the fall, vendors had stayed overnight in Le Bourget Park.

Hensel told the Council that the 30 people that gathered for a peace rally March 30, decided to name the event, “The Mid-Central Peace Fair and Rally,” and they want to put up tents “like vendors at the Antiques and Collectibles Fair,” she said.

Wetzel said the city and herself were unaware that vendors were camping in the park overnight, and as the ordinance reads, it would be unlawful to do so.

“You could change the ordinance,” Wetzel told the council members.

Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said she first learned of the ordinance that did not allow overnight camping in city parks in 2011, when a group of travelers was unable to camp at Lindbergh Park during the government shutdown. She thought they could stay at Le Bourget Park, but was made aware of the ordinance and arrangements were made at the fairgrounds.

Wetzel reiterated the ordinance could be changed. However, if the Council chooses to amend the ordinance, facilities would need to be put in place, she said.

As far as the bench is concerned, the city contracts with JMW3 Investments owned by Jeff and Michelle Waldvogel, and directed Hensel to contact the business. It takes care of all of the benches featuring advertising located throughout the city.

Prior to 2010, before the Waldvogels took the business over, a bench was located on the corner of Seventh Avenue Northeast and First Street Northeast, in front of City Hall. It was taken out when it was continually being damaged and always in need of repair. The Waldvogels requested permission to set a bench at the location once again, after Hensel contacted them.

Wetzel told the Council it needed to decide whether it wanted an advertising bench located in front of city hall. Once that decision is made, it would be left to JMW3 Investments to rent the space out.

Content of the message that may be on the bench is not the Council’s decision to make, said Wetzel.

The two requests will be placed on the Council’s April 16 agenda.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

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

• Amended the management agreement with the Friends of Linden Hill (FOLH) to pay for the liability insurance out of the interest funds from the trust set aside for Linden Hill, at the FOLH’s request. Currently the city pays all of the interest from the $300,000 fund to the FOLH and pays for the insurance out of the trust, reducing the fund’s balance;

• Approved unanimously to sell Lots 2 and 3 in Yoerg’s Subdivision to Anez Agronomy LLC, for the sum of $341,000. This is the smaller of the two buildings the city purchased to assist in the move of AirBorn to the Chief Hole in the Day Industrial Park;

• Received a petition from Robert and Sherry Andres, to annex their property on Riverwood Drive in Belle Prairie Township into the city;

• Were made aware during its work session of Mike Roach’s plans to erect the Waters Edge Business Park LLC on the property purchased near the Little Falls dam. Roach proposes to offer the city 15,000 square feet to be used as a park on the property nearest Front Street where an old ambulance building now stands. He will remove that building and prepare the area for a park. In exchange, he requested the city allow him to construct a storage garage on city property adjacent to the business. Use of the storage shed would be shared between the city and the business. The Council will discuss the issue again at its April 16 meeting.

The Little Falls City Council will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting Monday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Its work session will begin at 6:30 p.m.