No camping in city parks may put a damper on Little Falls’ Antiques and Collectibles Fair

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
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The Little Falls City Council has a decision to make — whether or not to change the city’s ordinance that doesn’t allow camping in city parks.

If it decides not to make the change, vendors for the Antiques and Collectibles Fair in Little Falls, who set up in Le Bourget Park, may find themselves unable to spend the night close to their booths.

The issue came to light when the Council received a request earlier this year from resident Robin Hensel, for a permit to hold an overnight rally-type event in June, including music, at Le Bourget Park.

It was at its April 2 work session, that the Council was made aware of her request — and informed that vendors for the Antiques and Collectibles Fair have stayed overnight in Le Bourget Park.

City Attorney Toni Wetzel said at that meeting, that neither she or the city were aware vendors were camping overnight in the park. And she said, as the ordinance currently reads, it would be unlawful to do so.

The only way camping could be allowed would be to change the city’s ordinance, Wetzel told the Council.

Monday night during its work session, David and Helen Rausch with the West Side Improvement Association (WSIA) asked the Council to consider a variance. The variance would allow the Antiques and Collectibles Fair vendors to spend the night in Le Bourget Park with their booths to protect their items.

Helen argued that “camping” implies fire pits and beer coolers. “These are just vendors spending the night there,” she said.

The Rausches asked that the Council allow “overnight stays” as opposed to “camping.” An overnight stay would not allow campfires, alcohol or the like.

David suggested designating Le Bourget as a “function park.” He said the WSIA would be in favor of helping fund utilities needed at the park to accommodate RVs, such as a dumping station and running water.

The couple said they needed the information soon, as vendors  are beginning to apply for space at the fair. “We don’t know what to tell the vendors,” said Helen.

Jeff Tschida chairman of the Park, Recreation and Tree Board, was in attendance to support a variance for the Antiques and Collectibles Fair vendors.

The Antiques and Collectibles Fair has been a project of the WSIA for the past 10 years and held in conjunction with the Chamber’s Arts and Crafts Fair, the first weekend after Labor Day, which this year is Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8 – 9.

Jerry Lochner, co-city administrator, told the Council the staff is looking for direction. “If the intent is to allow overnight stays without camping, or camping, the current ordinance does not allow overnight camping at parks,” said Lochner. “We either enforce the ordinance or change it.”

Little Falls City Council Briefs

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

• Heard a request from Ross Reed during the work session. He is asking for a payment extension for development property he owns, but which he has not been able to build on during the downtown in the economy. He will continue to pay interest on the extension;

• During the regular meeting, voted to appoint Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem as the Council representative to the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Board. Council Member Urban Otremba retired from this position. Having a council member on the board as a non-voting ex-officio member is part of the agreement made with the CVB 12 years ago. VanRisseghem abstained and the remaining council members voted 6-1 for VanRisseghem’s appointment. Brian-Paul Crowder was the lone no vote;

• Heard John and Alysha Fure of Little Falls asked the Council to consider a variance to allow them to keep their four dogs — three mini-Dachshunds that weigh about seven pounds each, and a miniature Sheltie that weighs about 30 pounds. The dogs are indoor dogs. The Fures were recently fined $50 for violating the city’s limit of two dogs.

The Council agreed to review the rules with the city attorney and do some research with the Little Falls Police Department about complaints. John told the Council he had 60 days from April 23, to get proof of a variance to the courts or spend 10 days in jail if they did not get rid of two of their dogs. “It’s hard to lose a family member,” said John;

• Approved the purchase of both hardware and software for the water treatment facility from In Control Inc. out of Blaine, at a cost of $29,520 plus sales tax;

• Approved the bid from Brastad Construction of Little Falls in the amount of $18,750, to replace the roof on the Senior Center building in Little Falls. Senior Citizens Inc. will reimburse the city for all costs as their funds become available when certificates of deposit mature;

• Authorized a master services agreement with Minnesota Power;

• Introduced Ordinance No. 37, sixth series, to re-establish the natural gas franchise fee and Ordinance 39, sixth series, to grant the electric franchise to Minnesota Power and set Monday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. as the date and time for public hearings on each;

• Adopted by resolution the decertification of tax increment financing (TIF) district 1-30, as all bonds and obligations have been paid in full;

• Received petitions for annexation of the Lind and Gwost properties in Little Falls Township and to install a stop sign at Second Avenue Southeast – east/west bound; and

• Were reminded of the public hearings to take place Monday, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. One is for the purpose of zoning the property proposed to be annexed at 1204/1206 Hilton Road. The other is regarding a conditional use request from Dr. Janell Osborn, to allow an animal hospital or clinic in a central business district zoned B-2, located on Thayer’s Addition to the city of Little Falls.

The Little Falls City Council will next meet in regular session, Monday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. A work session will be held beginning at 6:30 p.m.