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City council hears concerns about building height restrictions

Feb 23, 2018 09:23AM ● Published by Editor

By Brian Larsen from The Cook County News Herald - February 23, 2018

During the public comment period, John Gorski came before the Grand Marais City Council with concerns about city planning and zoning laws that potentially allow buildings to be built much taller than the city’s 30-foot height restriction.

The meeting was held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

Gorski, who said he had been out of town for awhile, came back to see a building going up near his neighborhood that at first glance might obstruct his views of the lake. While that turned out not to be the case, he said he subsequently learned that the city allowed as much as 1,000 yards of fill to be placed on a lot (100 dump trucks) without a permit. Once the fill was in place, a structure could be erected and measured from that new ground elevation. 

With Grand Marais becoming more popular, winning awards like “America’s Coolest Small Town,” Gorski it was attracting people with money who want to invest here, and this loophole needed to be fixed.

Gorski said he attended most of the city planning meetings during the public process to form the city’s comprehensive plan and protecting the viewshed was one of the most significant concerns of the public. He also added that “solar rights are also important,” and noted that after placing a lot of fill in an area, there were potential effects from stormwater runoff to adjoining properties.

Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux said the council would look into Gorski’s concerns and discuss them more formally at an upcoming meeting. Proposed Highway 61 upgrade

Council listened to a presentation by Minnesota Department of Transportation representatives and landscape architect C.J. Fernandez about the proposed 2019 Highway 61 upgrade that will run through Grand Marais.

A public meeting is scheduled for February 27 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at City Hall where MnDOT design team officials will review the current plans and listen to public’s suggestions for design changes or alterations to the plan.

Members of the public are invited to come and go as they please. There will not be a formal presentation.

This gathering will provide opportunity to view layouts, speak with project staff, and learn more about the proposed project.

On March 14 MnDOT representatives will return to ask the city council to approve a resolution of municipal consent for the design so their design engineers can begin work on a final plan.

Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux said he has been on a steering committee that has met and worked with the MnDOT Highway 61 design team the last several months to discuss ideas the town has for projects that could take place alongside the highway work.

As the work is being done the city would like to install bike racks, tree plantings, new signage, kiosks, and other amenities that could improve the look and accessibility of the town to visitors and locals alike. Arrowsmith DeCoux said the meetings had been very productive. 

In other business

. There was no liquor store update as stated on the agenda. Chris LaVigne, who manages the liquor store, said he needed more time to complete the update and he would be available to present his report to the council at its next meeting. 

. Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux briefed the council on the progress of the city’s Stormwater Management Plan. 

Two meetings have been held with the city’s consultant and Cook County Soil and Water, who is helping to shape the plan. 

At the first meeting, Arrowsmith DeCcoux said the team learned about the process(es) behind stormwater management and then conducted exercises to identify local stormwater issues of concern, and then plan potential goals to address those issues. 

At the second meeting, said Arrowsmith DeCoux, “We discussed our top two goals, flooding and water quality, and reviewed potential project responses.” 

Following his update to council, the mayor asked the board to set a preliminary goal for “our tolerance of flooding depth” and the duration of flooding in the city’s parking lot located by the Co-op and Stone Harbor business. Council set the bottom at 12 inches of water and set the expected length of the water allowed in the lot to be there no longer than 12 hours. 

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