Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

City Council removes HRA board member

Home business permit enforcement scrutinized

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/21/16

ELY – City Council members unanimously approved the removal of a board member from the Housing Redevelopment Authority this week. The council acted on a recommendation made from the HRA board to …

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City Council removes HRA board member

Home business permit enforcement scrutinized

Posted

ELY – City Council members unanimously approved the removal of a board member from the Housing Redevelopment Authority this week. The council acted on a recommendation made from the HRA board to remove Teri Lindsoe for cause. She is a commission members and a resident of Sibley Manor.

According to City Attorney Kelly Klun, the allegations and basis for the removal include:

• Performing unauthorized business on behalf of the HRA board – It is alleged that Ms. Lindsoe corresponded with the Attorney General’s office on behalf of the board without approval or notice of the full board. Pursuant to her correspondence, Atty. Gen. Swanson sent correspondence to HRA Board President Chuck Novak thanking him for his correspondence and providing multiple Landlord/Tenant Packets. Novak indicated that he did not contact the Attorney General;

• Harassing and badgering staff – On or about Sept. 27, 2016, Ms. Lindsoe requested an apartment transfer from Michele Milton, the new HRA executive director. Ms. Lindsoe did not put the reasons for the requested move in writing to the director. The request was denied on HUD policy. Mrs. Lindsoe was unhappy with the denial and proceeded to allegedly harass/badger staff, including but not limited to approaching staff on their personal time at their personal residence regarding the issue. Mrs. Lindsoe allegedly contacted Ms. Warpula at her apartment on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, regarding the issue;

•Using authority as a board member to gain personal privileges – It is alleged that a petition and several complaints have been filed with President Novak from residents regarding Ms. Lindsoe’s behavior and apparent control over residents due to her position on the Board.

Klun presented a 37-page packet of evidence documents to council members at a special meeting Tuesday night. Three exhibits describing the above allegations, copies of several emails, hand-written notes, copies of policies, and the hand-written petition were included.

Lindsoe, who attended the public hearing, was offered the opportunity to answer the allegations. “She has the opportunity to provide a defense or response, but is not obligated,” Klun said. Lindsoe declined to speak.

Council members declined the opportunity to ask questions, and during the new business portion of the agenda of the regular business meeting, they voted unanimously to remove Lindsoe from the HRA board for cause. Council members directed the Clerk-Treasurer’s office to advertise to fill the vacant position on the HRA board.

Home business permits

The Planning and Zoning Committee is considering changes to the city code regarding home business occupation permits. Council member Kara Polyner described the Planning and Zoning Department’s ongoing issue with non-compliance of the city code with a home business at 206 E. White St.

Silver Birch Builders, described as a building contractor, is listed as the occupant at that address, located at the corner of 2nd Avenue East and White Street in Ely.

“This business has not applied for the home occupation permit,” Polyner said. “There have been numerous warnings through registered mail and we do not get any response from (the business).”

Members of the Planning and Zoning Committee made a motion to recommend to the council to authorize the City Attorney with enforcement of the city code regarding this matter.

A home business occupancy permit fee is $25 a year. The P&Z Committee is seeking an amount that includes doubling the fee ($50), plus a $100 code violation fine. “This is taking a lot of time and additional effort to collect this fee from this individual,” Polyner said.

Council members discussed the difference between conditional use permits and home business permits. Increased traffic and congestion in the neighborhood was also discussed.

Klun clarified for the council the process of enforcing the city code. “The City Attorney cannot issue a citation for a code violation,” she said. “That would need to come through the Police Department. We can issue a cease and desist letter to stop activity at that address until the proper permit is in place.”

The council then turned to Police Chief John Lahtonen to issue a citation for the city code violation. “Shouldn’t we decide which category we are going to do this for? I think we’re opening a Pandora’s box here. Who is going to pay” Who is going to get a citation?” he asked. “I need some direction here.”

Mayor Novak responded, “If someone is running a business out of their home, they are required to have a business permit. It doesn’t matter if they’re cooking meth or just doing tax returns.”

Lahtonen asked for a clarification of when a hobby becomes a business. “We have to have some clarification and direction,” he said.

Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski said the home business permits are for places that advertise the address as the place of business, or “it is obvious when driving by that it is a business.”

An Internet search lists Silver Birch Builders at 206 E. White St., and Evan Faltesek as the person to contact for more information.

Klun suggested the council direct Langowski, acting in the place of the vacant zoning administrator, to issue a civil citation rather than a criminal citation. The council agreed and passed a motion to issue the citation as part of city code enforcement.

Other business

In other business, the council took the following action:

•Approved the application for Transportation Alternatives Grant funding for pedestrian sidewalks and crossings at 17th Avenue and Sheridan Street, further funding for Trezona Trail work, and Pioneer Mine retaining wall restoration;

•Approved a Community Development Block Grant application for the Chandler area infrastructure improvements;

•Terminated the expired exclusive purchase agreement with Data Centers Inc. for the Community Center and scheduled a meeting on Oct. 20 with the Community Center Foundation to discuss options for selling the landmark;

•Passed a resolution declaring the property at 21 W. Shagawa Road as blight and agreed to allow the owner until Dec. 1 to make repairs, including installing a new roof;

•Scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m. for the Point of Sale resolution;

•Set a special council meeting for Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. for canvassing the vote.

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