Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Council removes Hill from city planning and zoning

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 7/13/17

TOWER— The city council here, on Monday, unanimously approved the ouster of Jeff Hill from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, following his apparent violations of the city’s social …

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Council removes Hill from city planning and zoning

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TOWER— The city council here, on Monday, unanimously approved the ouster of Jeff Hill from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, following his apparent violations of the city’s social media policy and failure to play a productive role on the commission.

Mayor Josh Carlson apologized for supporting Hill’s appointment to the commission back in January. He said he had hoped that Hill would act appropriately as a city representative, but that he had not risen to the occasion. “Since he was placed on the committee, they have had four or five meetings. He has been to one of them, and was not productive at this meeting,” said Carlson.

In fact, people present at the meeting described Hill as, at times, combative. His own property, on N. Third St., has been the subject of complaints to the city.

Carlson said a social media tirade launched by Hill earlier in the month was the tipping point for him. “His comment was tasteless and classless and I don’t think someone representing the city of Tower should be acting in such a manner,” he said.

Councilor Brooke Anderson made the motion to remove Hill, which was quickly approved by the council without further discussion.

In further planning and zoning business, the council approved a $250 fine to another N. Third St. resident, Eugene Schlick, who built a fence on his property without a building permit. City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith said she learned of the project through a Gopher State One Call report and informed Schlick that he would need to obtain a building permit prior to erecting the fence. About a month later, she said, after Schlick’s contractor had already built the fence, he submitted an incomplete application. Meanwhile, one of Schlick’s neighbors is contesting the location of the fence, which prompted the city to require Schlick to provide proof that the fence is on his property. “Unless he can show it is on the right line, it would have to be removed,” said Keith.

City officials have struggled in recent years to gain compliance from residents with the city ordinance on building permits, particularly for fences and decks. Building permits for decks and fences cost $25 and are available at city hall, although a proposed city ordinance revision approved Monday night could substantially raise the cost of building a fence in the future. Under the ordinance change, the city would require that homeowners either clearly mark the boundary line based on an official survey, or must have a survey done prior to installation of a fence or similar construction on the property line. Anything installed without a permit, or that proves to be improperly located, will be the homeowner’s responsibility to correct.

Councilors also added a point-of-sale requirement that properties in the city be surveyed. The ordinance change will require a second reading and a public hearing, set for 5 p.m., July 25, at city hall.

In harbor-related action, the council set the annual dockage fee for planned docks on the south side of the harbor, at $850 per season. The city expects to bond to cover the construction cost of a 20-slip dock system, currently estimated to cost approximately $240,000, minus bonding costs and interest. Townhome developers have indicated that they expect about half of the prospective buyers of the units to rent boat slips. (See related story on page 1.)

In other action, the council:

• Approved the 2016 city audit prepared by Walker, Giroux, Hahne CPA. Auditor Devin Ceglar, who presented the report, cited a number of minor issues, but offered an unmodified opinion of compliance with reporting standards.

• Agreed to a meeting set for Friday, July 14, between city officials, SEH representatives, and members of the Main Street Committee to clarify the vision for the planned city welcome park. SEH will be producing a concept plan for the project, but Engineer Jason Chopp said SEH officials want to be sure everyone has a shared understanding before proceeding.

• Discussed the status of the sale of the former dump site. Bids are due Monday, July 17, and residents of Mill Point are raising concerns about the possible sale of the property to Dave Rose, whose proposal to build an RV park on adjacent property has proven to be controversial. Rose had requested that the city put the dump site up for sale, although it’s unclear if he is willing to pay the $30,000 appraised price. Carlson noted that Rose has a long process still ahead of him if he is still interested in pursuing his proposal. “The only thing that has been completed is the wetland delineation,” he said. “P and Z hasn’t received anything. I’m not saying the project is dead, but it’s not even moving at a snail’s pace at this point.”

• Approved a $20,000 storefront loan to Sulu’s for re-siding the west side of the building, construction of a patio, and installation of new water filtration equipment.