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Berean Church, houses to be torn down for parking lot
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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Residents had one last opportunity to voice their opinions on the county purchasing the Berean Baptist Church property and building a parking lot, but the Detroit Lakes City Council passed the motion, despite the opposition.

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Besides the fact that neighbors didn't want a parking lot in their neighborhood, Tuesday night the focus turned to tearing down a historical aspect of the city.

Artist Linda Doebbert said nationally known artist Thomas Kincaid is building areas that resemble his paintings, and people are purchasing the homes to basically live in his paintings.

"We are entertaining removing what he is selling," he said.

Tom Trowbridge said the church isn't just old but unique as well, adding that the city should acquire the property and restore the church.

Another resident pointed out that since Detroit Lakes was just named capital for a day through the state's Sesquicentennial celebration next year, the city should be preserving history rather than tearing it down.

Several residents asked County Administrator Brian Berg if county employees are encourage or directed to park off-street, freeing up spaces for the general public. Berg said he meets with employees on a regular basis, especially during tax season, to ask they park elsewhere.

Becker County will purchase the Berean Baptist Church and neighboring homes to build a parking lot to accommodate parking needs due to the expanded courthouse. The 74-space lot is a portion of the 100 spaces the county needs to fulfill a waiver by the city.

With the passing of a parking lot agreement, the county and city have agreed that the county must come up with the remaining 26 spaces by April 1, 2009.

If the county fails to provide those spaces -- or come to an agreement with the city on plans for other parking -- the county will pay the city $16,000 per space that the city must use for "public parking enhancement costs." Those public parking spaces must be within 700 feet of the property line of the courthouse.

Berg said one city block is 300 feet, so the parking must be within a couple blocks of the courthouse.

The council passed the motion to allow the parking lot in a residential section, with James Hannon voting opposed.

Also at the city council meeting:

-- City Financer Lou Guzek spoke on the 2008 budget and 2007 tax levy. With a 15.33 percent increase, Guzek said about 10 percent of that was from cuts in local government aid.

Because of the "tremendous" increase in tax base around the city, home owners won't see much of an increase in property taxes unless house values increased as well.

A few of the bigger changes in funds were a 95 percent decrease in the fire department equipment fund, which Guzek said was because in 2007 the fire department bought two fire trucks, whereas they have no plans for more purchases in 2008.

The administration department equipment fund increased 700 percent for 2008, which Guzek attributed to "getting a new software system in 2008, but the city has been budgeting for 5, 6, 7, 8 years (for the system)."

The council will meet Dec. 19 at 5 p.m. to adopt the final budget. This grace period is for comments from the public.

-- Aldermen passed a resolution to no longer fence holding ponds, but will grant variances if needed.

-- Aldermen donated $100 from the liquor fund toward next year's Festival of Birds.

--Aldermen appointed Judy Stowman and Steve Przybilla to the Planning Commission, and re-appointed Duane Wething to the Public Utilities Commission and David Ohman and Karen Skoyles to the Park Board.

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