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Mayor breaks tie to approve industrial park
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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

When Bob Eliassen asked city council members and city staff if they had taken a drive out to Tower Road to see the site they plan to house an industrial park, he was surprised when all raised their hands.

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"You've looked and still vote yes," he said with dismay.

The battle along Tower Road between city and residents has come to a decision -- there will be an industrial park in that location.

Tuesday evening, Mayor Larry Buboltz got to exercise his right to vote, breaking a 4-4 tie -- Alderman GL Tucker was absent -- and voting in favor of the proposed Tower Road industrial park.

Last week, the Detroit Lakes Planning Commission discussed and passed a motion for the Tower Road Industrial Park to have a 50-foot berm and screening surrounding the entire park. But Monday afternoon, in preparation of Tuesday's city council meeting, the Detroit Lakes Community Development Committee met to discuss the issue as well.

That committee decided to change the 50-foot berm to a 30-foot easement and only have screening on the north and west sides of the proposed industrial park.

Regardless of screening and easements, the residents' feelings haven't changed -- they don't want it at all.

"If you have to hide it, it doesn't belong," Kristi Bellefeuille said, who lives in that area.

Planning Commission member Cyndi Anderson said although she doesn't know the magic number of feet the berm should be -- she supported the screening around the entire park -- since the city is the owner of the property, "it raises the bar a little" to look at the issue, make the right decision and be good neighbors.

Once the community development committee members -- aldermen Matt Brenk, Jim Anderson and Walt Tollefson -- agreed to the 30-foot easement and screening only on the north and west, Alderman Ron Zeman spoke up, saying he was "disappointed" the committee wasn't taking the recommendation of the planning commission. He said he feels maybe the land should be used for residential instead of industrial.

"This is wrong. I don't think this is very good," he said. "I think it's pretty crummy for the neighbors."

Although residents argued the existence of the industrial park, several said their main concern was that none were notified when the land was zoned industrial.

When land is annexed into the city, it is usually zoned agricultural, and then rezoned as needed. This piece was zoned heavy industrial in the same process of being annexed in 2006. Community Development Director Larry Remmen said the city followed state law during the procedure, and it was not required to send out notices of the zoning change.

"We got stabbed in the back," resident Al Clark said.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, Clark added that not letting the residents have a say in the zoning was like "now you're turn the knife a little harder."

Frustration from the residents was evident, with several speaking against the development. After each person spoke against the industrial park, the room would erupt with applause, a couple times having to be silenced by Buboltz's gavel.

"That's the root of all my irritation," agreed Chuck Fritz, adding that he is "deeply saddened" by the lack of sympathy from the council.

Resident Tom Mack presented the community development committee -- which was taken into record at the council meeting as well -- with a petition of 56 signatures of those opposed to the industrial park.

As for the screening, he said he has more than 30 feet of screening between him and his neighbor and they can still see each other's houses. Plus, he added, it's taken 20-30 years for those trees to grow.

Tuesday, he added that the city has passed a moratorium for billboards along Highway 10 and is going through with the whistle-free zone in town, yet is willing to put an industrial park in a residential section.

"I've experienced a schoolyard bully," he said.

Resident Clay Schott suggested the city move Tower Road to the south and put the berm and screening on the north side of Tower Road, stating no one will likely take care of them if the trees and shrubs are located on the industrial park side.

"I agree with my neighbors," he said, "I don't want to look out and see a mess."

After public input and it came time for the council to discuss the issue, residents murmured complaints with comments being made -- especially when Tollefson mentioned how the berming would affect the public utilities building planned for the park.

"We listened to you, please listen to us," Buboltz said as he pounded his gavel.

"I don't think you did," was the response.

Alderman Bruce Imholte explained he was comfortable voting in favor of the industrial park because it's something he has been pushing for for 10 years.

Looking at a motion for 30 feet of screening on the north and west side of the project, Zeman amended the motion to 50 feet of screening on the north, west and south side. Although opposed to the park, he said he likely wasn't going to get his way on moving the park, so he'd at least get some extra screening for the residents.

Zeman, James Hannon, Dave Aune, Brenk and Leonard Heltemes voted in favor of the 50-foot amendment, with Jim Anderson, Imholte and Tollefson against.

When on the motion for the platting of the industrial park, Heltemes, Aune, Zeman and Hannon voted against, with Imholte, Tollefson, Anderson and Brenk in favor. Buboltz cast the tie-breaking for vote.

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