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New 60-day rule passed by DL City Council

After last month's oversight and accidental passing of a rezoning request, the Detroit Lakes City Council is taking measures to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Last month, property owned by Todd Simison, along Highway 10 east of Detroit Lakes, was automatically rezoned from one and two residential housing to auto oriented business without the knowledge of seemingly anyone until it was too late. The city has 60 days to respond after a rezoning request is filed, which was overlooked on the Simison property.

This month though, the council passed a 60-day rule procedures policy. A checklist will now be filed with each zoning application including such items as date of application, date for extension if needed, date final action taken and if denied, written reason why.

Also in the policy, city staff is developing a calendar specifically for dates on applications. And Community Development Director Larry Remmen and the city attorney's office will share information on zoning learned from workshops.

Remmen said he and City Attorney Bill Briggs discussing all zoning related items after each council meeting is the "safety net" to the policy.

While the city council approved the new policy, Alderman Bruce Imholte spoke out at the community development meeting -- the day before the council meeting -- about why there was a need for the policy in the first place.

"I'm disappointed in the way it was resolved," he said.

He argued that someone needs to be held responsible for the mishap of the Simison property, and that something about the incident should be recorded into Remmen's personnel file.

Another alderman pointed out that the city council is not Remmen's boss -- that's actually City Administrator Rich Grabow -- and that the council wouldn't be the entity to reprimand Remmen.

Mayor Larry Buboltz stopped the discussion saying if it was going to go any further, it would need to be a closed meeting and Briggs would need to be called in for legal counsel. The discussion ceased.

Also a matter Imholte brought to light from the Simison issue was expanding the radius of notification for hearings.

According to state law, the city is required to send notices to those within 350 feet -- or one block -- of the land in question, whether it be for zoning, conditional uses or variances. Several times people have said they weren't aware of the situation because of no notification.

With the Simison property, Remmen said 45 pieces of mail were sent out to notify residents of the rezoning request. As an example, he said at 1,000 feet, 91 pieces of mail would have been sent out.

As another example, Remmen took a spot in town in which 44 pieces would be sent out with the 350-foot law, costing the city about $20 in postage. Expanding the radius to 1,000 feet would require 223 pieces of mail at the cost of about $80.

The council felt that 1,000 feet wasn't necessarily the magic number and would change the required number to 700 feet, or two blocks.

The council voted in favor at the first reading. A second reading will be scheduled for the February council meeting.