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Billboards tabled, more discussion next month

DETROIT LAKES - Although the billboard issue was tabled at the Detroit Lakes City Council meeting Tuesday evening, discussion was heard, which caused more confusion and frustration.

Alderman Matt Brenk, who also serves as Community Development Committee chair, made a motion Tuesday to table an amendment to the billboard ordinance and extend a moratorium until the May 13 council meeting. The amendment would limit size and number of billboards in the city.

With no discussion allowed before the vote to table, aldermen Bruce Imholte, Leonard Heltemes and G.L. Tucker voted opposed to the tabling, and aldermen Ron Zeman, Dave Aune, Matt Brenk, Jim Anderson and Walt Tollefson voted to table, passing the motion 5-3.

Because people had traveled to speak to the issue, Mayor Larry Buboltz opened the microphone to those with questions or comments.

Cyndi Anderson, who serves on the planning commission and chaired the sign committee, said, "In my world, I like consensus because I like peace, love and harmony."

But, when it came to the sign committee, which was made up of various citizens and businessmen, discussion was decided by vote to be fair. She pointed out that all were unanimous votes.

She said the sign committee took into consideration wanting to protect and support businesses but also keep the aesthetic beauty of the area.

Harold Newman, Newman Outdoor Advertising, served on the sign committee but spoke at the Tuesday meeting, stating that signs taken down along Highway 10 during the construction season should be allowed to be put up again. For those tucked away businesses -- for instance Fireside and Norby's -- billboards are needed to direct visitors to the business.

Tom Klyve, who also served on the sign committee, said he's not in favor of billboards, but the proposal is fair, and a lot of time was put into it.

"Not everybody got what they wanted in this," he said, but asked the council to appreciate the work spent on the committee and take the recommendation.

Sign committee members Bill Henke and Glen Gifford supported Klyve, asking the council to respect the work and process of the committee. Henke added that having a committee spend that time and then not take the recommendation could deter citizens from volunteering their time on future committees.

Alderman Ron Zeman, who also works for Norby's and is an advocate for billboards, said, "we're making a mountain out of a molehill. I don't think we have a big problem with this."

The issue will likely be discussed at the April 3 community development committee meeting at 3:30 p.m.

Also discussed at the city council meeting:

• As part of the Highway 10 realignment project, the Minnesota Department of Transportation had a consultant review any historic property in the area, and included Detroit Lakes. The consultant found that the city park could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

City Administrator Bob Louiseau said being on the register, the city would be required to follow additional requirements if any changes were done to the buildings in the park, like the Pavilion for instance. He said the city is allowed to object to the nomination to be listed, but a decision needs to be made before the end of the month.

Imholte said there could be more funding available on projects in the park area if it is listed, and some research should be done.

The council directed city staff -- namely Louiseau -- to find out more details and make the decision at his discretion.

• Director Mark Greenig spoke on behalf of the park and rec department, thanking the city for its foresight and funding the summer baseball program for 7-10 year olds. Cost figured out to be $2.28 per week for kids to play.

"I'm confident we saved more than that in law enforcement," he said, indicating the program keeps kids out of mischief.

"You do a heck of a job and we don't give you enough credit," Zeman told Greenig.

• Park board chair Dan Wenner gave the council information about the park board's "plan to plan, if you will" on park dedications.

The board is making a long-range plan to make better use out of its green space, priorities of parks, age of parks, and future population needing parks. He added that park dedication funds are one-time monies, so the board is careful to use the funds wisely.

• Council approved all needed permits for this summer's 73rd annual Northwest Water Carnival, July 11-20. Admiral Cara Frank appeared before the council to announce that membership has made a comeback. When she joined five years ago, she said, the Detroit Lakes organization was on probation at the state level because there were only 18-20 members. This year there are 52 members.

She also announced that the Jaycees would be donating $7,000 to the city for handicap assessable swings throughout the city.