On a night when readings of proposed ordinances seemed to dominate the agenda, the Brainerd City Council voted against one that generated public passion on both sides of the issue.
The council voted 4-2 against the first reading of a proposed ordinance related to removal of residential structures. The idea behind the proposed ordinance came after residents, particularly those on the northside, had concerns about parking lots cutting up neighborhoods and removing housing. Council members Anne Nelson Fisher and Kelly Bevans voted in favor.
The proposed ordinance stated its purpose was to maintain residential integrity and character by placing restrictions on demolition and removal of residential structures. The proposed ordinance stated no permit should be issued for the demolition of a non-homesteaded residential building unless a building permit is also issued at the same time to authorize construction of a replacement homesteaded residential structure.
Mona Aho, director of the Lakes Area Activity Center on Kingwood Street in Brainerd, and Ray Norrgard, senior center president, both spoke against the ordinance, saying more parking was needed. The center shares parking with a church across the street but the space is not always available. The senior center purchased a building across the alley with the intent of adding parking.
Kathleen Hermerding, northside resident, said she was concerned the ripple effect will include Whittier School with fewer houses for families and in turn fewer students in the neighborhood elementary school. Hermerding said there are more creative options for shared parking that could be explored.
Attorney Ray Charpentier said the proposed ordinance may not be doing what it was intended to do and had the effect of limiting church-owned homes where pastors live or other non-homesteaded property owners. Charpentier said if a home burned down the only way it could be rebuilt was to have a homestead at that site. He said the ordinance also had an interesting effect of getting rid of rental property.
Pat Gimbel, northside resident, said those in favor of an ordinance came to the council more than a year ago and the issue went to the planning and zoning commission, then to the parking commission before it went back to planning and zoning. Gimble did not agree the effect was to limit a non-homestead.
Council member Gary Scheeler said the only other city with as restrictive an ordinance was Beverly Hills, Calif.
Council member Mary Koep said referring the issue back to planning and zoning was appropriate but she said she understood the frustration of people who have been dealing with the subject over and over again. Council member Bob Olson said he had mixed feelings and he suggested staff could work on the ordinance to make it more palatable rather than send it back to planning and zoning. Council member Kelly Bevans agreed. He said there were ways to make the ordinance better and planning and zoning had the issue long enough.
A motion to refer the issue to planning and zoning failed. Scheeler said the Brainerd Area YMCA could not have expanded with this ordinance in place.
The council voted 5-1 with Council President Jim Dehen opposed, to meet with the city staff and try to come back with a recommendation by the council's second meeting in December. Dehen said he was not comfortable with the whole purpose of the stated ordinance.
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