BAXTER -- The Baxter City Council retreated from making decisions on many agenda items Tuesday night.
Council members recommended several agenda topics wait for discussion at the retreat where council members meet with staff for much of the day. The council decided to postpone the retreat scheduled Saturday and push the meeting date back to Jan. 4.
Mayor Gary Muehlhausen said the postponement was because of a lot of items coming up at Tuesday's meeting. However, the topic list included previously discussed items such as the local option sales tax and stormwater enterprise fund along with items suggested Tuesday such as annexation and special meeting fees.
City Administrator Larry Kruse said he was notified of the postponement just before the meeting. Asked before the meeting began both Muehlhausen and council member Mark Cross confirmed the retreat had been postponed with a new date to be set at the council meeting.
At the last Baxter workshop, council members discussed the possibility of postponing the retreat in light of pending staff changes with Kruse's pending departure. But at that time, the council majority wanted to go ahead with the retreat.
Muehlhausen asked council member Mary Marana, who will be leaving the council at year's end, to attend the retreat as a consultant because of her Economic Development Authority background and industrial park expertise.
Marana agreed to attend.
Council member Barb Wells said staff input also will be needed at the retreat. And the postponement will allow staff more time to prepare information for topic discussion.
During the meeting, council member Darrel Olson requested a consent agenda to annex parcels and amend the map but not take formal annexation action until a public informational meeting was conducted with affected property owners.
Olson said he thought the annexation was moving kind of fast and the council needed to talk about it more. Muehlhausen agreed saying past practice has been annexation by petition and he said Baxter did not want to send the wrong message to its sister city.
At a Nov. 26 Long-Range Planning Commission meeting, Baxter city staff presented a recommendation for annexation of parcels in Unorganized Territory noting the municipal utility extension of sewer, water and roads to those areas in a reasonable time frame and the fact that many current permitted land uses in Unorganized Territory would be in direct conflict with adjacent city land use plans and ordinances.
Staff also noted orderly development of those parcels next to the city should be consistent with city growth objectives and that the area was identified in the Highway 371 plan as an urban growth area. The suggested annexation area includes all parcels located between the east Baxter city limits and the west Brainerd city limits in the Danielson Road area, parcels west of Highway 371 north of Woida and east of Inglewood and 40 acres including the north water tower.
Finally another item to be discussed at the retreat includes a proposal to raise fees, particularly development-related fees. Staff identified areas where spending was not covered by current fees. As a sign of the times, staff recommended adopting a fee schedule for digital data requests such as Global Information Systems maps.
Most proposed fees went up by $50. A proposed residential conditional use permit will increase from $250 to $300. The largest jump came for the special meeting fee, which under the proposal would increase from $50 to $300 for residential and $350 for commercial.
Wells asked for an explanation on why the fee was now so high.
City Planner Todd Holman said special meetings still carry all the costs of per diems, publication and recording fees and staff time but the fee was much less than an average meeting agenda item.
"Those $50 didn't come close to covering a quarter of the staff time," Holman said. Wells said she had no problem raising the fee, but thought this jump may be too much.
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