By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN An ordinance amendment that has been causing sparks between a local business owner and the Lester Prairie City Council all summer was on the agenda again during the Sept. 14 council meeting.
Eric Angvall, owner of Angvall Hardware & Mercantile, attended the Sept. 14 meeting to seek clarification regarding the ordinance amendment.
His specific concern was the council’s decision to prohibit explosive materials on sidewalks. This change affects his ability to store propane cylinders on the sidewalk in front of his store.
Mayor Andy Heimerl said the council had tried to work out changes, and had referred the matter to the planning commission for a recommendation.
Angvall said the original reason the council had looked at the ordinance had to do with pallets of merchandise stored on the sidewalk, and explosive items were not discussed.
He asked Heimerl what had motivated the change.
Heimerl said the council made the change due to safety concerns.
Angvall said his display of propane cylinders meets the 4-foot clearance requested by the council.
Regarding the safety issue, Angvall said he had contacted Lester Prairie Fire Chief Jim Hoof, and Hoof did not object to the location of the propane cylinders.
Angvall said at Hoof’s request, he also contacted the state fire marshal, who told him that there was no safety issue with the way the tanks are stored.
Also at Hoof’s request, Angvall said he had contacted his insurance company, and was told there was no problem with the tanks.
“The insurance company said everyone does that,” Angvall commented. “If there was a refilling station, it would be a different story.”
Angvall said in order to comply with the ordinance change, he will have to move the fence behind his store to make room to store the tanks.
He also said he has surveyed his customers, and collected “about 80 signatures from people who do not have a problem with the propane.”
Council Member Larry Hoof defended the ordinance change.
“What are we going to have next year, dynamite?” Hoof said. “We have to draw the line somewhere.”
Heimerl said the city ordinance has always said nothing is allowed to be stored on the sidewalks, and the council has already compromised by allowing merchandise and other items.
“We are not working against you. There is no vendetta against Eric Angvall,” Heimerl said.
After discussion, the council gave Angvall until Wednesday, Dec. 1 to move the propane and comply with the ordinance.
Background on the amendment
Last June, the council invited business owners to attend a council meeting to discuss obstructions on downtown sidewalks.
Heimerl said he had received complaints from residents who said they had experienced difficulty walking and pushing strollers on the city sidewalks because there was not enough space between merchandise in front of stores, and vehicles parked in front of the businesses.
Heimerl said his concern is pedestrian safety.
The council discussed the issue during subsequent council meetings, as well.
During the Aug. 4 meeting, the council directed City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk to send letters to business owners, informing them that no explosive materials should be stored on the sidewalks. The council agreed to allow planters and other items on the sidewalks as long as an unobstructed walkway a minimum of 4 feet wide is maintained.
Originally, the council discussed prohibiting merchandise displayed on pallets in front of businesses, but later backed off of that as long as a minimum space is maintained.
Angvall also attended the June meeting, and has sparred with the council over the intent and consequences of the amendment.
He has questioned the effect of the change on his and other businesses, particularly under the current economic conditions.
In June, he told the council he has stored pallets outside the store for the entire 17 years he has owned the business.