HOWARD LAKE, MN Howard Lake City Council approved an amendment to its agreement with the Lodge of Howard Lake Tuesday for repayment of funds loaned in order to construct the facility.
“The Lodge is taking longer to fill than was expected,” Shannon Sweeney of David Drown Associates said. “It’s now at 12 residents, and is expected to be at 14 by Labor Day.”
Generally, when facilities similar to the Lodge reach full occupancy, they stay there, he added.
The original agreement stated that $46,453 is due to the city Aug. 1, and again Feb. 1, 2016.
The amendment allows for the two payments to be combined and the total, $92,905, to be paid back monthly over a 10-year period with a 4.342 percent interest rate.
Payments are scheduled to begin Feb. 1, 2016, with the first being $287. From March 1, 2016 through Feb. 1, 2017 payments are $168 per month. Payments decrease slightly monthly from March 1, 2017 until maturity, Jan. 1, 2027.
The amendment will not affect the city’s budget or any payments it will make, because it will combine tax increment financing (TIF) funds from another district with the funds for the district the Lodge is in to make the bond payments due in August and February.
Combining the TIF funds will not have a negative impact on the city, according to Sweeney.
The Housing Redevelopment Authority recommended approval of the amendment at its meeting.
“I have to say it’s kind of turning into a money pit,” Council member Mike Mitchell commented.
“They are getting funding from other entities,” Mayor Pete Zimmerman replied. “If we were the first they asked every time, I would be a bit more leery.”
“It is a beautiful facility,” Mitchell stated. “I agree, they have had a rough start.”
Chicken ban enforcement
The council made a decision to enforce its animal ordinance, which restricts raising farm animals within city limits, at its June 2 meeting.
“The ordinance has always been in place,” City Administrator Jennifer Nash noted. “It just hasn’t been enforced until now.”
The Howard Lake Planning and Zoning Commission considered a recommendation to amend the ordinance to allow chickens in town, but rejected it.
The city council considered a public hearing for the amendment, but after the planning and zoning commission decided not to recommend it, city council decided not to pursue the matter any further.
Howard Lake citizen Katie Huff expressed concern for the decision, and asked if there is any way to overturn it.
“There are a variety of ways Minnesota cities deal with having chickens in town,” Huff noted.
“Some have fees to regulate it, some allow only hens, and some ask for 80 to 90 percent neighbor approval.”
“Council would not revisit this without first speaking to the planning commission,” Zimmerman stated. “And I think the decision of the planning commission was pretty well received by council.”
Huff asked the council if a petition would help, or what would be the next step.
“A petition would show citizen interest, but hold no legal bearing,” Nash commented.”
The city council would revisit the issue if enough residents signed a petition of interest, Zimmerman added.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• scheduled a public hearing regarding previously tax-forfeited properties at Dutch Lake Preserve. The properties have been purchased back, and a public hearing is required for the council to consider citizen input on assessments for the properties.
• heard a Wright County Area Transit (WCAT) update from Council Member Al Munson.
Since the new Trailblazer building broke ground in Buffalo, 25 applications for drivers have been received, and there are 14 buses expected to be in operation for WCAT by the end of the year.
• heard a municipal liquor store report from manager Myra Laway. The store will be changing its hours of operation immediately; it will now be open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday hours will remain 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• heard a police department report from Police Chief Dave Thompson. A new system has been installed which will give the department more access to data and the ability to share information with other police departments more efficiently.
• received a recycling program update from Nash. Single-sort recycling is ready, and citizens should have noticed a bin with a red lid at their homes, she said.
• scheduled a budget work session Tuesday, Aug. 4, following the regular city council meeting.