BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN When the Wright County Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for a solar project at 3527 Hwy. 12 June 30, the city of Delano had 60 days to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The Delano City Council voted 4-0, with Councilwoman Holly Schrupp absent, to do just that following a closed-session meeting with City Attorney Mark Johnson as part of its meeting Tuesday.
“It’s a legal proceeding against them. You’ll see a pleading that will say ‘City of Delano vs. county, owner, developer,’” Johnson said. “It’s still legal action against them, but it’s not at this point anyway suing for damages. It’s more of an appeal of their decision.”
Johnson said he believes the county’s approval was inappropriate.
“This was a transition area that the city, county, and township all agreed was going to be in transition to enter into the city within 15 to 20 years of the designation of that transition area,” Johnson said. “That was back in 2011, I believe. That means, as we sit today, 10 to 15 years. They approved this solar farm for an extended period of time. The city has its business park out there and oversized all its utilities and developed a utility and road plan that took into account that this would be coming in and that it could be developed.”
Johnson believes the approval is not only inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan, but also that “the plans that were submitted did not support the findings the county made.”
More details about the city’s appeal could be available as soon as late August.
Labyrinth proposal tabled again
With Schrupp absent, the council voted to table a proposal to build a labyrinth on public property across from Peppermint Twist.
Councilman Jason Franzen, who had raised concerns about religious aspects of labyrinths during the July 19 meeting, raised a different concern Tuesday.
“It seems like when this is built, the amount of visitors could be substantial that will require parking and be a problem with access,” Franzen said. “As the site stands, it’s either going to require people parking right on Highway 12, or they’re going to have to park at Peppermint Twist and cross the road.”
Mayor Dale Graunke said there is a driveway cut into Highway 12 with a designated parking area at that location.
He also clarified that the city has been planning to build up the elevation of the property for four or five years.
“I’d like to clarify again we were always going to build, because there have been some inklings of public funds being used to support this project,” Graunke said. “We were always building a shelf there for that park area, no matter what. We’re getting free dirt from our road project. If we elect to put the dirt in there now because there’s projects that coincide with it, that does not mean we’re using public money to put it towards this. I want to be specifically clear about that.”
According to Franzen, city staff estimated creating a parking lot at the site would cost $40,000 to $50,000.
Graunke defended the labyrinth as part of a bigger concept.
“It is supposed to be an art walk, a continuous thing along the walking path,” Graunke said. “In my opinion, to single it out as one thing is not fair.”
Councilman Jack Russek joined Franzen in opposition to the labyrinth, citing his vision for the area.
“I’d just as well see a picnic area and a parking spot for five or six cars and a table or two, so if someone along the highway would like to stop and stretch their legs, it’d be a great opportunity for that,” Russek said. “I guess that’s how I’d like to proceed instead of this thing. I can’t approve this.”
After the council tabled the request, Debbie DeBeer addressed the council as a representative of the Delano Area Council on Arts and Culture, which proposed the labyrinth and has received a private donation and a grant from the Central MN Arts Board to fund it.
“I think you have to realize, too, that when you bring a project forward like this, it’s been over a year of work in the community, we solicited private funds, organization funds, and grants,” DeBeer said. “By postponing and bringing up issues after the fact, it doesn’t reflect well on us when we’re trying to get postponements from our grant or that a report is late. We rely on that money in Delano to do those projects.”
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved an agreement with Delano Public Schools regarding moving a water main in connection with the construction of the new intermediate school.
• approved a bid of $55,040 from Pearson Brothers, Inc., of Hanover, to seal-coat St. Peter Avenue East, Franklin Avenue East, and Rockford Avenue East. Pearson Brothers outbid the only other bidder, Allied Blacktop Company, by just $2,280. Both bids were under the engineer’s estimate of $65,000.
• approved an annexation request from Mueller Family Theatre of Delano.
• approved a temporary easement with Lennar Corporation for a trail from Second Street Southwest and Franklin Avenue, and the release of a $30,000 escrow the city was holding for turn lanes at Wright County Road 30 and McKinley Parkway.
• approved installing a security system at the Delano Public Library at a cost of $1,750 plus $24.95 per month, following a burglary and attempted break-in that resulted in $4,500 in damage to the building.
• set a public hearing for Tuesday, Sept. 6, to consider a request from Frontier Communications for a cable franchise.