Lafayette passes ordinance covering storage containers

Lee Zion • Lafayette Nicollet Ledger

Curt Tauber works on the new City Hall building Saturday afternoon, assisted by his son Jack, 9.

 

Shipping containers can no longer be kept permanently on Lafayette residential properties.

The Lafayette City Council met April 8 in the Community Center to pass an ordinance that prevents homeowners from keeping shipping and storage containers on property. One exception is for temporary storage when moving, and only for one month at a time.

The other exception is as part of a construction project, not to exceed three months, and the container must be removed within 30 days of the completion of the project.

Mayor Tom Sandberg noted that storage containers are becoming a problem in other cities. City Clerk Sandy Burger guessed that there must have been some home improvement show or Internet program about how to turn a storage container into a home, because suddenly, people are doing it.

“And then they’re not pretty,” she said.

Councilman Scott Portner wondered if the people who already have storage containers can be grandfathered in. Burger quickly put a stop to that, referring to a storage container on a property neighboring Maintenance Supervisor Allan Fox.

“The one that’s down by Al is bright orange. And rusty,” she said. “And how long has that been there, Al? Forever?”

“Pretty much,” Fox answered.

The city decided to go ahead with the ordinance, and give the two homeowners a year to remove their containers. Because the ordinance has already had a first reading and a public hearing, it automatically goes into effect.

Property evaluations

The City Council also heard from a few homeowners in Lafayette who questioned their property tax evaluations. Although these are set by the county, the appeals process starts at the city level.

Douglas Guenther, who lives along Wanser, asked that his property valuation, at $54,000, be returned to last year’s level, at $50,700. He said the property actually lost value because his deck collapsed under the snow.

Sandberg said several things were going on. Although the value of the home may have declined, the value of the land on which it sits has gone up.

“What’s happened historically, is properties in town have sold for higher than their market value. Over the years, it’s just happened,” he said.

That pushes the value of other homes up, Sandberg said.

Sandberg added this trend will continue with the medical school being built in Gaylord. The school will bring a lot of people into the area, and these people will be looking to purchase property as far away as Lafayette, a 20-minute drive from Gaylord.

Guenther appreciated the humor in the situation.

“So basically, wait ’til they finish the school up there before you sell your house,” he said.

The school will open in the fall of 2020 and will eventually grow to 600 students, said City Clerk Sandy Burger.

As for the deck collapse, any property is valued based on what was there Jan. 2. The deck collapse happened in February, so it still counts as part of the assessment, said Lorna Sandvik, the county assessor who attended the April 8 meeting.

If Guenther chooses not to replace the deck, he will have $1,000 taken off his assessment for next year, Sanvik said.

The city also looked at 4.81 acres of vacant land owned by Arden DeBoer, near 10th Street and Esther Avenue. This property, adjacent to farmland, is valued at $54,400.

However, DeBoer alerted the county that the property has drainage problems, and therefore homes cannot be built on it. Sandvik said that if this is the case, the value of the land falls to $36,900, the same as last year.

Sandvik also said that DeBoer told her that some drainage work might be done on the property in the future. If that happens, he is open to being charged at the higher rate, she reported him as saying. DeBoer was not able to attend the April 8 meeting.

For a third property, at 411 Main Ave., Sandvik recommended that the evaluation be reduced from $97,500 to $84,600, based on a walkthrough of the property.

The council voted to lower the evaluation of all three properties.

Other news

  • Fox reported that the filter at the water plant went back on line as of March 28. The bad news is that the pump assembly now in well No. 4 has died and has to be replaced at a cost of $10,683.41.
  • The city council voted to accept a bid for $320 for mowing.
  • The city council voted to contract with MR Paving for chip seal and fog seal paving at $110,159.21.
  • Portner reported at the meeting that the Parks & Recreation Committee met March 31. The group is working on getting a grant for the park. The grant money cannot be used for bleachers, but only for the ball fields, he said.
  • The city discussed who should have the responsibility to declare a dog dangerous. The city decided to give that authority to the City Clerk.
  • Work on the new City Hall building is continuing, with a new floor ready to be installed by the end of the week, Fox reported at the April 8 meeting.
  • Since it is still uncertain when the new city building will be ready, the council voted to hold its next meeting at the Community Center. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 13.

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