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Zoning change for business gets first approval

Mitchell City Hall. (Republic file photo)

On first reading, the Mitchell City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a change in zoning for a piece of property near the Mitchell Middle School for one of the city's electrical contractor businesses.

But council members made it clear the vote is only a placeholder for the council's Nov. 19 meeting, when a decision is expected to be made on the second and final reading of the ordinance to change the zoning along West Eighth Avenue and North Minnesota Street. It is at that location that Dave Bechen, the owner of Bechen Electric, has plans to build a new shop facility at the southwest corner of that intersection.

On Monday at Mitchell City Hall, council members stressed to Bechen and the opponents to the change that the move is a common one to allow for more thinking and to allow for more public feedback. The proposed change in zoning is from a residential district to a transportation, warehousing and commercial district.

"I think we've heard a lot of information tonight, but I think it's worth thinking about a little longer," Council member Kevin McCardle said of his motion to approve it on first reading.

Bechen has plans for a 50-by-80-foot metal building that would house his business and shop, with three large garage doors and two driveways, one from Montana Street and one from Minnesota Street. The side walls would be 16 feet tall, with a pitched roof, and the building would be constructed next to the NorthWestern Energy power substation.

"I don't think anyone would ever build a house there with the thought of a substation being right out the window," Bechen said. "But I think it's a good place to put a business."

Bechen said he's been in business on his own for nearly five years and has been looking for property to build on, as he's currently growing his current space on the west side of the city. He has a purchase agreement with Mitchell Concrete and Dean Robideau to buy the property, contingent on the zoning change.

If the zoning change is approved, it would go against the recommendation of the Mitchell Planning Commission, which voted 3-2 with two members absent/abstaining last month against approval.

Aside from Bechen, most of the public testimony taken was against the proposed change, claiming that the business was not suitable for an area so close to the Mitchell Middle School and also too much traffic in the area.

Dwight Stadler, who would be a direct neighbor to the project and helped to organize some of the opposition, said he had 125 signatures from city residents against the project, including 51 in the immediate neighborhood. He believes the land should remain as is, as a green space.

"You're blessed with the beauty of some green space," he said. "Once you lose that, you're not going to get it back. I applaud (Bechen) for growing and expanding his business, but it's just that that business doesn't fit concurrently with the rest of that residential neighborhood."

Jackie Berggren, who also lives nearby, said she was "appalled" by the idea of a large shed going up in the neighborhood.

"Oh my gosh," she said. "I was visualizing a short, brick building. This is a shed. How many of you would want that shed in your backyard?"

Bechen vowed he would do what he could do to run a quality business in the neighborhood.

"As much opposition as I'm facing right now, I'm looking to be a good neighbor," Bechen said. "To me, there's worse things that could go there."

Also approved on first reading was a separate proposal in nearly the same location, calling for rezoning a few blocks of properties on North Wisconsin Street near West Ninth Avenue, also near the middle school. The zoning change would move the properties from a Transportation, Warehousing and Commercial district to a high-density residential district. There was no public opposition to that plan on Monday.

City, Poet agree on 2019 water rate

The Mitchell City Council settled on a smaller increase in the water rate it charges to the Poet ethanol plant that draws from Lake Mitchell.

Heading into Monday's meeting, the council was asking for a 26-cent increase, which would have brought the city's rate from $1.13 per 1,000 gallons used to $1.39/1,000 gallons. Instead, the city approved a rate increase of 12 cents, now at $1.25/1,000 gallons.

Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson clarified that the increased rate would create about $25,000 in extra revenue. The city currently receives about $200,000 in revenue from Poet each year, based on its current annual usage, and the 12-cent increase is expected to move that total to $225,000.

Poet's Mitchell General Manager Becky Pitz said the previously proposed increase of 23 percent would really put the operations of her plant in a bind. She explained that Poet spends an additional $2.81 in chemicals and treatment after getting the water out of the lake, noting that Poet has spent about $1 million in extra filtration and treatment equipment since the plant opened in 2006. In all, the cost ends up closer to $4 per 1,000 gallons, she said.

"We have many steps to make that water usable for us because this lake is terrible quality," Pitz said. "We struggle with quality of water from Lake Mitchell just like everyone else."

Pitz argued that the increase that the city was considering against Poet wasn't something it would do to another water customer or business in Mitchell.

"In a low margin environment, like what we work in, that's really tough to me," Pitz said. "It's a matter of fairness."

Everson explained that the city had come up with the 26-cent figure through meetings with consultants and from a process started by previous mayor Jerry Toomey. Council member Steve Rice proposed the $1.25 cost for 2019, while both sides seemed open to reaching a long-term deal for future years. The current city contract essentially allows Mitchell to raise the rate at will.

"From a city perspective, we hold all of the cards," Rice said. "But we don't do that to other people. It's been a long period of time since we had any increases."

Consent agenda

The following items were approved Monday:

• Minutes from the Oct. 15 meeting and the Oct. 29 work session.

• Meeting minutes from Planning Commission on Oct. 9, Traffic Commission and Sidewalk Committee on Oct. 15.

• Raffle permits from: John Paul II Elementary School with six drawings in January and February; and Heart and Sole Cancer Organization on Jan. 23, 2019.

• Appointed Bonnie Scott to the Community Services Board representing the Mitchell Volunteer Program through January 2019, and Steve Morgan to the Corn Palace Events and Entertainment Board through January 2020.

• Taxicab license of Jesse Parker, doing business as Lyft.

• Set date for Nov. 19 hearing for a Corn Palace Shrine Club special event liquor license at the Masonic Lodge for a Dec. 1 wedding.

• Set date and time for 1:30 p.m., Nov. 20 for bid opening on surplus 1991 Cat D5 bulldozer.

• A supplement to the Parks and Recreation capital improvements budget line for an ADA hockey sled from a $885 donation from the Mitchell Advisory Council for People with Disabilities.

• Request to accept South Dakota Department of Transportation transit funds for facility, hardware, radios, security cameras, shop equipment and tires.

• Gas and fuel quotations, pay estimates, bills, payroll, salary adjustments and new employee hires.

Other business

• Meeting as the Board Adjustment, set the Nov. 19 date for the following hearings: Bill and Barbara Goldammer are requesting a conditional use permit to operate a retail and trades business at 2020 and 2040 E. Eighth Ave. The property is zoned UD Urban Development District; Rosewood Court Assisted Living at 2101 N. Sanborn Blvd., is requesting a backyard variance of 8 feet, 8.5 inches compared to 25 feet as required and a sideyard variance of 4 feet, 7 inches compared to 5 feet as required for construction of an addition. The property is zoned R4 High Density Residential District.; Alex Hartman and Alexandria Gerriets are applying for a conditional use permit to operate a family residential child care center in their home at 1513 W. Hanson Ave. The property is zoned R3 Medium Density Residential District.

• Meeting as Board of Adjustment, approved the following applications: John and Lisa Mentele have applied for a conditional use permit/massage business/home occupation at their home located at 1206 W Hanson Ave. The property is zoned R3 Medium Density Residential District; Bill and Pamela Wittstruck have requested a variance of a frontyard variance of 0 feet compared to 35 feet to construct an unenclosed carport at their home at 316 Hackberry Ave. The property is zoned HB Highway Oriented Business District.

• Approved on first reading Ordinance No. 2018-15 for supplemental appropriations: $5,136.27 to cover additional costs incurred in 2018 to complete Veterans Park; a total of $267,568 from certificates of participation and interest, which will be paid from the indoor swimming pool debt service fund; and $15,600 for Kustom Cycles construction, which will come from the capital project fund.

• Approved notice of acceptability for Phase I of the Sanborn Boulevard utility and street improvements. The contractor BX Civil Construction and engineering consultant Schmucker, Paul, Nohr and Associates have signed the notice stating the work is furnished and acceptable.

• Approved plat for lots 7-A and 7-B in John Lawler's Second Addition to the city of Mitchell.

• Awarded bid for cemetery hayland lease for three years to high bidder Paul Stevenson in the amount of $3,210 per year.

• Approved resolutions R2018-60 and R2018-61, provided by bond counsel as steps to secure State Revolving Fund loans to finance the improvements in Phase II and Phase III of Sanborn Boulevard construction.

• Approved employee insurance plans for 2019. Open enrollment for city employees is scheduled for Dec. 4-6.