The Ranier City Council Tuesday approved a conditional use permit for a public boat launch and parking lot on Duluth Street.
Council Jennifer Lahmayer opposed the recommendation.
The action came from a recommendation from the city's council committee following the city's Land Use Planning Commission two-hour June 2 meeting. At that meeting, Widseth Smith and Nolting engineer Joe Sutherland described the project and answered questions.
The Planning Commission recommended approving the permit with the following conditions:
- Lighting must be dark sky compliant.
- Signs will mark one-way traffic, no overnight parking in the parking lot and boat dock, no motorized vehicles on alleyway, trailblazing signs for walking and driving directions.
- Handicapped parking spots will be provided at the east and west end of Duluth Street.
- If the budget allows, the sidewalk will continue all the way down to the water.
- There will be an adequate buffer zone around the parking lot.
- An aquatic invasive species wash station needs to be in the least intrusive spot.
Mayor Dennis Wagner said that the concerns heard in the commission meeting seem to be contained in the conditions and they don’t seem to be costly.
After the final plans are drawn the council can seek bids for construction. Once bids are received the council will decide whether to accept the bids if they meet budget constraints.
During the audience portion of the meeting, area residents asked questions and stated concerns about the project.
Sharon Ball, who lives adjacent to the property planned for the launch, said she had talked with Wagner about her concerns that eminent domain would be used by the city to take her property. Wagner assured her that there would be no property taken by eminent domain for the project.
Resident John Bruggeman, who also lives on Duluth Street, said he feels like a victim of bait and switch, regarding the Duluth Street dock project.
He stated he was told that a finger dock on the south side of the bay would be 20 feet, but now it is planned for longer than that. Councilor Ron Wilcox said that two 20-foot floaters and a 16-foot floater were purchased.
Sue Swendsen, who lives there also, stated that the city property extends 24 feet from the south end of the Duluth Street dock and the floating dock extends 32 feet. She stated that this is totally unacceptable. She stated that with the ramp, it ends up being 32 feet and 8 feet that is in front of their property.
Wagner said he will check with the Department of Natural Resources about riparian rights, to get information about whether an existing dock is infringing on property Bruggeman and Swendsen own.
Bruggeman said neighborliness should come before the law.
Wilcox said the 16-foot dock could be moved to the south side.
Lahmayer said that she pushed for the docks being on the north side because she thought it might be an issue.
Swendsen said the minutes of 2021, 2020, 2019 make no mention of the floating docks, wondering whether the project was budgeted for in 2021.
Mike Tureen asked about the budget and funds for the boat ramp project. Wagner said the city has received a $200,000 Legislative Citizens-Commission on Minnesota Resources grant for the project, and $100,000 from the street construction fund can possibly be used on Duluth Street.
Tureen asked what if the plans exceed the budget? Wagner said the project would be cut back, adding doesn’t feel it would come in over the budget.
Tureen stated that he was attracted to Ranier because he felt the city doesn’t exceed its means, adding he hopes that continues.
Wagner said since he's been mayor, the city has not exceeded its budget. “I think you are in good hands when it comes to financial stability,” he said of the council's actions.
In other business, the council agreed to seek $2.1 million in state bonding money for a safe harbor/transient dock project at the end of Spruce Street.
The safe harbor/ transient dock would accommodate boats longer than 26 feet and is aimed at increasing public access for boat recreation.
Minnesota Rep. Rob Ecklund was at the committee meeting and spoke about the process, adding once approved the city have three years to complete the project and spend the money. He stated that around one-third of the projects that apply are approved for funding.
Lahmayer asked if the funding were approved, would it be impacted if the project changes in response to resident's desires. John Bruggeman inquired whether hearings are required on the bonding bill.
The deadline to submit an application for bonding money to Minnesota Management and Budget Office is this week.
The council also agreed to allow the Koochiching County Historical Society install an informational kiosk at the base of the Big Vic statue, County Road 20 and Highway 11 east. The information would explain the origin of the statue.
Museum Director Ashley LaVigne has offered to seek a grant to install the kiosk. Lahmayer asked that the council be able to review the content of the informational kiosk prior to finalization.
The council reviewed the May report of the Ranier Municipal Liquor Store report, which showed net profit of $8,145, compared to May 2020 with a net loss of $2,709, which was due to COVID-19 restrictions. The report showed a May 2019 net profit of $5,126.
The year to date net profit is $22,036. compared to 2020’s year to date net profit of $6,793, and 2019’s year to date net profit of $14,346.
Liquor Store Manager Jenn Seegert said since restrictions were lifted in May, the store has experienced three very busy weekends in a row
She reported a corn hole tournament is scheduled for Saturday, July 17 is the 3rd annual BBQ cook off, and Ranier Days is on Aug. 14.
Resident Jeff McHarg, at the June 8 committee, led the council and audience in a round of applause for Seegert's success following the pandemic restrictions being lifted.
Councilors Todd Coulombe and Lahmayer, and city Administrator Sherril Gautreaux will serve as a committee to negotiate the terms of a collective bargaining agreement with Local 99 Workers United representing workers in the liquor store.