Cambridge City Council attempted to push back on the wave of pods that seems to have washed over the city as part of its Monday, July 18, meeting.
Pods are the flexible storage containers that roughly a year ago Council attempted to regulate. But the agenda for this meeting had five requests for interim use, and Community Development Director Marcia Westover said, “There will be more on next month’s agenda.”
To better process the requests, Westover said city staff sorted the requests into three categories: business, permanent and temporary.
“The business category are pods that will be rented out by companies to make money, and they basically want [the pods] where they are essentially forever,” she explained. “The permanent [pods] are used by businesses that want to use them for storage rather than building a brick-and-mortar structure for storage, and temporary are situations where they want the storage for a specific period of time for things like moving or remodeling.”
Westover said there is a purpose behind having temporary storage, but there is a greater benefit to having permanent buildings rather than pods for that purpose.
“[Pods] are becoming more common because they are a fairly cheap and fairly effective storage method,” City Administrator Evan Vogel said. “They are fairly ugly, and they don’t have much tax value. If these are going to be used, staff would like to have clear conditions for their use.”
The city’s planning commission approved five interim use permits for storage pods, assuming the five would meet conditions that were set forth by the year-old council regulations.
Council unanimously approved the first two requests from businesses at 1001 Cleveland St. S. and 205 Railroad St. S., then also approved the third recommendation 4-1, with Council Member Bob Shogren dissenting. That request, by TEAM Industries, required a fence to be build along one side of the property in a year’s time after several other requests received only three months to build a fence.
“Their conditions are significantly less cumbersome, so why do they get a year?” Shogren asked. Westover said Planning Commissioner viewed the request as needing more space for a longer period of time.
The fourth request was for 13 storage pods to be kept on a business site at 855 Cleveland St. S. and was brought forward by Brian Varsoke and Paul Lares. The pods are currently scattered because the area is shared with other businesses, there are multiple owners of the pods, and there are issues involving semi traffic and loading docks.
Shogren moved to require having a fence installed around the property, but he was the lone vote in favor as the motion failed. Eventually the motion was made to not include the fence, which was the recommendation of the Planning Commission, and that motion passed 4-1, with Shogren in dissent.
When Shogren said council was not treating everyone equally, Mayor Jim Godfrey replied, “As an [interim use permit], it’s a case-by-case basis.”
The final request, from a business at 930 Cleveland St. S., was approved unanimously without discussion.
City hires new prosecutor
In May the Isanti County Attorney’s Office informed the city that it would no longer offer prosecution services for petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, and certain gross misdemeanor cases as of Aug. 1.
The city sent out requests for bids on those services and received three offers. The bids were not included in the council’s packets because they are considered private data until council decided on a provider.
While GDO Law was the high bid, Vogel believed that law firm also was the best choice for the city.
“I spoke with GDO Law, and they are willing to drop their bid to $50,000 per year,” Vogel said. “The other bids are based on hourly rates. If we find ourselves in an appeal situation, the costs can get high pretty quickly. With GDO Law, our cost is $50,000 per year.
“I know several other city administrators that work with GDO Law for exactly this purpose, and all of them were impressed with the work. They also perform these same services for the City of Isanti. That can work some economies of scale; they know Isanti County. … And, by all accounts, they work very nicely with our police.”
Council unanimously approved a five-year contract with the law firm.
City accepts land
Metro Plains offered to donate a section of property along the far southwest section of the Heritage Greens development to the city.
“There is a remnant of approximately 4 acres that the developer feels it is not cost-effective to develop,” Vogel said. “It would like to donate that land to the city.”
Council unanimously approved purchasing the property for $1, although Shogren, noting tax issues surrounding the property and some uncompleted street work that was part of the original agreement, said, “I am holding my nose,” in approving the purchase.