The Columbus City Council would like to reduce the number of billboards in the city. Members would also like the billboards to look more aesthetically pleasing. After adopting a billboard moratorium 13 months ago, the council approved a billboard ordinance at its Nov. 13 meeting. The number of billboards allowed will be determined by spacing requirements. Some of the ordinance changes include the following:
• Applicants will have to follow new design standards. For example, a column cover in either tan, beige, or an earth tone will need to be installed over the base of the billboard.
• The name of Columbus has to be posted on the billboard.
• A billboard interim use permit for is valid for 10 years instead of 20 years.
Planning Commissioner Pam Wolowski asked the council what types of high-density design standards they would like to see for a proposed apartment building. The building is expected to be built on the property near the new HyVee Fast and Fresh grocery store on the northeast quadrant of the Interstate 35 and State Highway 97 intersection. Mayor Jesse Preiner recommended the Planning Commission visit Cherrywood Pointe of Forest Lake for ideas. City Administrator Elizabeth Mursko said Cherrywood Pointe has all the components they have been considering in one building.
A neighborhood meeting was held Nov. 12 regarding Hagert Park on Nov. 12. The adjoining landowners were invited to attend the meeting. The landowners expressed they would like the property to remain a green space instead of a buildable lot. The road to the land, which was never developed into a park, is a driveway to access their homes. The council agreed to remove the street name and the stop sign from the driveway. The city will put up a sign indicating the road is a private drive.
The city has been considering selling the property (the next step in the sale process is to have it appraised), but the Hagert family hopes the land will be returned to Elmer Hagert’s daughter, who owns his property. Elmer, who is deceased, donated the land to the city 30 years ago to honor two of his four children, who have mental disabilities.
Councilwoman Janet Hegland was commended for her work with the Columbus Senior Center. The senior center was built in 1983 with federal funds from the department of Housing and Urban Development and grants. One of the stipulations for getting the funding was that the majority of activities held in the building had to be for senior citizens. The seniors also had to pay to use the building, which was a financial burden for many of them. Hegland worked to get the $95,000 federal grant money forgiven, and now everyone in the community can use the space and the seniors will not have pay. In addition, Running Aces has agreed to provide the food for the senior luncheons at a rate of $6 per meal plus tax. The pre-ordered meals simply need to be picked up the day of the luncheon.
The city of Columbus encourages everyone to participate in the 2020 census. The council discussed the importance of having all the residents counted because the city will receive federal subsidies based on the number of people in Columbus. The number of people counted in the census also determines how many representatives will be on the state Legislature. City Attorney Bill Griffith pointed out that if Columbus’ population has increased to 5,000 people, a gas tax could be used to repair roads. Personal information collected for the census will be kept private.
In other business, the Park Board approved the raising of the field use rates for 2020. Using a field for four hours will cost $20. Using a field for a weekend tournament will cost $350. The increase will help pay for field maintenance.
Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the next City Council meeting will be held on Monday, Nov. 25. City offices will be closed on Nov. 28 and 29.