The city of Mounds View discussed potential changes to its liquor ordinance, specific to the licensing of off-sale sites.

A moratorium on licenses was put in place in 2016 when the council asked city staff to research the issue, according to City Planner Jon Sevald.

The council was presented with the research back in January and members of the Planning Commission, not the full planning commission, presented recommendations to the council.

The first recommendation asked for a requirement of a 500-foot setback of any liquor stores from parks, schools, churches, libraries, senior housing and commercial day care.

The majority of the council did not think this recommendation would be wise.

Councilmember Sherry Gunn said: “With the limited space we have and if a liquor store wanted to go in, with [these] restrictions, they couldn’t. There wouldn’t be any place they could physically put their liquor store if you have this 500-foot setback from a park, school, church, library or day care – that pretty much covers anything on Mounds View Boulevard.”

A second recommendation from the commission would allow a maximum of four or five licenses that sell more than 3.2 beer off-site; the current ordinance does not have a limit on the number of licenses the city can issue.

The council was split on this issue – council member Al Hall said there should be no more than three, while Bill Bergeron said he wouldn’t want any limits.

The third recommendation – which was actually more in the form of a question – asked the council to consider what it is trying to accomplish by regulating the licenses and whether those regulations would accomplish their purpose.

Rhetorical in nature, the question pretty much went unaddressed by the council. There were a couple of comments that deferred to the council’s duty to discuss the issue and listen to their constituents in developing ordinances that bettered life in the city.

In addition to addressing the recommendations, Sevald also brought up the issue of liquor stores co-locating with other businesses.

For instance, a gas station that may be open 24 hours a day, may also be looking to sell liquor.

Councilmembers were in agreement that should a co-location occur, a physical divider should be required between the two businesses with the alcohol in an area that could be physically closed during the times it cannot be sold to the public.

“If a gas station wants to get into selling liquor, the businesses need to be segregated; a caged area keeps people out,” Councilmember Gary Meehlhause said.

Following the discussion, the consensus of the panel was to allow for four or five licenses, to keep the setbacks as they are and to have a physical separation if a liquor store joins an existing business.

To that end, the next time the city will address the issue is during a first reading of an ordinance amendment. If a first reading is approved, the resolution would need to be brought back for a second reading, and if that reading passes muster, a 30-day waiting period would be required before implementation.

Crossroad Pointe

Following the late February decision by the council that denied INH the ordinance changes it needed to move ahead with its Crossroad Pointe development that would include a shooting range in the apartment building construction project, city officials are continuing to work with the developer to bring the idea to fruition.

To that end, City Administrator Nyle Zikmund Monday confirmed that city personnel will be meeting with INH officials in early April to continue discussions on how best to move ahead with the plans.

Around the first of the year, INH and the city signed an agreement that gives the developer a year to come up with plans that meets the requirements and approval of city government and residents.

When Sevald addressed the council last week, he described where things stood with the developer since the council denied an effort to pass the resolution that would have allowed for discharge of weapons, thus eliminating possibility for the development of a gun range by INH to be included in the apartment building proposal.

Following the decision not to pass the resolution, Sevald said he visited INH a couple of weeks ago.

“I went up and toured one of their projects in Cambridge and spoke with them regarding the pending ordinance discussion on the 26th [of February] as we wanted to follow up and make sure the developer is still interested in the project, and they very much are,” he said.

The discussion centered around how to proceed without the gun range.

“INH is very much a residential developer, not a commercial developer. They do have some ideas of what could go there commercially, but nothing that’s concrete at this time,” Sevald said.

He also said that there was discussion of timing and whether the project might get started yet in 2018.

“A decision has to be made as far as whether the whole project would be apartment buildings or whether a portion of that would be commercial,” he said.

While the consensus, according to a poll of each of the board members, is to build a unit that is without a commercial component, Sevald said, “INH doesn’t want to close the door on the commercial component, so they’re continuing to look at some of the ideas.”

How this project proceeds isn’t clear, as Sevald said, “we’ll just have to kind of play it by ear.”

Sevald informed the board not to expect any type of new information at the April meeting.

Community engagement

As the city moves ahead with its comprehensive plan, the need for more public input was discussed by the council last week.

Sevald said that when a city updates the plan, “there is usually some type of community engagement.”

How to initiate that engagement was the issue at hand for the council which was presented with three choices – an open house, which would coincide with the town hall meeting on April 30; canvassing and meetings with residents; and a phone survey, which could end up costing as much as $20,000.

For an open house, Sevald said it would be organized so that residents could ask questions on a one-on-one basis. “We would have to work out some of the details, whether it’s an actual presentation taking questions during the open house.”

Canvassing presents logistical issues for the city.

“The challenge with this is we don’t have the ability to devoting as much time as what’s needed, essentially having conversations with residents from an apartment building, or a different community group. Essentially, these are dozens of meetings,” Sevald said.

The phone survey – the option that would probably provide the most accurate and objective of answers – is also the most costly.

“It would be a scientific survey with a company calling a certain percentage of residents in Mounds View and asking a number of questions,” he said.

Sevald said the city staff was recommending a combination of scheduling an open house during the town hall meeting, as well as conducting the phone survey.

Council members were in agreement that the open house was a good idea, but spending up to $20,000 on a phone survey would not be an option.

There was also discussion of using Survey Monkey, an online option for obtaining information, but it was summarily rejected because it is very limited in the number of questions that could be asked and it would only be available to those willing to log onto the site and complete the survey.

However, the consensus of the council leaned more toward utilizing the town hall meeting as a platform for providing information about the plan to residents; including the information in the city’s newsletter, Mounds View Matters; along with the possibility of developing a survey that could be distributed through the city’s utility bill.

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