Plans are moving forward for the proposed Family Dollar Store in Preston as the city council addressed issues of zoning and parking variances at its most recent meeting, held on Monday evening.

The discount retail store would be located on the former Preston Lumber site along Highway 52. The council heard a request to rezone the site from an I-1 Industrial site to a B-2 Highway Commercial site.

Just prior to the council meeting, the Preston Planning and Zoning Commission had held a public hearing, which is required before a request can be granted.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman said the rezone makes sense and should benefit the adjacent residential properties.

"The site will be under less intensive use now," he shared, explaining that commercial sites are ideally used as a barrier between residential and industrial sites.

The council also received a parking variance request for the proposed Family Dollar site. There are eight parking spaces Family Dollar is looking to put in, which would run adjacent to the highway right-of-way and the property line. Section 155.207 of the Preston City Code calls for a 10-foot region between parking spaces and the edge of the property line to exist. Hoffman stated there was already 50 feet of highway right-of-way and to approve the variance to bring the 10-foot region down to zero wouldn't affect anything.

Planning and Zoning had also held a public hearing on the variance request prior to the council meeting and gave the approval for the council to receive it.

The council unanimously approved the variance request.

Streets and utilities

The council looked at the 2014 street and utilities project plan. Hoffman let the council know that the city engineer had reviewed and prioritized the project areas.

Showing a street map of the city of Preston, Hoffman noted two areas titled the Fire Department and the Judy Lane neighborhoods.

The Fire Department area includes, at its north end, the Winona Street NW hill, and at its south end, Main St SW. Within this region are various roads that have reconstruction, re-pavement and reclamation needs. Hoffman also noted that the map shows major utility needs as well.

"Much of this neighborhood has undersized mains and original work," he shared.

The Judy Lane area south of Preston just off of Ridge Road South also has many of the same needs.

"The streets are poor because of the poor utilities," said Hoffman.

This area is in need of improved water and storm sewer utility improvements and road reconstruction.

Council member David Collett asked if cement could be an option for fixing the roads. Hoffman said if the city went that route, the utility work would have to be completely finished. He also noted that the work to be done in the future would be a big inconvenience for residents in the area.

"The positive is that you only do this every 35 to 40 years," he added.

The preliminary estimated cost for the road work is $2 million to $2.5 million with another half million added for utility work.

Hoffman said the council would need to pass a resolution to start ordering the preparation of a report for all the 2014 improvements. Then a more accurate and detailed cost estimate can be reached and public hearings can get underway.

The council approved a resolution beginning the proceedings. Hoffman said the Public Utilities Commission directed the city engineer to prepare a feasibility study for the addressed neighborhoods.

Cost sharing

Hoffman updated the council on the recent Fillmore County Board resolution to increase its cost share on country state aid highway (CSAH) related work within city limits.

The county receives funds from the state to work on their CSAHs, but had not been sharing costs when those roads had been in municipalities. They increased their cost share to 50 percent for all related work. Hoffman said this was great news for the city since CSAH projects would only cost half as much. He also pointed out that since this would be a partnership with the county, the county might dictate what needs to be fixed.

"They'll do the contracting and they might be more aggressive," noted Hoffman. This news would affect the curb project the county intends to complete on CSAH 17 this summer. Hoffman said he didn't know what sections of curb would be affected since they are all under piles of snow. The council approved a resolution accepting the plans for the upcoming project.

Storage shed

Jim Bakken from the city utilities department updated the council on the materials storage area project. He showed the council, on a map, where the building would be placed in respect to the city shop building as well as the flood line.

The proposed site is furthest away from the river and runs parallel to the water flow, which Hoffman said is recommended by the DNR.

Bakken said the Public Utilities Commission would pay for 50 percent of the project with the city covering the other half.

Trout Days

In preparation for Trout Days 2013, the council approved a donation of $4,000 to go toward the fireworks show. This amount was the same put forward by the council last year.

The remainder of the cost for the show is provided by the fire department and other donations.

The council also approved the permit for the fireworks show.

Hoffman said Trout Days will be happening this year, but they are always looking for more volunteers. The Trout Days committee has been meeting every two weeks.

Other news

In other news, the council handled the following issues.

• Mayor Kurt Reicks issued a formal proclamation which distinguished April 26 as Arbor Day. The Tree Board will hold a tree planting ceremony that day.

• The council approved the purchase of a volunteer thank you advertisement. "It's the least we can do for all of the volunteers who serve in many different ways," stated Hoffman.

• Frances Sauer was approved to serve on the five-member planning and zoning commission. The position had been open for over a year prior to Sauer submitting an application.