Members of the local Amish community and several Lanesboro residents were on hand at the Lanesboro City Council meeting on Monday evening, Nov. 4, to provide input as the council discussed discontinuing the practice of allowing Amish to sell food and products in Sylvan Park.

City Administrator David Todd explained the park is zoned R1, or residential one, and the city ordinance, which was established in 1989, does not permit open air markets in the park. He clarified that the council did have the power to allow vendors to sell in the park during special events.

He mentioned the city had seen several people not of the local Amish community come in and inquire about selling their goods in the park. "It's a fairness issue," Todd stated.

Resident Butch Culbertson expressed to the council that there could be communication between the city and the Amish community with an arrangement to keep them in the park. "I don't think it's fair for the Amish to leave," he said.

Mayor Steve Rahn noted the Amish had been asked to join the farmers market in the nearby parking lot and could still do so. When asked if there was another place in town the Amish could continue their markets, Todd replied that it depended on what the areas were zoned.

City attorney Tom Manion explained it would be tough to find a place that would be as attractive a place as the park.

Kathy Culbertson asked the council how the Amish had been approved to be able to sell in the park in the first place.

Manion said he believed they were initially allowed because the view at the time was that it was a minimal deviance from the ordinance and was positive for the community.

Longtime visitor and new resident in the area Lawrence Heimsoth said he recognized a large passion for the Amish as an aspect of tourism. He wondered if the issue should be more concerned with obtaining public opinion. Manion said this kind of issue wouldn't be found on the referendum portion of any ballot.

The discussion turned back to finding other options for the Amish to continue selling their products if the park was closed to them.

Lanesboro farmers market manager Stena Lieb said everyone, including the Amish, could sell at the farmers market.

Potential issues concerning insurance were raised by members of the Amish who were in attendance.

Manion said there could be an effort by the Chamber of Commerce or other sponsors to subsidize the Amish presence at the farmers market.

Resident Scott Dornseif said, "When anyone talks about Lanesboro, the Amish always come up. They draw a lot of people."

Councilmember Ceil Allen recognized that as fact, but also stressed the fairness issue.

Todd echoed her, saying the city couldn't arbitrarily enforce its ordinances. The discussion was ended shortly thereafter with the intent of picking it up again throughout the rest of fall and winter.

Church Hill condo parking

Another discussion centered on the possible city acquisition of parking spaces to the east of the Church Hill condominiums.

Manion said he didn't think it was in the city's best interest to own part of the parking space that is currently maintained by the city.

By gaining full ownership of the spaces, Manion explained the city would gain government immunity from claims for injuries at the sites not owned by them currently.

Another aspect of the discussion concerned the possibility that the condo owners could designate those parking spaces, thus eliminating space for those attending church on Sundays or other events at the church buildings.

Other news

The council encouraged residents who had not turned in the surveys relating to the water radium project to do so as soon as possible. The city had sent out 654 total surveys and needs a 51 percent return in order to qualify for a small cities development grant. This would help alleviate the projected 7.5 percent increase on utilities rates in 2014.

The council held a public hearing on the vacation of a piece of land known as 5th Street. Matthew Kirkpatrick, attorney from Springer and Gumbel, P.A., and representing the Clarice Ward Trust, reported to the council that no comments had been received concerning the possible vacation. No comments were received during the council meeting and the vacation was approved.

The library is seeking a grant for a mural in the outside hallway and has an opportunity to obtain one worth $10,000. The library staff is also seeking ideas for artists and artwork for the mural.

Ambulance Director Lee Peterson announced the recent acquisition of a new ambulance. He thanked David Haugen for his work in locating an appropriately priced vehicle. The department recently had its 100th call for the year, which is already more than what it received last year.

Fire Department Chief Rob Wagner reported on the fire hall remodel that will make it the emergency command center for the town. The department received a matching grant through the DNR for a new 800 MHz radio system at the hall.

The park board will be getting new playground equipment with a 50 percent cost-share with the school and Root River Recreation.

Sidewalk repairs along Pleasant Street will be most likely not completed until the spring since both quotes received by the city were declined.

The council appointed Jason Reisman to fill the vacated spot on the Planning and Zoning Commission after the resignation of Andy Drake.

The next council meeting will be held Dec. 2.