City Clerk Joel Young alerted the board to the importance of the Rochester Downtown Master Plan to the city of Chatfield during the city council meeting held last Monday night, Feb. 11.

"Chatfield will either benefit by that or not," he pointed out. "We need to understand what is going on just 18 miles away and see if that will affect us."

He encouraged the council and the community to remain proactive in figuring out how to take advantage of the plan and to prepare for the challenges it will present.

Councilman Ken Jacobsen shared "I think this is very important since it does have a huge impact on us, to have a plan in place for us to take advantage of this."

It was decided to begin the planning in the EDA and the Planning and Zoning Commission with a report at the next council meeting.

"This could be a huge boom to southeast Minnesota," shared Councilman Russ Smith, "We don't want to do nothing."

According to the city of Rochester's website, the Rochester Downtown Master Plan is the culmination of a nearly year-long collaborative effort by the City of Rochester, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota Rochester, the Rochester Downtown Alliance and the Rochester Area Foundation. This unprecedented partnership was created out of a recognition that the future of the Rochester community is tied, in large part, to the health and well being of its downtown.

The website stated, "Rochester is in an extremely fortunate position. All of the elements necessary to create a truly exceptional downtown are already in place. We have a well educated and diverse population, a healthy and growing economic base, and a compact, walkable downtown situated in an attractive natural environment. Most importantly, we have public and private institutions committed to maintaining downtown Rochester as the heart of the community."

The Master Plan presents a vision of what downtown Rochester can become. The realization of that vision will be the result of thousands of actions made by both the public and private sectors. This plan would provide direction and guidance to city leaders, downtown stakeholders and all of the individuals and organizations whose decisions will shape the future of downtown. It provides a framework for coordinating and integrating future development in a way that will allow downtown to reach its full potential.

Bonding changes

Young also presented a resolution to the board relating to federal income tax-exempt bonds. He said there has been discussion at the federal level to eliminate that ability for the city to finance all of its improvements with these type of bonds.

"No one knows where that will end up," stated Young, "but cities are weighing in and saying it will increase their costs."

He pointed out that any future legislation wouldn't affect any bonds that are on the books right now. However, he said the city could expect close to $1.2 million of additional cost if they had to re-issue all of the bonds.

"That's information that is important for us to understand and for our congressional delegation to understand," Young said. The resolution was passed to be sent to local congressional leaders.

Hiking club

Bluff Country Hiking Club Secretary and Treasurer Jenny Bradt was invited to the council meeting to give a presentation to the council on what the club did last year and their plans for this year.

She immediately thanked the council for the $2,000 they had granted the club last year. The club also received around $1,500 in membership fees and donations and a $250 from the Chatfield Firefighters Grant. With that money, Bradt reported, the club was able to put up signage on the tourism building in Chatfield's City Park, pay for advertising and tourism publications, landowner liability insurance, printing brochures, website maintenance, and a trimmer for trail maintenance.

Emergency plans and routes into the trail were put in place with the fire department. Bradt also expressed appreciation for the work the Soil, Water and Conservation District had done to increase the number of informative signs along the trail.

This year, through Fillmore County SWCD, an application was made for a grant from the Minnesota Conservation Corps for erosion control on the trail.

Bradt thanked the landowners for their allowing of the trail. In concluding, Bradt asked the council for $2,000 again in the upcoming year to be used for additional signage and other advertising and maintenance.

"This allows us to focus on maintenance and not on fundraising," shared Bradt.

Smith, who conducted the meeting for the evening due to Mayor Don Hainlen's absence, praised the efforts of the club calling the trail "a unique outdoor experience that a lot of other people can enjoy and that you can't find in many other places."

The council unanimously approved the funding request.

P&Z annual report

City Planner Kristi Clarke presented the Planning and Zoning Commission Annual Report to the council and highlighted the fact that Chatfield saw an increase in the number of building permits issued by 12.

Most of these permits included re-roofing, siding and additions/remodels. The city also saw four new single family homes built in the past year, which helped generate over $1.6 million in value of new residential construction.

Commercial construction value dropped from 2011 to 2012, which continued a downward trend in a three-year comparison. Clarke pointed out the city wasn't building any schools, which is why the numbers were lower.

Again, she mentioned the four new homes and shared that she thought the 2012 waiving of the water and sewer hook-up fees helped that number.

Pertaining to ordinances, Clarke showed the commission reviewed a variety of amendments dealing with nuisance violations, housing codes, privacy fencing, B-1 and interim use, and RR and R-2 performance standards. These, she noted, took a lot of time and thought.

Clarke also noted that the Mill Creek Streambank Improvement Project was moving along well. "We hope to see more building permits come in for single family homes next year," she shared, showing that 47 percent of the city's lots are undeveloped. Young thanked her for her work in the past year.

Public works

Councilman Paul Novotny updated the board on the public works committee meeting, which discussed a plan for the removal of the trees downtown. The plan would be to take the trees down, grind down the stumps, and leave a layer of chips where the trees were.

Novotny also said it would be up to the people in town to generate ideas of what the city should replace the trees with. Novotny shared that getting the trees down would take place soon with a plan to replace the trees with something else by May or June. The council approved the plan by the committee.

Novotny also shared that the committee reviewed a street map from past street projects to see how it would affect future projects. The top 10 sewer fixes were also discussed, with a proposal that will reach council about a pump-repair contract for inspection and an upgrade on the hardware and software technology at the waste water treatment plant.

Other business

• The council approved the zoning amendments for ordinance 407, which deals with performance standards for rural residential and multifamily residential properties, permitted uses for general commercial properties, and conditional uses for general commercial properties that would need a conditional use permit from the city.

• Councilmen Robert "Pete" Pederson shared that he has been impressed with the city crews' work in the winter months.