July 27, 2020 Special City Council Meeting Minutes


July 27, 2020 Special City Council Meeting Minutes

5:30 P.M.


A special meeting of the City Council of the City of International Falls, Minnesota was held in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building and via Zoom Conferencing on the 27th day of July, 2020 at the hour of 6:05 P.M.


MEMBERS PRESENT:      Councilors Buller, Ditsch, Krause, Nelson, and Mayor Droba    

                    Media and public via Zoom Conferencing. All members noted they could hear the others and the discussion.




City Attorney gave legal opinion on requirements for vacating an alley

City Attorney Shermoen explained that in order to vacate an alley it should be in the public’s interest. City Attorney Shermoen pointed to the fact that International Falls is a charter city and under Section 96 of the City’s charter it states “The City Council of said City shall have the sole and exclusive power to vacate or discontinue public grounds, streets, alleys and highways within said City.” Mr. Shermoen stated that the Charter does not set grounds or requirements for vacating an alley, but it would be assumed that for an alley to be vacated it should be in the best interest of the City. Mr. Shermoen cautioned the Council that if it were to deny the request without good cause and reasoning, the applicants would have grounds to take the City to District Court over this matter.


City Attorney Shermoen referenced the letter received from Attorney Steve Nelson on behalf of some of the petitioners against the alley vacation and stated he disagrees with Mr. Nelson’s legal statements. Mr. Shermoen pointed to Mr. Nelson’s case reference stating that it does not apply in this case as the City of International Falls is a charter city and has sole discretion and authority to handle vacations. Mr. Shermoen also stated that Mr. Nelson’s statement that in order for the alley to meet vacation requirements it would have to be proved “useless” is incorrect as that also does not apply to charter cities.


City Attorney Shermoen agreed that there should be a contingency for vacation of the alley that depends on both transfer of ownership and development. Mr. Shermoen stated the only real requirement the City Council should be looking at as to whether to vacate the alley is whether it is “in the best interest of the public and City”.


APPROVED alley vacation contingent on a developer’s agreement

MOTION by Councilor Nelson to move forward with the alley vacation for Northern Border Investments LLC contingent on them securing a developer’s agreement with Holiday/Circle K. Motion seconded by Councilor Buller.


Councilor Krause stated that this is a positive change to add two additional pumps to the site, while taking a vacant property, developing it, and increasing the taxable property in city limits, while requesting no tax abatement from the City.


Mayor Droba stated that the City would like to see an easement included in the alley vacation for maintenance of the sanitary sewer and installation of a manhole.


MOTION by Councilor Nelson to amend original motion to include an easement for the developer’s installation of a manhole to maintain the southern portion of the sanitary sewer that will not be abandoned as a result of the alley vacation and proposed new development. Motion seconded by Councilor Buller.


City Administrator Anderson asked that the Council lay out specific reasoning for the record as to why it is in the public interest to vacate the alley.


Councilor Ditsch expressed his concern that by vacating the alley and allowing Holiday to move, it will leave a building vacant and cause more of a blight concern.


Councilor Nelson stated that in the past the City has denied larger businesses to come in the area and have economic growth. Councilor Nelson stated the current Holiday location is congested and has poor traffic flow.


Mayor Droba stated that this is a free market and the City under any other circumstances would allow other local businesses to grow and thrive. Mayor Droba stated the current location has congestion, and this would allow for a new building to grow the tax base, with no tax abatement, and would improve the visual esthetic of Highway 53. Mayor Droba stated he understands fellow businesses’ concerns; however, this is not a new business and they are looking to invest in a permanent structure in International Falls.


Councilor Krause reminded the public that Mr. Dave Edquist of Holiday stated Holiday has had a presence in International Falls since 1952 and is not a new business coming to town; therefore, it is not increasing competition nor is it expanding its services and products offered. Councilor Krause also pointed out that property owners on the block in question were not present to object to the alley vacation.


Councilor Buller concurred with fellow Councilors statements in favor of the alley vacation.


Councilor Ditsch asked Matt Koerbitz of Koerter’s gas station if they had plans to expand their store. Mr. Koerbitz stated that they did have plans to expand; however, they would not be expanding if this alley vacation is approved.


The vote to approve the amendment to the motion carried, with Councilors Buller, Krause, Nelson and Mayor Droba voting “yea” and Councilor Ditsch voting “nay”. The vote to approve the Main Motion, as amended, carried with Councilors Buller, Krause, Nelson and Mayor Droba voting “yea” and Councilor Ditsch voting “nay”.


APPROVED appointment of three disinterested freeholders of the City

Mayor Droba stated the three freeholders he is recommending for appointment are:

  • East Ward – Cyndi Strand
  • Center Ward – Len Peterson
  • West Ward – Ronna MacKay

MOTION by Councilor Krause to approve appointment of Cyndi Strand, Len Peterson, and Ronna MacKay as the three (3) disinterested freeholders as Commissioners to view the premises and to ascertain and award the amount of damages and compensation to be paid to any person or persons. Motion seconded by Councilor Nelson and carried unanimously.



Mayor Droba adjourned the meeting at 6:32 P.M.



Harley Droba, Mayor



Kenneth R. Anderson, City Administrator

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