Wells resident’s request denied
Ask and ye may not receive. At least that was the case for Michael Weber, who requested a public hearing during Wells’ regular City Council meeting last Monday evening, in order to seek to establish a cartway on the Western platted terminus of Eighth Street SW. He requested the cartway be two rods, or 33 feet, wide.
The City Council, ultimately, voted against Weber’s request.
Weber was present with his attorney, Steven J. Vatndal, of Mankato. The two made their case in front of council as to why the Webers wanted to create the path.
The cartway was proposed to begin at the west end of the improved Eighth Street SW and would run west within the existing platted and dedicated right-of-way, owned by the city, to the eastern boundary of the tract.
The petition stated the purpose of the cartway was to provide pedestrian and vehicle access between said tract and the improved Eighth Street SW.
Neighboring property owners came to the public hearing to share their views of the improvement on the private property.
And with Weber’s previous de-annexation from the city of Wells in 2010, as well as a slew of trials and tribulations for the city that came with it. Residents were apprehensive to support the request, at best.
“I am not in support of this cartway for some obvious reasons, and some of you may know what those reasons are,” said resident Dan Hart. “With that said, I think the property currently has multiple trees on that property which would require removal to have the cartway put in place. The cartway itself, based on statute and maintenance costs, can be tricky even, based on the statute the way its written. With that said, I think there’s other neighboring properties that would agree. I am not in favor of it.”
Julie Treptow, another one of Wells’ residents potentially affected by the cart path, spoke during the public hearing as well.
“I am also not in favor of it and I would request you deny the request at the end of Eighth Street. I don’t see any benefit to the city by doing this. The Webers requested to be annexed out of the city, so I don’t know where the benefit is to the city and its citizens if you grant this proposal.”
Vatndal was quick to correct Treptow’s accusations of the Webers de-annexation from the city of Wells, stating it was the city, not Weber, who requested the de-annexation from the city.
“Negotiations of that quite complicated settlement, as I understand it quite clearly, is that the city requested the property be de-annexed from the city, not the Webers.”
Regardless of who de-annexed who was not of any interest to the current City Council members.
“You’re asking for a private cartway, right?” asked council woman Crystal Dulas of Vatndal, directly.
“Yes,” replied Vatndal.
“On city property?” asked Dulas.
“Yes,” was Vatndal’s response.
“Okay,?I just wanted to make that clear.”
It was then Hart returned to the podium during the public hearing and asked a few more questions.
“You spoke earlier to the fact that you have access to the current property through other parcels, so I’m trying to see if that’s valid because they (council) are not required to act because you already have access.”
While Hart held eye contact toward Weber, Weber’s eyes faced forward as his attorney addressed Hart’s concerns.
“We don’t have effective access because of the ways the buildings exist, there is no access to the far reaches of the property where the right-of-way exists,” said Vatndal.
“What does he need this access for?” asked mayor David Braun.
Vatndal’s response for the Webers was simply to “effectively access that part of the property to use it. The future is really undecided at this point.”
The mayor rephrased, asking directly,?”use for what?”
“Use beyond just the minimal use that exists now. Any use is going to require a better access point than what we have now,” responded Vatndal.
He also assured the members of the City Council that they would not be giving up any rights to the right-of-way in the future. The city still owns the property where the cart path would be placed and if the city ever chose to improve it, they would have that ability.
“In my opinion, and it is only my opinion, I don’t want to set a precedence if we allow the Webers to do this and do not allow other people within the city to do it,” said Dulas. “I am opposed.”
“Mr. Weber is not a Wells resident, and from the citizens who spoke today and those who have approached me previously, they are opposed,” said Council woman Whitney Harig. “I am not inclined to upset people who live in this city over a new access to someone living in the county. I’m speaking for the residents who do live in this city, and I, too, am opposed.”
City attorney David Frundt, who was involved in the de-annexation litigation in 2010 regarding the Webers, informed the council state statute does allow the ability for Weber to create a cart path but the council could decide that on a discretionary basis, such as the size of the property and access to the property.
“The city is not giving up any rights to use the right-of-way for any purposes of infrastructure in the future. If need be, it can be used to the extent of how it exists,” said Frundt. “If it remains dedicated as a street, as it is now, there isn’t any other property owners on issues of maintenance and you folks have the right to decide whether the city is going to maintain this cartway or not by resolution. You can make that decision later.”
Frundt further described the City Council’s decisions as how they can go about their options in the matter. He also explained the council only had a few days to act on their decision as a 30-day time period was up on June 16.
“I’d sure like to know what you’re going to do back there, Mike,” addressed councilman John Herman of Weber. “It’s been sitting there (the property) empty for so long and now you want to put access in there. What are you going to do?”
“You know,” said Weber to the councilman definitively. “I just need access to maintain it. I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you what’s going to happen, John. Me and you have had this conversation many times.”
“And I will keep asking until I’m blue in the face,” retorted Herman.
“The next thing I’m going to ask is Bill Groskreutz back here,” said Weber, pointing to the County Board member. “and since everybody says he’s not a city resident, I’m going right back to the county.”
A hush grew throughout City Hall chambers, then the council came to their decision after a bit more discussion.
An official motion was made by Dulas to deny the cart path and was seconded by Harig. When it came to the vote, Herman voted in opposition, and with Brenda Weber absent from the meeting, Mayor Braun broke the potential tie with his vote to deny the cartpath to Weber.