Highland News Leader

Highland adds farm ground to city limits, places where agriculture can be done

The cultivating an of annexation agreement not only ultimately added territory the corporate limits, but it also brought major changes to Highland’s zoning code when it comes to farming within the city.

The Highland City Council on Monday approved annexing 28.5 acres owned by Grandview Farm. The property is located between Highland Road and the CSX Railroad tracks, contiguous with the city’s western boundary. Annexation of the parcel was initiated in order to gain continuity of that property that is currently occupied by Korte & Luitjohan Contractors.

Whenever any property is annexed into the city, it is automatically zoned single-family residential. However, Dr. William Drake, general partner for Grandview Farm, wanted his parcel to be zoned industrial.

According to city staff, Drake wanted the ground to be zoned industrial in order to continue to farm it, but also allow him the flexibility to market it for industrial use, if he should wish.

Prior to Monday, farming was not allowed in residentally zoned areas, but farming had been allowed only as an accessory use in industrial zones.

But there was another problems with Drake’s request. Since his property does not have any structures on it, it still — technically — would not have been in compliance with the city’s zoning code for farming.

Drake’s zoning request brought to light an issue no one had previously considered. There are currently several undeveloped portions of subdivisions, such as Prairie Trails, Autumn Crest and Timber Ridge, that are in agricultural operations. While sensibly allowed, these farming practices had, in-fact, been in violation of the zoning code.

Therefore, on Monday, the council approved zoning changes to allow farming as a “principal and accessory use” for single-family residential zoning (R1A, R1B, R1C, and R1D), Neighborhood Business District (C1), Central Business District (C2), Highway Business District (C3), Limited Business District (C4), and Industrial (I) districts. Farming will still not be allowed in multi-family zoned areas or manufactured home districts.

Along with the those changes, the council also narrowed the definition of farming to ensure livestock operations are prohibited. The new zoning definition of agriculture operations is: “Farming and operations of a farm such as cultivation, conserving, and tillage of the soil, greenhouse operations, the production, cultivating, growing and harvesting of any agricultural, floricultural, viticultural, sod, or horticultural crops.”

As far as the annexation agreement with Drake, he will receive an abatement for the city’s portion of real estate taxes for 20 years, should it remain undeveloped. If he would choose to develop the property, the tax abatement would cease. Drake also agreed to provide the city with a 30-foot-wide, all-utilities easement on the property.

The Combined Planning and Zoning Board had recommended approval of all the changes to the zoning code and definition changes, as well as the annexation agreement and zoning change with Dr. Drake.

Other Council Action

“Paint the Town Purple” approved

As part of our “Paint the Town Purple” campaign to publicize Relay for Life, which is set at Glik Park July 8-9, organizers requested permission to tie purple ribbons around trees within the city, which the council approved.

The ribbons will be put up during the last week in May and will be taken down by two weeks following Relay (July 22). Ribbons will be place on all trees in the Square, as well as other well-traveled city streets, such as:

▪ Lindenthal from Washington to Lindendale Park;

▪ Poplar Street from 6th Street to Lindenthal, possibly further south;

▪ Walnut from U.S. 40 to the Square;

▪ Laurel Street from railroad tracks to Square;

▪ Washington from 6th Street to Lindenthal; and

▪ Broadway, as far out on each end as we can go as long as the ribbons last.

Street closure approved for St. Paul

The council approved closing Lemon Street, between 9th and Main streets, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24. The Viking Parent Association will be hosting its annual Student Appreciation Day, and the closure is meant to protect students by allowing safe access to activities of the event. The school will put up its own traffic barricades.

Mayor’s appointments approved

The council approved Mayor Joe Michaelis’ appointments of Fred Donini to the Police and Fire Commission and Anton Hundsdorfer to the Liquor Control Commission. Both are current members of their respective commissions. Both Donini and Hundrofer’s are set to expire in June. Their new terms will run through June 2019.

Plat change approved for Whispering Pines

The council approved changes to the final plat of Whispering Pines subdivision requested by Virgil Schrage of 2730 Broadway.

Schrage wants to re-subdivide the property, Lot 8 and a portion of Lots 9, into two parcels. During a public hearing, neighbors raised concerns about stormwater runoff if the second parcel was built upon.

The Combined Planning and Zoning Board recommended approval of Schrage’s, noting that the drainage concerns raised be brought to the attention of the Public Works Department and that the drainage issue be addressed with the contractor prior to the beginning of construction of a residence on the Lot 2.

Chief Building and Zoning Official Kevin Limestall brought thee concerns the city’s resident engineer on May 5. In addition, the stormwater concerns will be addressed as part of the permit process, when the new lot is to be built upon, Limestall said.

Lease renewed with Sammie’s Ice Cream

The city renewed a parking lot lease with Sammie’s Ice Cream. Patrons of Sammie’s often use a gravel portion of the Highland Communication Services parking lot to safely exit Sammie’s on the weekends and after HCS business hours. The lease allows Sammie’s to use the parking lot all day on Saturdays, Sundays and city-observed holidays and after 5 p.m. on weekdays. The current lease expires on June 4.

Smart electric meters purchased

The council approved waiving normal bidding procedures in order to purchase 750 electric meters from the company Anixter out of Mattoon, Ill., for $74,625. Bidding was also waived to purchase 750 communication modules for the meters from the company Tantalus Systems in Raleigh, N.C., for $47,812.

The Light & Power Department has been doing performance testing on smart meters, which allow remote reading and the ability to turn power on and off. Since the equipment from both companies was what performed the best during the city’s testing, and each company has defined service territories, bidding the purchases would have been moot, given those are the systems the department wished to purchase.

Engineering approved for new boat ramp

The council approved an engineering agreement with Curry and Associates Engineers from Nashville, Ill., for $37,500 for a new boat ramp at Silver Lake.

The new boat ramp will be located at the end of Silver Lake Road.

The crude oil release into Silver Lake last July brought attention to the fact a boat ramp north of Interstate 70 was needed. The company responsible for the spill, Plains All American Pipeline, has been working with the city to develop a ramp and staging/parking area. The pipeline has already issued the city a check to pay the full amount of the engineering cost for the ramp.

Easement approved for trail

The council vacated an old permanent easement agreement and approved a new one with the Helvetia Sharpshooters Society to create a new shared-used path through Lindendale Park.

The path will run from the cul-de-sac at the end of Buckingham Court in Cambridge Meadows west and south through Lindendale Park, which is owned by the Sharpshooters, and end at the southwest corner of the intersection of Lindenthal Avenue and Park Hill Drive.

The prior agreement was approved in 2012. However, the city’s engineering firm redesigned part of the trail, creating the need for a new agreement.

Changes made to nuisance ordinance

The council also voted in favor of changing the city’s nuisance ordinance by adding the terms “chronic nuisance” and “enclosed structure.”

A chronic nuisance is now defined as a property upon which two or more nuisance activities (any person doing an unlawful act or neglecting to perform a duty) have occurred during any two-year period.

An enclosed structure is defined as a structure with a solid roof with four walls and no more than 25 percent opening along the perimeter.

The proposed changes made to give the city greater authority to ensure property maintenance.

“We’ve been working on this for more than a year with city officials, and we are hoping to put it into action,” said Kevin Limestall, Highland’s Chief Building and Zoning Official. “We want to educate residents, not fine them and send them to court.”