North Branch city council split on CUP

Despite concerns that in the future, their CUPs might runneth over, the North Branch city council approved a conditional use permit (CUP) for a residence to house more animals than what is allowed by ordinance.

According to community development director Carla Vita, James and Joanne Kummet, who own a property at 4410 379th Street, applied for a kennel license to house three indoor cats, five outdoor cats, three dogs and three chickens. Vita noted that after the application was made, the Kummets did agree to reduce the number of cats to five after complaints were made about excessive feces at the residence.

As part of the CUP, the applicants agreed to construct a structure on the property to house some of the animals, which would be insulated to keep the animals warm during the winter. The terms also limit the Kummets to not increase the number of animals they house beyond the current total of five cats, three dogs and three chickens.

Council member Kathy Blomquist voiced one concern over the granting of this CUP. She reminded the council of a previous request by a resident to house more than three dogs on their property. That request was turned down by the council.

“Last year, we had a neighbor that had more dogs than our ordinance allowed,” Blomquist said. “At that meeting, we held firm with our ordinance. And I’m having a difficult time approving this if we said to somebody else, ‘You have to abide by the ordinance,’ and somebody else gets a CUP.”

Council member Kelly Neider pointed out that in the previous instance, the resident hadn’t applied for a CUP and there was an issue with complaints of dogs barking at night and that person was asking for the ordinance as a whole to be changed to allow for more than three dogs.

“This couple has come up and respectfully applied for the proper CUP,” Neider said. “I trust that our planning commission fully vetted through this, and in the event there is a problem in the future, the city can go out and revisit it.”

Council member Joel McPherson spoke about his concern over whether granting this CUP would encourage many more requests.

“Now, are we going to let everyone come in here for CUPs because they want to have more animals than our ordinance allows?” McPherson asked. 

Vita explained that as the name states, there are conditions attached to the permit. 

“It’s very difficult for us to deny a CUP,” she said. “Unless there is some egregious issue. That’s why you put a plethora of conditions to make sure they work within those confines.”

City administrator Renae Fry added that having a CUP actually makes it easier for the city to act upon possible future complaints about that property.

“The council has already built in its relief and remedy that upon notice and opportunity for a hearing, the council can revoke the CUP and shut them down,” Fry said. “And we can do this far more easily than the unregulated nuisances. So in my professional opinion, I would rather have CUPs.”

Fry also noted that simply the process needed to obtain a CUP would more than likely discourage many from applying.

“They have to go through an application, a public hearing and they have to pay a pretty hefty fee,” Fry said. “So the fact that one did it, doesn’t mean we made a change. Somebody simply chose to take advantage of it.”

Fry concluded with noting that city staff was currently looking over possible changes to the animal ordinance as part of their reviewing of all city ordinances. So if the council had concerns over anything regarding numbers of animals, etc., they should talk with the review committee soon.

“You’re timing is perfect, because we are having those conversations right now,” Fry said.

Ultimately, the council approved the CUP request on a 3-2 vote, with Blomquist and McPherson voting nay.

City to purchase own software

Coming on the heels of the issue with the ARMER agreement between the city and Chisago County, city staff started looking at other agreements between the two entities. One of those agreements was for the sharing of CAD (computer-aided dispatch) RMS (records management systems) software for local law enforcement.

According to Fry, research conducted by the city staffs of both North Branch and Wyoming revealed that not only could the two cities purchase their own CAD RMS systems and still share the information between the city and county law enforcement, but it would actually cost the city less money than what they would be paying Chisago County to share the system.

“I appreciate what the staff has gone through to assure that the system provides our officers with the data and the functions they need while keeping the costs under control,” council member Brian Voss said. “It appears to be a win-win situation all-around.”

A motion to instruct staff to go forward with the purchase of the equipment and the installation of the system was unanimously approved.

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