by Dennis Dalman
Glaring yard lights and dirt piles. Those two issues caused concern to Sartell City Council members at their April 23 meeting.
The topics were part of the updated Zoning and Landscaping Amendment in the Sartell City Code presented to the council by Sartell Development Director and Assistant Administrator Anita Archambeau.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the extensive multiple-paged and highly detailed amendment. However, several council members said city staff should revisit a paragraph about glaring lights and then define it more precisely.
Council member Mike Chisum said he strongly believes city staff should include language in the amendment that regulates or prohibits piles of dirt left standing for weeks, months and even years in neighborhoods. Several of his constituents, he said, have complained about how unsightly such mounds of dirt are in lots near their homes. Chisum said he voted against the entire zoning-and-landscape amendment because of his conviction the city must address dirt piles in its code. Council member David Peterson agreed with Chisum, but others noted it would be difficult, if not impossible, to regulate or to ban dirt mounds in development areas.
The “light pollution” paragraph in the document proscribes yard lights that shine glaringly into adjacent neighbors’ yards, such as very bright carport lights or bare fluorescent bulbs glaring all night.
Answering council members’ concerns, Archambeau said security lights that just turn on and off rather quickly would not be considered as offenders. She also noted the lights people have now would not have to be gotten rid of – just that any new lights would have to be hooded so light shines down, not into others’ yards.
Council member Peterson asked if glare from holiday lights would be considered a nuisance to some people. Archambeau said those kinds of lights were not considered as part of the ordinance.
Enforcement of the ordinance (and other ordinances in the zoning and landscape amendment) would be complaint-driven, said Archambeau – that is, when a neighbor or someone else filed a complaint with the city.
Nevertheless, there was a general consensus by the council that city staff should clarify the light-pollution paragraph and bring it back before the council.
The purpose of the zoning-and-landscaping amendment is “to ensure complicity to prevent urban blight, deterioration and decay and to enhance the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the city.”
The document deals with vegetation, living units, accessory buildings, patios, proscribed home occupations (taxidermy being one), private swimming pools, fences and much more.
Almost all of the lengthy document is just as it was before, though some sections were fine-tuned for clarity. There are relatively few new additions, one of them being that chain-link fences can now be 6 feet tall rather than 4 feet tall. Another new provision is that patios on the front or sides of homes will be allowable.
The council showed keen interest in another new addition to the document, one concerning the construction of solar panels, geo-thermal energy units and energy windmills in yards. The height of windmills is restricted, although they can be higher and placed on a pole on lots of 2 acres or more.