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City Council: Assessments, variances and a 20-year plan

The Hastings City Council will hold its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18. Here's a look at what's on the agenda:

Willie Bauer, who owns a farm along Country Road 47 by Pleasant Street, is requesting that certain area benefit utility assessments be removed from about a third of his property, which sits in a floodplain. Floodplain and shoreline laws as well as Vermillion River Watershed rules do not allow the land to be developed, meaning the floodplain property would get no benefit from sewer and water extensions. Through the Green Acres program, Bauer has been deferring the assessment payments. He is proposing to pay off the original assessment principal and interest on the non-floodplain land this year in exchange for having the city waive the deferred interest that accrued after the original life of the project bonds.

At the last planning commission meeting, it was suggested that the city look at adjusting its zoning ordinance in light of a Supreme Court decision that may limit cities' ability to grant zoning variances. The change would include language to allow expansion or alteration of buildings that already don't conform to setback regulations, so long as they don't exceed the existing setback. The ordinance would save owners a $250 application fee and four to six weeks of city review, and would reduce city fees by about $750 per year. The planning commission voted 4-2 to recommend denial of the change, with comments that it would remove options for neighborhood input and commission review on variances. The commission is recommending the council take one of three actions: vote to end consideration, direct the planning committee (councilmembers Joe Balsanek, Anthony Alongi and Mike Slavik) to review the amendment and make a recommendation, or schedule a public hearing and first reading to continue the amendment process.

The council will also vote to adopt the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which will serve as a guideline for future development in and around the city for the next 10 to 20 years.