A delegation from Redwood County visited the Redwood Falls city council meeting Oct. 15.
On the agenda was a request made by the county for the city council to consider the vacation of a portion of the courthouse square.
The portion of street that is being requested for vacation is on the north side of the square, and, according to Lon Walling, county commissioner, who spoke on behalf of the county regarding the request, there are safety and security issues the county is trying to address with the construction of a new justice center.
Walling told the council that the county board has been discussing plans to address safety and security in the courthouse for a number of years, adding different plans have been on the table since 2005, and the board believes the plan it currently has developed will meet those needs.
However, due to space constraints there is a need to vacate the street north of the current courthouse site.
Amy Busse, Redwood Falls city attorney, was asked to address the city’s position regarding the request.
In her remarks, she indicated there are two options when it comes to a vacation of a street, with the first being a petition for that vacation that is signed by all of the property owners adjacent to the street.
The second is for the city to approve a vacation request. Under the Unified Development Ordinance, a vacation may be approved if the land “does not, or no longer, serves a clearly defined public purpose.”
When specifically asked, Busse said, in her opinion, the request to vacate that portion of the street does not meet the standard of the ordinance.
Kevin Passe, who spoke on behalf of the ownership group for the property that exists on the north side of the street, said vacating the street would negatively impact their business.
Passe added during the process he and Jeff Whitmore were approached by Briana Mumme, Redwood County economic de-velopment coordinator, about the possibility of selling the property. Passe said they indicated there was no interest in selling the property, adding it has an established history in the city.
Passe added there is more value in a piece of property than the land and a building, adding there is a business that exists there that people have gotten to know, and, even if there was a sale, the cost of moving the business to a new location would have to be considered.
According to Passe, a request was made to them to come up with an offer to sell the building, which he said they did. That offer was not accepted.
Meetings were also held with John McNamara of Wold Architects, as well as with Walling and Dennis Groebner, who serve on the county’s building committee, and during those meetings questions regarding the vacation of the street were raised. Passe indicated they were shown a plan for the justice center that would have had the new structure 35 feet from their building.
Hundreds of vehicles utilize that portion of the street, said Passe, adding the vacation would have meant loss of parking in front of the main entrance to their building.
Passe also expressed that he has heard and read about the county’s discussions subsequent to their decision not to agree to the vacation, adding at no time were they ever invited to a meeting where that proposal was discussed. He also said it was only through information provided by the city that they were told that a meeting regarding the request to vacate the street was happening.
Matt Smith, city council member, indicated that he sees the value in creating a more safe and secure environment for the location, but he said that did not fit the standard of doing a vacation. With that in mind, Smith made the motion to deny the request, which was approved on a 3-0 vote, with council members Denise Kerkhoff and Jim Sandgren abstaining due to a conflict of interest.
Despite the denial, Walling reiterated that the county board is committed to moving forward with its plans for the justice center.