NEW ULM - The New Ulm City Council compromised Tuesday on dealing with noise complaints from operations of a large-scale crusher at New Ulm Steel and Recycling.
Councilors voted to allow the business to continue operations and proceed with the process of installing a fence on site. Meanwhile, city staff will check the possibility of amending the current city ordinance on noise.
Last July, the Council discussed several complaints of excessive noise, including explosions at the recycling business as a result of crushing process. Owner Josh Luneburg confirmed at least four explosions had occurred since operations began. The explosions were caused by vehicles being crushed on site with gasoline still in the tank. In order to prevent further incidents, Luneburg said no vehicles would be accepted unless the fuel tanks were removed.
At Tuesday's meeting, City Manager Brian Gramentz confirmed that NUSR was out of compliance with the city's noise ordinance, which requires noise levels be kept under 400 Hertz. At this time Luneburg is waiting to construct an 8-foot fence around the facility. Luneburg is willing to erect a 12-foot fence if necessary. However, he must request a setback variance to allow the higher fence to be built in the same location as the proposed 8-foot fence.
Gramentz reported that Luneburg would be willing to suspend crusher operations during neighborhood events if he is informed about the activities.
City Attorney Hugh Nierengarten said the Council had three options: enforce the ordinance, allow the construction of the fence or modify city ordinance. By changing the ordinance New Ulm could choose to simply adopt the noise standards set by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency or create a specialized ordinance of its own.
Councilor Les Schultz said that New Ulm's noise ordinance was relatively strict compared to other communities, but he felt something needed to done to put residents near the recycling facility at ease. Schultz suggested a compromise be made in which the City would work to change to ordinance if NUSR made efforts to reduce the noise.
"The issue of the explosions have been addressed as much as they can, but I am not so sure the perception of safety has been addressed," said Councilor Ruth Ann Webster. "I am quite interested in pursuing a fence because even if it doesn't change the noise situation a lot, it will give people the perception of safety." Webster added that she appreciated NUSR owner making efforts to work with the neighborhood.
Councilor Ken RockVam spoke in favor of allowing a 12-foot fence at the 8-foot setback requirements, citing the need for common ground on the issue. Other councilors agreed that both the City and NUSR needed to do something to solve the problem.
Webster made a motion to direct the staff to move forward with amendments to the City Ordinance to meet State standards, while the owners of NUSR prepare to erect the proposed fence. The enforcement of the current ordinance will not be taken until during the amendment process.
The issue will be discussed again at the council's March 18 meeting.
The public hearing on the 2014 Utility Street and Alley Improvements Group 1 Project was set for Tuesday, March 18 at 5 p.m. The hearing will address numerous reconstructions of existing water main, sanitary sewer and road repairs. This improvement project was part of the Preliminary 2014 Capital Improvement Program Engineering Report adopted by the Council on Jan. 7.
Webster said she expects the public to have several questions regarding improvements to Garden Street due its location between the schools and Vogel Fieldhouse.
The Council approved the extension to the Comcast Cable Television franchise agreement. The extension would authorize staff to begin negotiation for another 15-year franchise agreements with both Comcast and NU-Telecom.
Fairhills Firth Addition
The Council approved a development agreement between the City and Prairie Land Development for property platted in the Fairhills Firth Addition. This will cover the platting and development of 22-lot residential subdivision. The property is located west of Ashland Road, north Maplewood Drive and south U.S. Highway 14.