Saturday, December 7, 2019

Change paves the way for zoos and pet stores in Medford

During last week’s regular council meeting, the City of Medford opted to make a few tweaks to its ordinances in order to allow pet stores and zoos to operate on commercial property within the city.

The primary reason for this change is the future relocation of the Reptile & Amphibian Discovery Zoo, currently located in Owatonna, and the opening of a new pet store within the outlet center.

“Earlier this evening we met for a public hearing amending the sections 4.32 commercial uses and 4.33 performance standards under the Medford City Code,” Rich Quiring from the city’s Planning and Zoning Board told the council. “We had presentations from the applicants and had a good response from the applicant as far as what they were trying to do.”

Quiring said that there were still some questions concerning this business beyond the City of Medford. “They have to have a permit from the DNR, and the DNR is subject to walk-in-type inspections at any time,” he explained. “We did ask the question as far as compliance, and they would have to follow state and federal regulations and then DNR inspections. There is no liability to the city as was stated.”

“Just for clarification, this would allow a pet store to be located in commercial areas, but the only place a zoo could be located is in the C3 section, which is the west side of the interstate,” City Administrator Andy Welti specified. “As far as a zoo or any animals that are affiliated with it, it wouldn’t be in a residential area.”

The council was unanimous in its support for the recommended ordinance changes. However, some members did note that the amendments would allow a pet store in commercial areas such as Main Street.  “This is saying that you could have a pet store downtown, too,” Council Member Marie Sexton said.

Also touched upon during last Monday night’s meeting was the possibility for future plans renovating or adding new municipal facilities. The conversation was prompted by Medford Fire Chief Rick Hagar. “I was wondering, as a body, do you have plans to meet again with the fire department regarding the planning of a new building or the renovation of any existing buildings.”

“Whether that would be the public works building, which we all know is in dire need of repair or expansion, or the fire station, or city hall, or any combination of that,” Hagar said. “The decision doesn’t have to be made tonight, but the fire department is wondering where the council stands.”

The city has numerous ongoing projects at the moment which will likely delay any concrete plans for this matter at this juncture. “My thought is that we have Main Street in front of us, we have the wastewater treatment plan in front of us, and I feel that this certainly isn’t a dead project,” Mayor Lois Nelson said. “But I personally feel that we are at least a year away from any kind of discussion.”

While the council was in agreement that any direct discussion would come later down the road, it was suggested that they concurrently consider what those discussions would entail.

The council will hold its annual Truth in Taxation meeting on Monday, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m.

 

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