Photo by Chad Koenen
The Ottertail City Council heard of a plan that would potentially put a drive-thru coffee shop in the Ottertail mall near the Ottertail City Hall.

Council approves plan to rezone 26.97 acres of ag land to residential

By Jenna Baker


The September Ottertail City Council meeting opened up with a public hearing to discuss rezoning two parcels of land in the Deer Run Estates Development from Agricultural to Single Family.

Jake Huebsch of Sourcewell was present to provide background on both zoning and this particular proposed change. He explained that it is common for both property owners and cities to apply for rezoning, saying that in this case it was the city. He noted that these parcels are being considered for rezoning due to the fact that if the property is developed, it would likely be done so for single family purposes and standards for that zoning type would need to be in place at that time. Huebsch also noted that property owners have the right not to develop land just as they have the right to choose to develop, whether the public is in favor of the decision or not. 

Both owners of the two parcels in question were present at the meeting. The owner of the larger parcel, which is 26.97 acres, explained that he has put a great deal of money into putting some infrastructure in place on the property, including water, with the goal of someday receiving a return on investment by developing the land.

The owners of the other parcel, which is 9.69 acres, expressed their desire to keep the area zoned for agriculture. Many members of the public were also in attendance expressing their love of the greenspace and wildlife these acres provide.

After some discussion, the council passed a motion to rezone just the 26.97 acre parcel from Agricultural to Single Family. The 9.69 acre parcel will remain Agricultural. They noted that the rezoning of the 26.97 parcel would need to be done when wanting to be developed anyway, so this is a proactive move. The council, the landowners and the public noted contentment with the decision and expressed joy in seeing democracy in action. 

Also present at the meeting were Stephanie Jorgenson and Stephanine Ellingson. Jorgenson wishes to open up a drive-thru coffee shop in the building owned by Ellingson, which currently is also home to The Grain Bin.

Jorgenson proposed two different drive-thru traffic options for the coffee shop, which would be located on the north end of the building next to Ottertail City Hall. She explained that the plan is to have two windows, one for ordering and one for pickup, which will help move the traffic along and also noted that, if busy enough, they would plan for spots for customers to pull ahead and wait, which would also assist with traffic flow.

The council expressed the notion that this would be a great addition to the city along with their willingness to work with Jorgenson and Ellingson to make it happen. 

Both Huebsch and City Attorney Sam Felix noted that with the right conditions in place, this option should be able to come to fruition. Next steps include the city working with Huebsch to create an Interim or Conditional Use Permit to allow for this type of business while working to ensure the traffic flow is as safe as possible. 

In other news

• The council briefly discussed their water contract with Henning, giving a short summary of the informational public meeting that was held on September 8th. They noted that approximately 32 members of the public were in attendance at that meeting, with 25 of those expressing that they are in favor of looking into the City of Ottertail going on their own for water service, rather than contracting with Henning. Based on this feedback, the council has decided to heavily focus their resources on finding an alternate path going forward, including proceeding with the creation of a preliminary engineering report and proposal for a wastewater treatment facility with the goal of presenting that at the October council meeting. 

• Present at the meeting was Bob Schlieman of Apex Engineering, who shared an update on the water tower improvement project. He presented a task order for consideration, which included steps for preliminary and final design, bidding and negotiating, construction administration and observation/oversite along with a post-construction phase and warranty and antenna inspections. Total estimated cost of the improvements to the tower is $405,000. Improvements to be made include replacing the exterior coating systems, spot repair of the interior wet and dry coating systems, structural repairs and modifications to ensure compliance with OSHA and MDH. The council passed a motion to approve the task order, meaning work will continue to proceed with the project with the goal of construction to take place between May and September of 2022. 

• The council passed a motion to approve the preliminary levy, which is an increase of 5 percent, noting that that number can always go down if needed. Additionally, the Truth in Taxation meeting was scheduled for Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m.

• An update was provided on the Otter Tail River restoration project. Mayor Ron Grobeck and councilmember Mike Windey have been working with the DNR & Fisheries and have scheduled a public informational meeting for Tuesday, Oct. 5 at the Ottertail Community Center to discuss both the problems the river is facing as well as possible solutions and grant funding available.