Council approves drug ordinance, charter school permit

Long journeys end well for FLPD, North Lakes Academy

Clint Riese
News Editor

Two separate, significant agenda items won approval from the Forest Lake City Council Monday night, ending drawn-out processes.

North Lakes Academy will have an addition built at its high school campus, while a drug paraphernalia ordinance proposed by the Police Department will be enacted.

Drug ordinance

The latter matter was tabled in May due to the concern of some council members with the proposed ordinance’s likely impact on Dazy Maze, a Lake Street business whose 1970s-themed product line included glass pipes and other items targeted in the ordinance.

The business has since closed, and the ordinance passed unanimously.

The ordinance was modeled exactly after one in Moorhead that recently held up in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Under Forest Lake city code, it will remain a petty misdemeanor to possess items with the intent to use them as drug paraphernalia. Now, it will be a misdemeanor to sell items that one should reasonably know will be used as drug paraphernalia.

School permit

The granting of a conditional use permit to North Lakes Academy  ends the charter school’s search of several years for a place to expand and build a gymnasium.

The right place ended up being the current site of the upper campus that houses students in grades nine through 12.

A dozen or so school employees or parents cheered at City Hall as the council gave its blessing via a 5-0 vote.

Building owner McCullough Companies will provide NLA an 8,800-square-foot gymnasium. The facility may be ready by February. Also, the school will expand into spaces formerly occupied by other tenants in the existing building at 308 SW 15th St. That work is on pace to be completed before the school year begins.

NLA originally occupied the building in 2009 with approximately 100 students. Before that, the upper grades shared space at what is now the middle school for grades 5-8 located on Northwest Seventh Avenue.

The newly approved permit allows for a school population of up to 280 students and 20 staff.

Private service dilemma

No vote came forward on the most-discussed topic of the night. The council spent 40 minutes debating how, or whether, to assist a set of neighbors in a sticky situation in the city’s northwest quadrant. The discussion was continued from the council’s July workshop.

Four houses near the intersection of Third Street and Third Avenue share a sewer line that is not hooked up to the city system. The line backs up into the basement of one house about twice a year. Owners of the houses involved approached the council several months ago to explore options.

At this week’s meeting, City Engineer Ryan Goodman proposed that before discussing this particular case, the council should decide whether to develop a policy for dealing with such situations on a broader scale.

The city is aware of dozens of similar situations throughout the city. Public Works Director Mike Tate estimated that 50-100 such shared, private lines may exist.

Council members brought forth a variety of opinions before unanimously deciding to table the matter to another workshop.

Councilman Mike Freer made the motion, explaining the additional session will allow the group to study the merits of establishing an account to deal with water and sewer service line repair for such situations.

Goodman said a fee of $2.50 per quarter for both water and sewer customers would fund $90,000 of work a year.

An overarching policy may not have support from the council, though. Freer spoke against the fee, while Councilwoman Susan Young and Mayor Chris Johnson both said private service lines are not the city’s responsibility.

“I definitely sympathize with the situation, but we’re sitting here looking at a few people’s property and talking about doing a project on their property, and it just doesn’t feel like a city function to me,” Johnson said.