The city council makes all zoning decisions in the city. That was the gist of the Jenkins City Council's response to misunderstandings that were recently brought to the council's attention.

Council members fielded a question from Sandy Ennenga, who attended the regular Monday, Aug. 9, council meeting worried about council duties being outsourced.

Ennenga had submitted a letter to the council that read, "We understand that consultation needs to be made with those who have more knowledge and education than our small community can provide. We have no problem with this. As small business owners we often do the same, but we do not ever outsource decision making responsibilities to others."

The letter hinted at a recent vote to renew a contract with Sourcewell for planning and zoning services.

Ennenga asked who would monitor Sourcewell's actions. Sourcewell, based in Staples, is the organization the city - and many other cities - contracts for planning and zoning services. Andrew Rudlang, a member of the council and the city's planning and zoning commission, was ready and willing to clarify that Sourcewell provides consultation, but does not have the ability to control decisions on permits and variances.

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Sourcewell may help draft detailed documents, such as the city's comprehensive plan; however, the documents are drafted with city guidance and are not final until they receive council approval.

Approval of documents, as well as conditional use permits and variance requests, must go through the city's planning commission, consisting of stakeholders within the city and Rudlang. The commission reviews documents and then makes recommendations to the city council, which must then review the documents and recommendations before voting.

All decision-making power remains with the council.

The council also provided a written response that clarified contract services and included a list of the other services the city contracts for, including legal, engineering, police and fire protection.

In addition, the council saw this as an opportunity to provide greater clarity and detail on the city's website. They agreed to add the list of contracted services to the website along with a description of the services provided.

Rudlang reminded those present and listening Monday that there is an opening on the planning commission. The city welcomes applicants after the resignation of Bob Heidelberger on July 27 because he is moving out of the area.

Mayor Jon Lubke said if the planning commission turns down a request, the party involved can still bring the request to the council at a regular council meeting.

In other business Monday, the council:

  • Approved a letter to Daniel Lightfoot with the League of Minnesota Cities requesting language be changed for application to Department of Employment and Economic Development Small Cities Development grants to exclude the phrase "slum," which is considered derogatory. The council required some grammatical and spelling changes first. Lightfoot said he will distribute it to state representatives and other appropriate offices.
  • Heard from Debbie Siltman, who opposed the council making decisions at its second monthly meeting (4:30 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of the month), which she understood was meant for discussion only. Lubke said the meetings are primarily for discussion, but the council has the authority to make decisions if they deem it necessary. She asked the council to review its original stance on the use of those meetings and to review laws to determine if it was legal not to include a public comment period during the second meetings.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.