The private docks on public land conundrum continues to be a thorn in the side of the city of Waseca, though leaders came up with at least a temporary solution Tuesday.
The discussion Tuesday was a continuation from the previous City Council meeting June 18.
The property that raised the question is located on Clear Lake, off of Elm Avenue; the dock is to the west of Barney’s. City Administrator Lee Mattson was told by the city attorney that staff is fairly confident the land is city property due to part of an abstract it reviewed. The owner of the dock, on the other hand, has stated the land is theirs but they have failed to produce evidence of it.
“We want to see evidence that they own the land, because we don’t want to take ownership of something that isn’t ours …,” Mattson said. “If we got something from someone saying this belongs to them, then I would give it to the city attorney.”
At the meeting, Mattson presented a solution city staff worked on per the direction of the council. A draft license agreement was created and presented to the council. It called for signatures from the dock owner and councilors, allowing the dock to remain in the water, but only after the owner pays a fee, set by the council, and provides proof of liability insurance for the dock within a specified timeframe.
The council voted 3-2, with councilors Jeremy Conrath and Daren Arndt against, to set the license fee at $250 and to require proof of insurance and payment within 21 days of July 3 for the current dock owner.
Before the council came to that conclusion, there was a lengthy discussion, including public comment from a concerned neighbor. During the public comment portion of the meeting, Chad Anderson spoke out on allowing docks in areas considered public land and specifically on the current dock that is near his house.
“I saw comments in the paper that were concerning …,” Anderson said. “I have seen comments that stated that we’re looking into having a lease space to have a boat or dock … We bought our home with a view … I feel like I would be harmed by (docks going in) and also the extra traffic.”
Anderson said he lives in a quiet neighborhood with small children and that he has safety concerns if there are docks in the area that aren’t supposed to be.
“I don’t think it’s in the business of Waseca to rent docks or boat lifts,” Anderson said. “Those are my concerns as a homeowner …”
When public comment was over and the council reached action items, Councilor Daren Arndt spoke up.
“I can see his (Anderson) point, because there is a child safety (concern) there, because they could fall in the water,” Arndt said. “I may not vote for this, because they should not have a dock in the lake.”
Councilor Mark Christiansen shared his thoughts on the dock situation.
“… My opinion that if they don’t have insurance, they don’t have proof, they don’t get the license, they can’t have it (the dock),” Christiansen said. “I put a number ($1,000) out there and I got some interesting feedback, I thought it would deter those that can’t afford it.”
Councilor Jeremy Conrath presented a different perspective.
“A lot of discussion last meeting that the city wasn’t sure who owned it; it seems to me that the city owns it, so to me this is a tremendous burden to staff,” Conrath said. “And I don’t think it’s fair for the community members of Waseca. I don’t support letting people put docks on (public property) … I would prefer that the dock come out.”
“If they don’t come through with insurance, we don’t sign, and if we don’t sign, the dock comes out,” Councilor Les Tlougan said in response to Conrath.
“We’re caving on this just like we did on the last issue, because somebody complained,” Christiansen said.
“I don’t know that I see it as caving; it’s giving us time to come up with a policy,” Tlougan said.
Councilor Allan Rose spoke up to say that he doesn’t want to end this issue without having a discussion during a work session where they can work all the details out. The other councilors agreed.
“I just don’t see a lot of people dropping in a dock if there is an expense beyond the dock,” Tlougan said.
“I see three businesses doing it … we can’t pick; it’s open to all,” Christianson said.
“It can get messy fairly quickly,” Mattson added.
Tlougan thought this license agreement would get them through the summer when the license would expire on September 30. After the end of September, the City Council and staff will work on the issue further, hoping to have something set up for 2020. City staff is advising people against buying docks because of the uncertainty of next summer.
Christiansen made the final motion of setting the license fee at $250 and requiring proof of insurance within 21 days of July 3 for the dock that is currently in the water. But not everyone agreed it was a good compromise.
“I’m going to oppose this, based on the last meeting. I think the dock needs to come out sooner and I think it’s opening a can of worms here, so I’m going to oppose it,” Conrath said.