There is a Minnesota State Law which prevents zoning juvenile sex offenders into residential neighborhoods. This changes things considerably.
By law, Nexus cannot build a sex offender facility on the 38.81 acres. Don't get mad at me, all you Pronexus. I didn't write the law. But I'm certainly glad it exists. It exists to protect people like you and me. Of course, we told the Onamia city council about 462.357 a long time ago. Since they never listen to us, they went ahead anyway. And now they are in trouble.
The law talks about zoning for residential facilities such as day care or other licensed facilities, but it particularly excludes juvenile sex offender facilities from R1 and R2 districts. We think that the reason that the city council dropped the permitted use ordinance they had written and switched to pursuing conditional use was because they recognized Section 7 of this law. Unfortunately for them, they misinterpretted Section 8 of the law.
Section 7 specifically excludes juvenile sex offender facilities in R1 (single family) zones. In Section 8, it refers back to Section 7, also specifically excluding juvenile sex offender facilities in R2 (multiple familiy) zones. The city council missed that. Or to place the blame where it most belongs - the city attorney missed it. After all, it was his job to sort out the law.
To complicate matters, they misinterpretted the part in Section 8 which says that the governing municipal body can write ordinances to control residential facilities. The city council, disregarding the juvenile sex offender exclusion, apparently took that to mean that they could just write an ordinance specifically to include 94 juvenile sex offenders. Oops. No way Jose'.
The law gives the municipal government the right to RESTRICT the number of (non-sexual offender) residents ... like day care. There is a maximum number of sixteen, by law. Read that again please. 16 MAXIMUM. The law allows the city council to write an ordinance to limit this number. Say they decided that ten residents is plenty. They could write an ordinance to restrict the numbers to 10 maximum. They can smallen it. They can't biggen it...
The Onamia city council apparently thought that they could EXPAND the number from the maximum 16 day care kids to 94 juvenile sex offenders. How could they think such a thing was okay to do? I dunno. You'd have to ask them. In their defense, the law seems to be written in a mystical language - for lawyers. So, I'd have to once again place the blame on theirs. Of course, if the city council had listened to us these past several months, they might not be in the trouble they are in right now. We told them so.... We've spent so much time studying the law, if there was a country which spoke only Legaleeze, we'd at least be able to ask for directions or order lunch and a beer if we happened to vacation there.
Perhaps its time to return to the days of yesteryear. Its time for Nexus to face the music and either remodel Crosier or find another "home" for their sex offenders. Minnesota Statute 462.357 forbids them from building in our neighborhood. Permitted Use won't work. Conditional Use won't work. Variance won't work. The current zoning won't work. Rezoning won't work. They can't get past this law. Not only have we had our lawyers look into it, we've also alerted our state representative. You know... the one who WRITES the laws... So, Nexus and the city council may finally have met an obstacle they can't get around or slip another one through.
But even if by some miracle, they manage to circumvent 462.357, there are other Minnesota Statutes they will have to address. Spot Zoning. EAW, EIS (environmental). Plus there's problems with the wetlands, the building placement, the water table, the roads, etc. etc. You'd think they'd be bright enough to see the light.
There are now other problems that the city council is facing too, although I'm not sure they're even aware of it yet. A few years ago, they rezoned the Crosier property from Institutional (which is correct) to R2 (which is forbidden for juvenile sex offenders). The Mille Lacs Academy has been improperly zoned for years! Maybe Onamia should get a real Planning Commission and develop a real Comprehensive Municipal Plan - like they were mandated by ordinance to do but neglected to follow through. At a public hearing, Zoning Administrator Mickey Carter admitted that he had no training and was unqualified to perform the duties of Zoning Administrator, adding in his own defense "but they seem to like what I do." Shouldn't he have been the one to bring 462.357 to the city council's attention? Maybe we should consider getting a city government that at least lives in Onamia - even in the winter. During this period of critical zoning issues, THIS zoning administrator as well as Councilman Kryzer have been absent for months.
So what to do? Well, butts were covered in the following fashion: everything was contingent. So if Nexus can't build on the property, it reverts back to the city. If the city can't work it out with Nexus, it reverts back to Steve and Loretta Bye. Everything goes back into place. Peace returns to the days of yesteryear. And somewhere in the distance, if you listen carefully you might hear a hearty "Hiyo Silver, Away!"