Harmony City Council approves amended retail variety store CUP

By Charlie Warner

The Harmony City Council approved an amended retail variety store conditional use permit (CUP) that is less restrictive than the original one that had been proposed by the Harmony Economic Development Authority earlier this year.

The Harmony City Council approved an amended retail variety store conditional use permit (CUP) that is less restrictive than the original one that had been proposed by the Harmony Economic Development Authority earlier this year. During the Tuesday, March 8 council meeting, the council also approved extending the moratorium on the construction of any retail store in Harmony until March 21.
City Administrator Devin Swanberg explained that permits for new buildings are currently reviewed by him and then approved or sent on to the planning commission for further review. The ordinance approved by the council on March 8 is less restrictive than the original one proposed by the EDA. It won’t prevent retail stores from locating in Harmony as long as all the requirements are met and the Planning Commission approves the plans. 
For nearly two months, the city council has been embroiled in a controversy over whether or not a Dollar General Store should be allowed to locate in the Fillmore County community of 1,000 residents. Several public hearings had been held where local residents, both pro and con, provided testimonies as to the effects the proposed store would have on their community.
At a January city council meeting, EDA President Kerry Kingsley explained why the EDA had proposed the original ordinance. He said that the EDA board did not feel a dollar store would be a good fit in Harmony, and that dealings in the past with proposed dollar stores had never worked out. A number of persons spoke during the Jan. 27 meeting…some favoring the ordinance and others who felt it wasn’t the city’s place to decide which retail businesses could be allowed and which ones couldn’t. The EDA asked the council to consider the proposed ordinance and requested a moratorium on granting a zoning permit to any potential retail stores.
The council listened to the comments and then decided to impose a moratorium on the issuance of new zoning permits to retail variety stores. The EDA recommended a 90-day moratorium. After more discussion, and advice from EDA Coordinator Chris Giesen, the council agreed to a moratorium with an end date of March 10.
The Harmony Planning Commission met on Feb. 8, discussed the proposed ordinance and then voted 4-1 recommending the city council not pass the ordinance. The majority didn’t feel it was the city’s place to determine which retail businesses could be and which ones couldn’t be allowed to locate in Harmony. 
Three weeks later, a public hearing, attended by over 100 persons, was held where once again residents, both pro and con, addressed the council. No action was taken at that meeting.
At the March 8 council meeting, the council reviewed several amended ordinance drafts. After discussing some of the changes from the original proposed ordinance, Councilman Steve Sage made a motion to approve the first draft of the amended ordinance. Domingo Kingsley seconded the motion. That motion failed, with Councilman Jesse Grabau voting against it and Mayor Steve Donney abstaining. (Councilman Tony Webber was absent.)
A motion was then made by Sagen to approve the second draft that had been presented to the council. That motion passed 4-1 with Grabau voting against it.
Because the ordinance could not go into effect until it was published in the legal newspaper, which could take up to two weeks, City Attorney Greg Schieber recommended that the moratorium be kept in place until March 21.

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