MORATORIUM PROPOSED: City of Fergus Falls Planner Karin Flom gives details about the proposed 90 day moratorium on motels, hotels and apartment hotels prompted by the recent closure of the former Motel 7.

The first reading of a city ordinance was presented to a regular session of the Fergus Falls City Council on Monday night that would establish a 90 day study period and moratorium on the construction, enlargement or expansion of motels, hotels and apartment hotels. It was prompted by the recent closure of the former Motel 7 on the west side of Fergus Falls and the concern for extended stays.

As Fergus Falls City Planner Karin Flom started to give an update on the situation with the 90 day moratorium, Council member, Anthony Hicks interjected saying, “We promote ourselves to try to be business friendly, but there’s nothing more descriptive than a moratorium to say 'no, we’re not going to do that,' and I’d like to understand why we have to do a moratorium as opposed to somebody who wants to change the use of it. Why couldn’t I go through a normal process of planning commission or rezoning? It’s just the context of saying no, we’ve all got to be more positive about our approaches, and moratoriums come over as being negative … basically we just put a big no-entry sign, we don’t want you in Fergus Falls.”

Flom responded by advising that “This would be the study period to update the definitintions. We received many calls, particularly about extended stay (situations) and we couldn’t give good guidance. To my knowledge that property is still on the market despite all the comments and questions we’ve received, and currently because we can’t provide that clarity … the moratorium would expire after 90 days, so it could be extended. But the intention is that the work is completed and the planning commission would come back with the suggested changes within that 90 day period.”

Flom also pointed out that it would only affect new proposals, not existing hotels or motels. 

City Attorney Rolf Nycklemoe reiterated what Flom had stated — that once the 90 days was up, the moratorium would be done, but would give the planning commission time to present any changes to the city council for their consideration.

Council member Justin Arneson stated that he felt it would give a prospective new business owner more clarity when they were purchasing the facility or any other hotel or motel that was being planned in the city, as well as provide more specific guidance. 

For now, a second reading of the proposed ordinance will take place in two weeks at the next regular City Council session.

In other council business, a resolution was approved by the Council authorizing the submission of a workforce housing development program application on behalf of the Campus View Estates Housing Project, which would be located with the boundaries of the former Regional Treatment Center property. It would enter the city into a grant contract with Minnesota Housing with an amount not to exceed $195,000.  

Council member Justin Arneson was appointed acting mayor for 2022. This appointment is conducted annually and names the person who would fulfill the role as mayor in the event that the current mayor is unable to do so. Several other appointments for council appointment committees also were determined, including the Board of Equalization appointees, consisting of council members Jim Fish, Tom Rufer, Justin Arneson and Anthony Hicks. Business Development for Fergus Falls appointed Council member Anthony Hicks. For the Fire Department Relief Association, fire chief Ryan Muchow, city administrator Andrew Bremseth and Council member Jim Fish were appointed. Fire Department Trust Fund will be fire chief Ryan Muchow, council member Scott Kwamme, Pebble Lake Golf Board City Council representative will be council member Jim Fish. Hockey association representative will be Council member Karoline Gutafson. Investment Committee will be finance director Bill Sonmor, assistant finance director Sandy Cunningham, and Council member Scott Kwamme, with the Legislative Committee composing of mayor Ben Schierer, along with Council members Justin Arneson and Tom Rufer. Peg Access Board representative will be Council member Krista Hagberg. Personnel Committee will be Council members Krista Hagberg and Karoline Gustafson. Senior Center Board of Directors representative will be Council member Brent Thompson. Tax Levy Committee will be mayor Ben Schierer, city administrator Andrew Bremseth, and Council member Jim Fish. Visit Fergus Falls representative will be Council member Jim Fish. West Central Economic Development representative will be Council member Tom Rufer.

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