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Zoning ordinances for non-traditional businesses discussed by city committee

By Staff | Apr 17, 2020

The City of Rugby Ordinance Committee held their regular meeting Wednesday, where they discussed modifying zoning definitions and classifications for new businesses not fitting in traditional categories.

Committee member Jackie Albrecht proposed adding a review of City Chapter 19.24 to the meeting’s agenda. The ordinance chapter covers light industrial business classification. The move resulted from a zoning change request by Craig Wollenburg, who announced his intention to use the former Windshield Doctor building in Rugby to process hemp into CBD oil for a variety of natural products.

Wollenburg went before the Rugby planning and zoning committee February 10 for what the planning and zoning agenda referred to as “guidance” for zoning his facility, which he said would include processing CBD oil and selling the products in an onsite retail space.

The committee’s discussion brought forth several questions, among them how the facility would store byproducts, how it would impact the value of neighboring properties and whether Wollenburg actually owned the Windshield Doctor building. Wollenburg had submitted a winning bid for the building last fall to former owner Heart of America Medical Center.

However City Auditor Jennifer Stewart told the committee she had contacted Pierce County Recorder Lori Miron, who told her no deed had been recorded indicating a transfer of ownership from the hospital.

The committee discussed rewording ordinances to allow for issuing conditional use permits.

Albrecht brought up an example of ordinances in other locations with CBD processing facilities.

“A town in Montana had a CBD plant go in and they put conditions on them. They had a special condition, if they aren’t operating for six months, they lose their license and zoning privilege. Their zoning is only for one year at a time. It has to be renewed,” Albrecht said.

“That’s an option we can go with. Our zoning laws for light industrial are a little vague, and pretty broad,” Albrecht noted.

“Whether Craig goes ahead with this or not, at some point we’re going to get hit with this (need to put conditions on ordinances) again. We just need to get it set up and set up right,” Albrecht said.

Committee member Gary Kraft said, “For example, you add another permitted use and have it explained as for operations not identified in any other section. We will consider them on a case-by-case basis with a conditional use permit renewed annually. It doesn’t necessarily have to be what (Wollenburg) wants to do; it might be what somebody else wants to do that doesn’t fit any of these uses either.”

Committee member Frank LaRocque questioned whether allowing for a permit in one case was fair.

“We didn’t do it on an ordinance for an individual citizen concerning dogs,” LaRocque said, referring to a past request. “But we’re willing to do it for someone who jumped the gun, didn’t do his homework (researching zoning laws), and now he wants us to fix his mistakes for him.”

“Now, we would have to live with the consequences and our children would have to live with the consequences of what we decide now in a rush judgment because we don’t have any background information or answers,” LaRocque added. “Even our district attorney is saying it can’t be done and we don’t know why he’s saying that.”

La Rocque referred to an opinion by the attorney that the facility would not be eligible for a variance from the city. La Rocque also asked about how the city would proceed if the conditions on permits granted were violated.

Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke said although she agreed with LaRoque about the need to proceed carefully, “We should be able to be open to consider different things on a case by case basis. I’m more in favor of expanding the conditional uses in C2 (Commercial 2 zoning) to be able to review them on a case by case basis.”

” Our world is changing as small manufacturers are a thing right now, be it a brewery or a CBD operation, or whatever,” she said.

The committee agreed to ask for information from Hartl and Wollenburg before proceeding with ordinance changes.

In other business, the committee also discussed enlisting the help of a UND law student for a project moving ordinances to Unicode, a software platform for storing municipal laws. The student intern would need supervision by Hartl. The committee agreed to seek more information on possible funding sources to pay the intern. The board also agreed to contact the law school for information on intern availability and posting the job.

The board also voted to table garbage ordinances until May’s committee meeting.

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