Ordinances pertaining to large assemblies, marijuana use/zoning and sexually-oriented businesses will all be reviewed by a committee in the coming weeks following discussion at the latest Wadena County Commission meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 1.
Each topic received a fair amount of discussion and it appears they have in the past as well, but new conversations had some commissioners eager to get ahead of the possibility. The discussion was started by Public Health director Cindy Pederson, who brought up changes to a large assembly ordinance. The county had such an ordinance since 1978, but because it’s not been enforced, county staff and commissioners decided to put a moratorium on the ordinance until further review. Some changes that a committee brought forward did not quite jive with Commissioner Jon Kangas, namely what defines a large assembly and how many people that includes. The updated ordinance draft was 500 people, while the old version was 1,500 people. Commissioners Stearns and Kangas seemed more comfortable with the larger number as it removed many smaller gatherings, like weddings and auctions.
County attorney Kyra Ladd reminded the commissioners that the ordinances purpose was for the safety of those gathered and for the protection of the property. The ordinance would make parties looking to host a large gathering pay for a permit and offer several months notice. Ladd said when a major event takes place, there is a sheriff presence to provide security and help with enforcement or safety concerns during the duration. Those events take planning. Those events cost the county money, and this is one way of recouping some of the cost.
“There’s a lot of resources that go into these larger events at the taxpayers’ expense,” Ladd said. “I have no idea why this ordinance has been sort of in limbo. I have no idea. But now that we do know about it we have to respond to it.”
Commissioners agreed that commissioners Kangas and Sheldon Monson should join the committee to help shape the language of the updated ordinance. This was time sensitive as Ladd indicated there is a party interested in hosting a large music festival. They want to know the ordinance, so they can shape the festival to abide by the rules.
Another ordinance brought up was one that Morrison and Todd counties already have on their books and one that Ladd said she brought forth on separate occasions in her 14 years on the job. That was the topic of an ordinance regulating sexually-oriented business, such as adult paintings, massage parlors, adult mini motion picture theaters or adult saunas to name a few.
“That’s been presented to commissioners previously and that hasn’t gone anywhere,” Ladd said.
Pederson said that permitting fees are typically higher for these types of businesses because there is more investigative background work to do and typically more follow up incidents to deal with.
Commissioners Chuck Horsager and Sheldon Monson were eager to shape an ordinance based on those that Todd and Morrison already have. Those ordinances would give the county more authority over what could be permissible.
“What happens if something comes in and you don’t have an ordinance,” Horsager asked.
“It’s too late,” Ladd and Pederson stated in unison.
But Commissioner Kangas, speaking neither for or against, said that they should tread carefully when creating more rules and regulations that might limit other businesses.
“My biggest concern would be how they would effect legitimate businesses if it adds an undue burden,” Kangas said. “It’s easy to throw out rules and regulations.”
Monson and Kangas also joined up with the committee to discuss this topic along with Ladd, Pederson, Planning and Zoning Administrator Deana Malone, County Coordinator Ryan Odden and law enforcement.
That group was also asked to look into the marijuana question and how to shape an ordinance around that subject. This follows a recent county discussion on marijuana and the impact of its potential decriminalization.