Independence OKs church expansion

The Independence City Council approved a request Oct. 16 from Village Evangelical Free Church to amend its conditional use permit (CUP) and site plan.

These approvals will enable the church to expand its building at 5725 County Rd. 11 by approximately 9,000 square feet. Built in 1979, the current church measures at 10,000 square feet.

The 110 member congregation worships in the church’s fellowship hall, said Independence Planner Mark Kaltsas. The church has split services — one for adults and one for children. The new addition will include a 265-seat sanctuary that would allow the entire congregation to worship together. Average attendance is 140 to 150 worshippers.

Village Church also wants to add classrooms and worship space on the lower level, Kaltsas said. Work on the lower level might not be finished initially due to costs.

He added that the church is building the addition to serve current members rather than in anticipation of attracting new membership.

Windsong guest house
Windsong Farms Golf Club asked for and got City Council approval of a CUP amendment that allows the club to construct a 5,500 square foot guesthouse on its property. Windsong is located south of County Road 6 and west of County Road 92.

City Planner Kaltsas said the guesthouse is intended to serve guests of golf club members. It would contain six hotel-type sleeping rooms. Guests would stay a maximum of three nights and spend their days playing golf. The guesthouse would not contain a full kitchen or support full meal preparation. The structure would be in the center of the golf course between two fairways, and it would be accessible only by golf cart.

Niccum dock business
The City Council approved a request from Rick Niccum to amend an agreement between him and the city of Independence that has allowed him to operate a dock construction business in a Rural Residential zoning district. The amended agreement conveys the property at 1111 County Rd. 19 to his son Tim Niccum, who wants to continue operating the business.

DA Shiver
The Crow River Youth Hockey Association got City Council approval of a large assembly permit for its seventh annual DA Shiver ice-fishing tournament, set for Saturday, Feb. 2 on Lake Sarah.

Delano Schools referendum
“We’re all smart enough to know that you don’t pay your mortgage out of your savings account. You have to have a sustained revenue stream,” said Delano School Board Chair Amy Johnson.

Yet Delano Public Schools has been doing this for the past couple of years, she said, as she spoke before the Independence City Council..

Johnson and Superintendent of Schools Matt Schoen teamed up to report on the operating levy referendum questions that will come before Delano School District voters on Nov. 6.
Area residents can watch the levy referendum presentation on line at Click on the icon for Independence and then the link for “city council meeting for 10/16/12.” Lake Minnetonka Cable rebroadcasts Independence City Council meetings on channel 8 at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 9:30 a.m. on Sundays, except on holidays.

School Board Chair Johnson said, “We (Delano Schools) don’t want to get ourselves into a borrowing situation.” So last year district officials looked at how much money Delano Schools needs so that it is not reliant on state aid and increases in state funding. The school district asked voters to approve a $990 per pupil levy to replace the $426 per pupil levy that will expire on June 30, 2013.

After the referendum failed by 159 votes, the district conducted a scientific survey to help school officials understand what voters were looking for. “They were looking for some cuts and some other things, so as a board we did just that,” Johnson said.

The School Board combined budget cuts and user fees to reduce the budget by $700,000 to $800,000. A significant portion of the cuts impacted classrooms and transportation, she said.

“We do run a fiscally responsible budget,” Johnson said. “There isn’t a lot of fluff to cut out.”

It is “critical” for District 879 to secure the $1.1 million each year that would result from voter approval of the first ballot question, she said. Question One asks voters to renew for 10 years the $426 per pupil operating levy that will expire. Approval of Question One would result in no tax increase.

Before voters can approve Question Two, they must approve Question One. Question Two asks voters to approve an additional $325 per pupil to protect Delano Schools from decreased state funding and shifting of school funding to subsequent years, Johnson said. The tax impact for homeowners is approximately six dollars per month for every $100,000 worth of taxable value.

If one or both referendum questions are voted down, “we’ll continue to eliminate positions, because a large percentage of our budget is tied up in compensation and benefits,” Johnson said. Denial of Question One would result in cutting of 18 jobs, not all of them teaching jobs. Denial of Question Two and approval of Question One would result in loss of 10 jobs. Class sizes would increase from the current 25 or 26 pupils per class at the elementary levy.

“We’re getting to class sizes where we don’t feel comfortable in supporting educational excellence,” she said.

– By Susan Van Cleaf, Sun Contributing Editor