WORTHINGTON — After considerable discussion and feedback from two property owners, the Worthington City Council on Monday night granted a conditional use permit for Jorge Cardenas to operate an automotive repair shop from an existing building at 88½ E. 12th St.

The discussion was not whether Cardenas could use the property for a repair shop — it is in accordance with zoning in that area of the city — but rather, how customers are to access the business. Located behind the former Hansen’s Furniture building, with the Union Pacific Railroad and Sherwood Street residences boxing it in, the building has no street frontage. Its only legal access is essentially a one-lane alley between a building and a row of houses, but according to aerial views, it is obvious that traffic is using a much wider, open area south of the railroad tracks to access the shop. That property is owned by Casey Ingenthron.

Ingenthron disputed the 2019 sale of two parcels, once owned by the same individual, to two separate people. That sale resulted in the non-conforming, non-frontage parcel now slated to become a repair shop.

“The fact that they were allowed to be sold separately created issues for my property,” Ingenthron said, noting the vehicles that travel on his property to reach the repair shop.

Councilman Chad Cummings said Ingenthron is in a difficult situation. It would cost him a lot of money to install a fence to keep people from driving across his lot, but it could also cost him a lot if the road becomes rutted and he needs to repair it.

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“He has a legitimate concern because it is the quickest and easiest path for a majority of traffic to go that way,” Cummings said. He asked if the council could require signage be placed at the legal access point to the property, directing customers to use the one-lane road.

Cardenas told the council he had plans to discourage customers from driving through the private property by installing fencing between his building and Ingenthron’s property, as well as installing fencing to the west of his building. Fencing in both locations would prohibit his customers from reaching his entrance through Ingenthron’s property, thereby forcing them to use the alley.

The council was appeased with those plans, and approved the permit with the conditions set forth by the city’s planning commission. Those conditions include having a paved parking lot and sight-obscuring fencing to be used in areas where vehicles will be stored.

Lake Okabena outlet dam to be studied

Also on Monday night, the council authorized Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. to conduct a feasibility study on the Lake Okabena outlet dam. The structure was built in the early 1900s, and the engineering firm will be tasked with inspecting not only the dam, but the trail bridge that spans it, and the trail bridge abutments. SEH will also consider reconstruction of the outlet or rehabilitation of the existing structure, prepare conceptual drawings of alternatives, address long-term operations and maintenance and provide the city with permitting requirements and cost estimates. The firm will be paid an hourly rate, at a fee not to exceed $49,500.

In April, the E.O. Olson Trust board voted to provide the city with more than $92,700 to cover the costs of the study.

City Administrator Steve Robinson told council members that a resolution to the outlet structure could be a long-term process.

“Our friends in St. Paul really don’t like dams,” Robinson said. “They may come up with a lot of reasons why we shouldn’t move forward with rehabilitation.”

With no intention of removing the dam due to its importance in controlling the elevation of Lake Okabena, Robinson said the engineering firm will need to determine if repairs can be made while maintaining the structural integrity of the outlet dam.

Mayor Mike Kuhle said that with a significant amount of money generated from the local option sales tax going into projects around the lake, now is the time to find out the viability of the dam.

In addition to authorizing the study, the council also accepted the $92,780.36 from the E.O. Olson Trust.

In other action, the council:

  • Authorized the collection of unpaid charges for snow removal or weed control from property owners through an assessment to be added to their property tax statement.

  • Approved assessments to lots in the Glenwood Heights Second Addition for sanitary sewer and water main improvements.

  • Approved a feasibility study related to a proposed 2022 project to reconstruct Eighth Avenue from Ninth Street to where Eighth Avenue dead-ends. The project involves reconstruction of the street and the water main, which also dead ends. The city’s water department wants the water main to connect to Ninth Avenue, which would require an easement on private property.

  • Approved a consultant agreement for engineering services due to the impending retirement of engineer Jeff Faragher and the part-time status of engineer Stephen Schnieder. Schnieder said the aid is needed through May 2022, with the work to include assisting with plans and proposals leading up to the 2022 construction season.

  • Approved the use of a right-of-way acquisition service to assist with a planned project on Fox Farm Road that involves removal of the existing precast concrete and timber bridge structure with a new precast concrete culvert. The culvert will require a sloping ditch with rip-rap, resulting in the need for additional land from adjacent property owners.