MOORHEAD — After months of meetings and discussions, the Moorhead City Council moved ahead with a plan Tuesday night, Nov. 12, to allow restaurants to serve beer and wine within a 300-foot buffer zone of its three college campuses.
It was the first of three readings of law change with the public still invited to comment on the proposal.
City Manager Chris Volkers said she met with the college presidents and this seemed to be a compromise they could live with as long as there was no hard liquor served and it was a restaurant, not a bar.
The campus boundaries have been undergoing changes since 2011 when Moorhead asked for a change from a 1,500-foot boundary for liquor licenses from the Minnesota Legislature as the colleges here were expanding their boundaries, impacting commercial zones along Main Avenue, Center Avenue and Eighth Street.
The legislative change was approved, but the Moorhead City Council decided at that time on a 300-foot buffer after staff met with campus officials. The buffer doesn't affect Minnesota State University-Moorhead and MState because all buildings within their buffer zones are residential.
However, it affects businesses on Eighth Street near Concordia College which were within the buffer zone.
With further development underway along Eighth Street, especially the new Comstock Commons apartment and commercial building, a request was made to allow a restaurant within 300 feet of Concordia to serve beer and wine.
Councilwoman Deb White said there seemed to be strong support of the change, but she thought there should have been more communication about the change with the public.
Councilman Chuck Henrickson said the public can still comment as there will be two more readings of the proposed city law change at the next two council meetings.
In other business, a charter change allowing the city to pay dues to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations was referred back to the city's Charter Commission for further review.
There was no discussion, but rather a unanimous vote to send it back to the commission.
Some council members were concerned about the more expansive language in the charter amendment that would allow the city to join other organizations and that future councils — radicalized to the right or left — could misuse the charter change and join organizations that could do damage that couldn’t be undone for months or years.
The city of Moorhead, Moorhead Public Service and the city’s Economic Development Authority have long paid Chamber dues.
However, state law doesn’t allow cities such as Moorhead to pay those dues unless their charters are changed to allow memberships in a chamber of commerce. The League of Minnesota Cities brought that law to the attention of its members in early 2018. Early this year, Volkers asked the city’s charter commission to make the needed change.
The proposed charter change presented to the council this summer read, “The city is authorized to become a member of private organizations and local chambers of commerce, to designate representatives from the city council to serve in the organization(s) and chamber(s) and to appropriate funds to cover membership fees, costs and expenses associated with private organizations and local chambers of commerce.”
The change has required a unanimous vote, which hasn't been obtained.
Also at the meeting, the City Council decided to hold a public hearing on Dec. 9 to accept further input from residents on the possible discontinuation of the free LinkFM bus route that runs every 15 minutes Monday through Saturday between several stops from the Moorhead Center Mall through downtown Fargo and back to the mall.
Fargo cut its share of the funding from the budget for next year because of low ridership.
Council members wanted to hear what residents thought about possible routes retained on Thursdays to Saturdays, only Saturdays or just for special events such as the Fargo Downtown Street Fair and Hjemkomst Center events.