Onamia Police Chief

Onamia Police Chief Bob Matzke stands before Onamia City Hall.

Zoning was a subject on the docket when the Onamia City Council met for their regular meeting Wednesday, June 10. The council addressed a conditional-use permit for a billboard along Balsam Street near Hwy. 169, which the planning commission had denied due to the number of variances required.


Maintenance superintendent Gene Falconer, speaking on behalf of the planning commission, stated the commission felt the four variances needed for the billboard were too much. “With the way our ordinances are written,” Falconer said, “the sign is already over the maximum allowed square footage on a property … We recommend that you deny the variance.”

The resolution before the council listed the following needed variances for the billboard:

• Exceeding the maximum size for a sign by 88 square feet, at 288 square feet.

• Reducing the 3,000-foot spacing requirement between billboards by 2,300 feet.

• Exceeding the 300-square-foot maximum size for total signage in the zoning district by 308 square feet.

• Reducing the 19-foot property line set back by 14 feet.

Mayor Marge Agnew gave Bob Carl, the individual seeking to place the billboard, an opportunity to present his case for the permit. Carl stated that he recognized that cities could have their own ordinances that were more strict than federal, state or county ordinances. However, he argued that the lot would be appropriate for a sign under state, county or federal ordinances. “These variances are exceptional,” he said. “I’ve been doing this since 1975, and I’ve never been in a situation – township, city, whatever – that had a combined square footage for signs.”

“I’m just glad to hear you finally acknowledge that the city can be more strict than the state,” Councilor Bill Hill stated, citing previous times the council has had this conversation with Carl. Hill further stated that the resolution provided a detailed, itemized list on why the permit was being denied.

A motion was put forward to accept the resolution as written, denying the permit, and unanimously approved.

Use of force policy

Onamia Police Chief Bob Matzke, in light of current events, said his department would be reviewing and posting its use of force policy. “Just to get it fresh in everybody’s mind,” he said. “I can see change in the wind when it comes to how we train in the months and years ahead. We’ll roll with those changes and do what we need to do.” When City Clerk Kathy McCullum asked if the policy was being changed, Matzke said it had only been reviewed. McCullum asked that officers with the department sign off that they had reviewed the policy, and Matzke agreed it would be done.

July 3

The council discussed the plans currently in place for the city’s Fourth of July celebration, which happens annually on July 3. Mayor Marge Agnew stated that the civic association was considering hosting a street dance and a puppet show that evening before the fireworks. The event won’t include a beer garden. The association met the evening of Monday, June 22 to make the final decision on whether the band or puppet show will be involved. No information was available prior to deadline at the Messenger.

Matzke asked if people would be allowed to bring their own alcohol to the event. Agnew stated it would not be legal anyway because the event will take place at the city-owned park. “It’s not going to be encouraged,” Agnew said.

Councilor Joe Boeringa observed that Matzke was looking for direction as to what should happen if people did bring alcohol. Agnew said that she would bring the concerns up with the association, and the public would be advised that it was against city ordinance to bring their own alcoholic beverages.

Agnew stated that the association had invited the city fire department to serve hot dogs, though Fire Chief Bruce Peterson said that the department was still working on the logistics to determine whether they’d be present. Whether any other concessions would be present would also be determined at the June 22 meeting.

Marge added that no fence would be put up to keep people out of the event. When asked how admission would be tracked, she stated that there would be no admission fee, as the performances were being paid for through an arts grant.

“It’s really just trying to give people a family friendly event to celebrate the Fourth,” Agnew said.


• Discussion was held on holding another public hearing regarding the Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures proposed development near the intersection of Hwy. 169 and Pony Farm Road. The discussion was tabled, along with a resolution in support of the project, until the Council could get more information on the project’s funding.

• The council gave the maintenance department permission to look into potential replacements for their truck, due to the potential costs needed to repair the truck.

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