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Committee supports ordinance allowing dogs in outdoor restaurants: City Council meets Monday

WILLMAR -- A proposed ordinance that would let dogs accompany persons into outdoor areas of food and beverage establishments has received the support of the Willmar City Council's Community Development Committee.

A law passed by the 2008 Legislature lets cities write such ordinances.

Willmar's proposed ordinance says any eating and drinking establishment, which has with outdoor eating and drinking areas, may apply to the city clerk for a license to allow dogs in the outdoor area of the establishment. Persons 18 years of age or older would be allowed to be accompanied by a dog while in the outdoor area of the licensed establishment.

Among the regulations, employees would be prohibited from touching, petting or otherwise handling dogs; dogs will not be allowed on chairs, tables or other furnishings; and dogs must wear current rabies vaccination tags.

Nothing in the ordinance would limit the right of a person with disabilities to have access to public accommodations while accompanied by a service animal as provided by law.

The committee voted Thursday to recommend the council set April 6 as the date to hold a public hearing on the ordinance. The council will consider the recommendation this coming Monday night.

Bobbie Bauman, director of animal care for the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County, attended the meeting to speak in favor of the proposed ordinance. She said it was well-written.

The City Council was encouraged in June last year by a local dog owner, David Herzer, to enact an ordinance, and the request was turned over to the council's Community Development Committee. The committee asked City Attorney Rich Ronning to draft the ordinance.

Committee Chairman Bruce DeBlieck said probably not every restaurant would be able to allow dogs, but the law at least gives restaurants the opportunity.

In other business, the committee voted to recommend the council support an application to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for a $150,000 Minnesota Investment Fund grant.

The grant would be funneled through the city and lent to a local company wanting to buy a $318,000 piece of equipment. The remaining $168,000 cost would be paid by private investment or owner equity.

The company needs the equipment to expand its operation and increase its workforce by 8 to 13 jobs, said Steve Renquist and Jean Spaulding of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission. They said the jobs would pay a minimum of $12 per hour.

Renquist said the city would retain 20 percent of the loan for use in a business loan program.

The committee also agreed to let community development director Bruce Peterson devise an updated rental housing inspection fee schedule. The present fee schedule is 20 years old. Committee member Steve Ahmann pointed out the consensus of the council at a recent work session was to not increase fees this year. Peterson said the fees cover 20 to 25 percent of the position of the staff person who does the inspections.

The City Council will be at 7 p.m. in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building.

The council will take comments during a public hearing at 7:02 p.m. on 209 street and other improvements, and will consider a resolution accepting an offer on the sale of $8,310,000 in municipal utilities revenue bonds to finance construction of the two wind turbines.

Also, the council will receive reports from the Finance Committee, the Public Works/Safety Committee and the Community Development Committee; consider an ordinance to amend the landscaping ordinance; and consider a Civic Center special event liquor license for West Central Builders Association.