Boy Scout Troop 313 provides service on Memorial Day

May 26th, 2009 by Peter Schmelzer


Boy Scout Troop 313 was up early on Memorial Day. At 7:30am, the Troop met to make sure the band had a place to sit. The boys distributed flyers to attendees, then participated in the ceremony itself. Afterward, the chairs were returned to their starting place at the VFW.

Griff Wigley gets the photo credits: and here is a link to his Locally Grown post. Thanks, Griff.

I noted Griff’s observation that the Scouts performed with solemnity during the ceremony. This was the first time many of these Scouts participated, and I was proud of them as their Scoutmaster. Through service, the boys learn what it means to be community and to contribute to the greater good. Mayor Rossing’s call to service was especially appropriate as these young men observed and honored the sacrifices of our veterans.

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Scouts Clean Up Park

May 14th, 2009 by Peter Schmelzer


Part of the goal of Scouting is to help boys grow into strong citizens, knowing about and participating in their community. Service projects are part of that plan. In this case, the boys from Troop 313, picked up sticks and trash around the park and its plantings, preparing it for easy mowing by the city.

The boys came away with the feeling of a job well done and a sense of teamwork. We also missed the worst of the rain that day!

Troop 313 is part of the Rolling Hills District of the Northernstar Council of the Boy Scouts of America. We invite your son between 11 and 18 years old to join us!

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Home Purchase Consultation in Mankato, MN

May 13th, 2009 by Peter Schmelzer

We are available to help you make choices about buying a home.

Recently, we provided just such a service for a client moving to Mankato, Minnesota.

They were seeking a universally accessible home, including adding an elevator, among other requirements. Through a local realtor, the field was limited to two homes. Mary and I met our clients on site at both homes and listened to their thoughts while walking through each home. Afterward, we discussed our professional opinions of each house, its possibilities, and its potential liabilities relative to the stated budget.

One house sat on a tight lot and would require substantial interior remodeling along with an elevator addition. Hallways were too narrow and the bathroom would require a complete makeover. Also, the owner wished to remodel the kitchen, occupy an unfinished basement, and consider exterior appearance upgrades. The other house seemed to be a better fit. It required very little interior remodeling and had ample space for an addition. The basement was already finished, so both the project budget and timeline could likely be met. However, this site faced annexation costs in a few years and an immediate septic system upgrade.

Upon our recommendation, our client opted to pursue the second house and to look into the details of annexation and septic upgrades.

Unfortunately, the costs of the septic system upgrades were too high to be feasible.

The realtor was able to find another house that met the basic criteria, so we studied that home, too. Upon review with the owner, we determined that an interior elevator shaft addition would be the best value. We provided some preliminary review of the options for the elevator location, discussion of ease and cost of desired remodeling features, and agreed that, in the end, this is probably the right house for our client. Adding a three-stop elevator would allow complete accessibility to the garage and both levels. While more expensive, this possibility will greatly enhance the year-round accessibility of this home.

Currently, they are working on an offer to purchase the home. They commented on their comfort level making the offer, knowing that their needs can be met; confident that the modifications and purchase will be less costly than starting from scratch; and informed of several possibilities to make the house a home over the next few years.

This was all done without drawing a line. When the offer is accepted, we will begin drawings to fit the elevator into the existing home.

We would be honored to assist you with your housing decisions, whether adding, buying or building.

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Northfield Zoning Ordinance: Only a Test

May 4th, 2009 by Peter Schmelzer

I’ve been participating in the Northfield Land Use Ordinance Advisory Group lately.

The group consists of citizens, staff, board/commission representatives, and consultants. Some of the other civilians are architects, engineers, developers and builders. Together, we are trying to forge a new zoning ordinance for Northfield.

We have found the task to be challenging and engaging. It is not simple to codify the goals, direction, and aspirations of the Comprehensive Plan. The process has involved reiterative input, revisions and feedback about the ordinance.

One of the key issues is making the code both restrictive enough to protect the Northfield we value and flexible enough to invite and encourage development. In the residential realm, initial comments suggested that the code should be less restrictive of design elements and materials, and the code was loosened in response.

To test how loose the code had become, VIVUS volunteered to conduct and experiment. we selected a lot close to downtown and assumed that we had acquired the lot after a devastating fire. What could we rebuild on this lot without violating the zoning ordinance? I’ll tell you this: many of the Advisory Group members agreed that my test house was quite undesireable! It was actually a triplex (three, 1800 SF units plus full basement) with a look-out basement, tall and wide, occupying a huge portion of the site and only very minimally responding to its surrounding context. See the images below. Disclaimer: this is not representative of our design goals!



Truth be told: In conversation with the Advisory Group, our test house could have been flat-roofed, taller, and wider that what I proposed, all of which would have made it less visually attractive and less in step with the Eastside Neighborhood.

It appears that there is more work to do if the new zoning ordinance is intended to protect our historic neighborhoods from insensitive infill development. We’ll meet again on Friday to continue our efforts.

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