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City takes skate park to bid, approves patio seating

Cloquet City Councilors approved a change to city code July 5 that will allow Avenue C and other restaurants to have dining outside as long as they meet the terms of a new sidewalk use permit agreement with the city. The outdoor tables at Avenue C are very popular. Jana Peterson/Pine Journal

CLOQUET CITY COUNCIL

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The dream of a Cloquet skatepark got one step closer to reality last week, after Cloquet City Council members voted to solicit bids on the skatepark now planned for Athletic Park.

Engineer estimates for the skatepark and surrounding park improvements exceed $300,000, but the final dollar number won't be known until the bids are received and one approved by the council.

City Engineer Caleb Peterson noted that the Athletic Park Skatepark was supported by the Park Commission and City Council and included in the 2017 budget. In addition to the skatepark, the project also includes the removal and replacement of the existing fencing along 14th Street and a portion of Prospect Avenue, similar to the new fences in Pinehurst Park. The intent is to increase visibility into the park while still providing a barrier for young kids utilizing the playground.

Ward 2 Councilor Dave Bjerkness suggested the city bid for the project with fencing still in place all along Prospect Avenue as well.

"There are some residents who are very nervous about this new use," he said.

Ward 4 Councilor Kerry Kolodge pointed out that retaining the fence will keep cars and other motorized vehicles from parking in the grass or driving into the park.

Peterson said construction could begin in September and be substantially complete by the end of October, with the park to open in late spring or summer of 2018. The only major disruption will be to the young soccer players who use the field there for fall recreational soccer, Peterson said. The baseball field and fence will not be changed as part of this project, he added. The outfield is also used for fall soccer games.

The project is being paid for with $350,000 in sales tax funding. Peterson also suggested the city add an optional security system at a cost of $3,100, that would place video cameras on site. The council unanimously approved both at the July 5 council meeting (which was moved back a day due to the July Fourth holiday).

PATIO SEATING

Councilors voted 5-1 (Bjerkness dissenting, Ward 5 Councilor Steve Langley absent)to amend the city's municipal code pertaining to liquor licence applications at the July 5 meeting, in response to a request for outdoor seating at the Avenue C restaurant at 207 Avenue C in West End Cloquet.

"We're trying to make the West End beautiful and viable," First National Plaza owner Stephanie Wehr told the council.

The staff report noted there are currently three other establishments with outdoor seating: The Jack, Northeastern Saloon and Carmen's. City staff expressed concerns that the outdoor tables will be placed on a public sidewalk, which could impact both accessibility for pedestrians and people using wheelchairs.

As part of the council-approved ordinance change, a Sidewalk Use Permit Agreement must be executed and the appropriate insurance submitted. If the seating area is on the public sidewalk, a minimum four-foot walking path must be available for the public and a required barrier between the sidewalk and seating must be approved by the city prior to the seating area being established.

Dave Rislow, Avenue C co-owner, said they were excited to get the city's approval.

"Outdoor seating is something everyone is looking for these days," he said Tuesday. "We have beautiful sun exposure out there and people are asking to sit there all the time. As long as the weather cooperates, it's been very popular."

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