St. Bonifacius council passes drone ordinance

By Emily Hedges

The St. Bonifacius City Council passed a resolution restricting the use of drones in the city’s airspace during its regular meeting on March 20. This action comes in response to what they consider a failure of federal and state government to provide reasonable legal restrictions regarding the use of drones. The ordinance specifically cites the use of drones by police departments absent any guidance or guidelines from lawmakers.
Although the council had originally stated that violations would be deemed “gross misdemeanors,” the city attorney recommended that complaint-based violations should be misdemeanors punishable in accordance with State law. After discussion, the council also decided to amend the language of the ordinance to allow private citizens to fly drones over their own property, provided they do not have surveillance capabilities.
A drone is defined as a pilotless aircraft operated remotely or autonomously used in military and civil applications, such as policing and firefighting. However, Councilor Joe Arwood pointed out that the sort of drones they’re talking about should not be confused with remote-controlled toys.
“You can walk down to Verizon and buy military-style drone aircraft with a good high-def camera for $250 and become a digital peeping Tom,” said Arwood.

St. Boni Council says “no thanks” to the HCHRA
The council voted 4 to 1 to opt out of all programs offered by Hennepin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HCHRA).
Council members sited low to non-existent participation numbers from St. Boni residents provided by the HCHRA as the primary reason to withdraw from the program, although there is no cost to the city. Council members felt that residents or business could choose instead to work independently, or with city staff, to apply for program dollars rather than going through the HCHRA.
“We’re fully capable of not taking advantage of them (the programs) ourselves,” joked Arwood. “We might be able to improve on their track record.”
Councilor Terrill Anderson disagreed.
“I don’t think we have the staff and know-how to administer it,” said Anderson.
In a call after the meeting, Phillip Eckhert, Deputy Executive Director of the HCHRA, said that opting out of the program means that St. Boni residents and businesses will not be eligible to receive program dollars.
“By not participating, it will preclude eligibility for residents and businesses that might want to participate,” said Eckhert. He went on to say that in the past, St. Boni has not been a heavy consumer of the services due to factors such as size and geographic location.
The HCHRA was created by State Statute to administer/facilitate the following programs for residents with permission from municipal authorities: Minnesota Cities Participation Program, First-Time Homebuyer Mortgages; Minnesota Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program; Minnesota Housing Emergency and Accessibility Loan Program; Home Accessibility Ramp Program; Lead-Safe Rehabilitation Assistance Program; Shelter Plus Care Rental Assistance. Additional programs are available to developers and businesses.
In other business, the Council:
• Changed the date of the workshop with City Assessor Mike Schachterle and County Assessors to April 10 at 7 p.m. The County recently denied St. Boni city assessments due to errors involving single-family detached homes which have pulled building permits since 2007.
• Heard from Fred Keller of the St. Boni Area Community Development Group that its summer festival, named Spaastagen, will take place on July 13. The name means Fun Days. Lori Spalding submitted the suggestion named for a past St. Boni summer event, and won the $100 gas gift card prize.
• Scheduled a Conditional Use Permit hearing for April 17 at 6:30 p.m. The CUP would allow a mini storage facility on the located located at 8910 State Highway 7 in the B-2 Highway Commercial Business District.
• Approved field usage applications from Waconia Community Education to use the city’s three ballfields. The council asked Community Education to attend an upcoming Parks and Planning Commission meeting to answer questions and provide data about field usages in the area.