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Mitchell County District Court upholds ruling in Mennonite steel wheel case

OSAGE | Unlike last year, Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk wasn't surprised a district court judge upheld a previous decision in a court case involving steel wheels, local Mennonite Church members and a county ordinance.

"Just in general terms, it was what I anticipated the court was going to do," Walk told the Globe Gazette by phone this past week. 

Walk was referring to a case where Derek Zimmerman, 14, of Orchard, was charged with a road protection violation and unauthorized use of metal tires on Addison Avenue near Howard County.

Magistrate Nicholas Larson ruled last June while the county's ordinance restricting steel wheels on paved roads was unconstitutional — citing freedom of religion under the First Amendment — Iowa code required Zimmerman to apply for a state permit, which is not included in Mitchell County's ordinance. 

The freedom of religion portion stems from the fact that Zimmerman is associated with the Old Order Groffdale Conference Mennonite Church, which prohibits its members from using rubber wheels. 

Walk appealed last year's decision, citing a similar case involving Mitchell County and the Iowa Supreme Court in 2012.

State of Iowa vs. Derek H. Zimmerman

He told the Globe Gazette last year he was surprised at Larson's ruling, but after further consideration, he understood why Larson arrived at his decision.

"After reviewing the magistrate’s decision, and why he found it was unconstitutional, I thought the ruling was on solid ground," Walk said this past week.

District Judge Rustin Davenport stated in a ruling filed last week that he agreed with Larson's decision, determining Mitchell County's ordinance is unconstitutional, but that Zimmerman should have applied for a special permit under Iowa code.

"The existence of a conflicting county ordinance would not necessarily prevent the issuance of a permit under state law," Davenport's ruling stated. "Here there was not an effort to seek a permit, and it was not certain that no permit could be obtained."

County files appeal in ruling

OSAGE — Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk has filed an appeal with Iowa District Court in response to Mitchell County Magistrate Nicholas Larson’s ruling stating the county’s revised steel wheels ordinance is unconstitutional.

David Kuehner, the attorney who represented Zimmerman, told the Globe Gazette that like Walk, he wasn't surprised by the court's ruling.

"If the county is really concerned about the condition of the roads, then they need to work with members of the Mennonite Community to work through that," Kuehner said by phone.

Davenport's ruling means Zimmerman still needs to pay a $20 fine, along with other court costs, for violating the state code.

Walk and Kuehner said they don't plan on appealing the district court's decision.

While Walk hoped for a different outcome, he wasn't upset about the ruling.

"Is the glass half full or is the glass half empty?" he said. "I would like to see it reversed in terms of the decision regarding the state law, but I can’t say I’m surprised."


Local
Agreement: Gatehouse must build downtown Mason City hotel within two years

MASON CITY | A 106-room hotel south of Southbridge Mall must be completed by Dec. 31, 2019, according to a final development agreement the City Council will consider Tuesday night.

The agreement, between the city of Mason City and Gatehouse Mason City, LLC, culminates three years of planning and negotiating involving two different developers, three potential franchises and two different sites.

The current plan calls for Gatehouse to build a Hyatt Place hotel in the south parking lot of the mall, connect to The Music Man Square via a skywalk and remodel The Music Man Square to include a ballroom/conference center and move the museum part of it to a separate, adjacent building.

In a memo to the council, Interim City Administrator Kevin Jacobson outlined major points of the agreement. They include:

- Gatehouse's commitment to build the hotel.

- Gatehouse's commitment to secure a memorandum of understanding with the Mason City Foundation to operate The Music Man Square Conference Center.

- The city's commitment to provide a $4.2 "mezzanine loan" toward the hotel financing. Before any of the loan can be disbursed, the city must receive final approval from the state for funding from the Iowa Reinvestment Act. The city has applied for $10 million to help leverage a $38 million downtown project of which the hotel is a key part, as it satisfies private funding requirements. 

- The city's commitment to reimburse Gatehouse up to $750,000 for pre-development costs, such as design, engineering, hotel brand requirements and title. Up to $30,000 a month -- for four months -- will be paid to Gatehouse for those costs, subject to review of the costs incurred. The $750,000 will be part of the mezzanine loan.

- Gatehouse's commitment to securing a senior lender who will be the primary source of private funds. No payments are due to Gatehouse until there is proof a senior lender has been secured.

- Gatehouse's commitment to providing the city and the senior lender with proof of incurred hotel construction costs. Partial reimbursement for those costs will come from the mezzanine loan.

- Gatehouse's commitment to entering into a minimum assessment agreement, with the value of the hotel determined to be no less than $9 million. Should the hotel's value fall to less than $9 million, the taxes due on the building will be based on a value of $9 million.

- Gatehouse must, at all times, be in compliance with applicable local, state and federal laws and requirements.

- Upon meeting all of the conditions, the city will transfer the land to Gatehouse for $1.

- Gatehouse commits to a hotel completion date of Dec. 31, 2019. The city agrees to construct a skywalk by that date. 

A public hearing will precede the council deliberations and vote.

The council meets at 7 p.m. in the Mason City Room of the public library.


Local
Thanksgiving edition worth the weight

North Iowans buy the Thanksgiving edition of the Globe Gazette and visit our website during that time for more than news. And for good reason.

Adults still read local newspapers to find the best place for Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend shopping information. Newspaper websites continue to be the best place to find the best sales, store hours and special offers for the holiday season's busiest weekend.

The size of the Nov. 23 edition, which will sell for $5, reflects those numbers: 30 inserts will push the weight of your copy of the Globe Gazette to 2.5 pounds. You simply aren't going to find more information — and the information you want — anywhere else.

And North Iowans will also have the opportunity to win some extra holiday spending money through a contest only listed in the Nov. 23 Globe Gazette. One lucky winner among all Lee Enterprises newspapers will win $5,000, and locally, we'll award three $100 gift cards. Details of the contest will be included in the Thanksgiving Day edition.

If you want an early start on your shopping plans for Black Friday and the weekend, copies will be sold from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, in front of the Globe Gazette, 300 N. Washington Ave. For those who buy a copy on Nov. 23, we'll have an additional gift for you up until we reach over 300.

The contest and gifts are small ways for us to thank you for your continued support.

Need a gift idea? The Globe Gazette's packaged subscriptions (one fee for print delivery and online access) are perfect for anyone connected to North Iowa. For subscription information, visit globegazette.com/subscribe or call 800-433-0560.

And if you're already a print subscriber, now is a good time to activate your digital account. It's part of your subscription and includes access to all of our digital products.

This is an exciting time of the year, and we're thankful for the readers and businesses we serve.

We share plenty of news and information every other day of the year, but the Thanksgiving Day edition will again be worth the weight.


Local
top story
Mayberry: Cheer Fund enters 90th year of giving to North Iowa

This week marks the starting point of the 2017 Christmas Cheer Fund campaign, and we’re hopeful North Iowans will again help their neighbors in need.

The campaign will also celebrate a milestone: the holiday effort will help those who need it most for the 90th year. We’ll share stories in the coming weeks about how the money is helping families and individuals going through rough patches.

In the case of the Christmas Cheer Fund, the numbers tell a heart-warming story about our neighbors and the places we call home.

$301.30: Ninety years ago, in 1927, then-Globe Gazette publisher Lee Loomis told readers, “No child should go without a Christmas gift.” He challenged them to raise $300. North Iowa responded and hasn’t stopped.

$148,684: The fund raised a record amount in 2012. What’s become a traditional late push toward Christmas Day in donations has helped more than 2,700 North Iowa families.

$3,088,122: The current total raised heading into this year’s drive. The fund topped six figures in 1999 and $2 million in 2009.

Those are amazing totals that speak to North Iowans’ care and concern for their neighbors.

Since Mr. Loomis started this inspiring project, we’ve expanded eligible recipients to people of all ages. We have an application process in which we confirm need, and gift cards are tracked to ensure they are used as intended.

Need, we’ve learned, knows no age, and it certainly knows a range of circumstance.

Inside Tuesday’s Globe Gazette you’ll find a donation envelope that can be dropped off at our office or dropped in the mail, or you can stop by the Globe Gazette office, 300 N. Washington Ave., starting Monday.

Those needing help this year can visit us between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays, starting Monday, to fill out an application. No applications will be accepted after noon Wednesday to accommodate the Thanksgiving holiday weekend; they will resume Monday, Nov. 27. Applications will close Dec. 21.

It’s typical for the Christmas Cheer Fund drives to finish strong, but we admittedly get a little nervous as Dec. 25 nears. The benefit of helping sooner is that those needing assistance will receive it before the holidays.

We’ll again publish lists of donations and updates on the fund through the holiday season. Look for your favorite schools, part-time Santas, foundations, businesses, neighbors and “Anonymous” to give something for nothing in return other than the joy of the season.

We anticipate another long list of applicants seeking help through the holidays. And we anticipate similar wish-lists: food, household items, presents for family members, a Band-aid to get through unplanned medical expenses.

Our goal this year is the same as last year: $125,000. And we know you’ll come through.

Any remaining funds not distributed for the holidays will be given to local nonprofits. And the Christmas Cheer Fund balance will return to $100 in January to maintain the checking account. There is simply no better way to directly assist our neighbors during the holidays.

We’re hopeful you’ll will again surprise your neighbors and warm their hearts with some cheer.


Mayberry