The Northfield Armory will finally go up for sale some two years after it was first planned. The 100-year-old downtown brick structure will be closed under a Minnesota National Guard plan to reduce armory sites from 61 to 52 by 2034.

A recent appraisal listed the building about $600,000; the city would have first dibs on the property.

“This is a project I’ve been waiting for for years,” said City Councilor Suzie Nakasian. Its location makes it a prime candidate for a performing arts center or movie theater, she said. The City Council hasn’t met yet to talk about the building’s future.

Nakasian, who also leads a folk dancing group that has used the armory for some of its events, said the city will ultimately choose the best idea that drives foot traffic and helps generate revenue for the downtown economy.

Matt McKinney @_mattmckinney



Date set for Byron Smith Supreme Court appeal

Byron Smith will get his day at the state Supreme Court late this summer, court officials announced last week. Attorneys will argue Smith’s murder conviction appeal before the high court panel on Sept. 3.

Smith, a retired U.S. State Department employee, is serving a life sentence for shooting two unarmed teens who broke into his Little Falls home on Thanksgiving Day 2012. He claimed he was scared after previous break-ins and acted in self-defense. Prosecutors portrayed him as a vigilante, continuing to shoot after the intruders no longer posed a threat.

The case became a national flash point as communities debated so-called “castle doctrine” laws and how far a homeowner can go to protect himself and his property.

Smith is asking the court to overturn his conviction or grant him a new trial, arguing his case was riddled with mistakes, including not being allowed to present a complete defense.

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie



City Council says no to backyard chickens

A year after lengthy debate over whether to allow backyard chickens, the Austin City Council voted to drop discussion about such an ordinance — this time after little debate.

It was clear that a rule allowing residents to raise chickens “wasn’t going to fly,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said.

In recent years, cities across the state have begun allowing backyard hens. Many haven’t had issues, Stiehm acknowledged. But “overwhelmingly, the people that contacted me and the other council members were against having chickens in yards,” he said.

So when the issue arose at a recent council work session, the council voted 4-3 against revisiting a potential ordinance, which would have required residents to get a license, keep no more than five hens and get consent from neighboring property owners.

Jenna Ross @ByJenna