Former Holiday Station site for sale, update on Rock Island parcels, new police chief named, and more
Huge interest in vacant council seat: A whopping 24 people submitted applications for the council seat that councilmember Larry Kraft will vacate at the end of December, a year before his term officially ends. Larry was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives last month and will be sworn in Jan. 3. Over the next few weeks my colleagues and I will review applications, interview applicants, and do the hard job of choosing one person from a pool of engaged residents to fill the remainder of Larry's term. Here’s a list of residents who applied.
Related: A farewell party for Larry is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 19, at 7:30 pm (or whenever the council meeting ends) in the Community Room at City Hall. All are welcome!
Minnetonka Boulevard design approved with tweaks expected: Earlier this month council approved the county-recommended design for reconstruction of Minnetonka Boulevard from France Avenue to Hwy 100. Reconstruction includes new multi-use trails, boulevards, street trees, a reduction in traffic lanes from 4 to 3, and other improvements including potential undergrounding of utility poles. Staff is committed to addressing resident concerns including the potential for increased traffic on Joppa Avenue and access barriers to Yum! Restaurant and Bakery as the design phase moves from 30% to 100% complete over the next year. The total project cost is estimated to be $21.72 million, including $8.61 million in city funds and $13.11 million in county and federal funds. More info on the project here.
Promoting equity in development: Women and people of color have long faced discrimination and disadvantages in employment and business, including development-related employment and business, creating barriers to the wealth building opportunities that construction, banking, architecture, legal services, and other professions can provide. To put our city muscle behind systemic changes, council recently approved a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy for developers who request financial assistance from the City. The policy includes target goals for participation by women and people of color in all aspects of development.
We have a new police chief: Former St. Louis Park Deputy Police Chief Bryan Kruelle has been selected to replace former Chief Mike Harcey, who retired Dec. 16 after 31 years with the city. Kruelle has been with the City for 18 years and played a critical role in developing and implementing the department’s effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Congratulations Chief Kruelle!
2023 tax levy: This week, council is expected to approve an overall 6.83% increase in the city portion of property taxes for 2023, the combined impact of three levies (General, HRA, EDA). While I’ll likely vote in favor of at least two of the levies, I remain genuinely concerned about the year-over-year impact of tax increases on certain populations including seniors on fixed incomes. Combined with the school district levy, which I supported, the property tax burden on some residents is significant and worrisome. If your tax bill will increase by more than 12% in 2023 you may be eligible for relief; you can find information on state tax relief programs here. I’ll continue to look for ways we can lighten the tax burden on residents while maintaining the high level of service that's a hallmark of our community.
Opportunity for resident voice: Did you know? Members of the public can request items related to the city’s strategic priorities or other items of community concern be placed on a city council agenda. Requests must be submitted to the city clerk’s office at least two weeks prior and will first be reviewed by city staff, who will attempt to address or resolve the question or issue prior to it being added to an agenda. Important for residents to know.
Groundwater plume advisory group: The Highway 100/CR 3 groundwater plume has a long and complex history in SLP, beginning with contamination that occurred decades ago in the Historic Walker Lake area and continuing to today with the plume-affected area recently named a Superfund site. Last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted interviews with SLP and Edina community members to hear their engagement and information preferences, and this month the EPA published a community involvement plan based on what they learned. The EPA will host an information session in early 2023 for people who may want to create a community advisory group to continue the work. Here's where you can stay updated and get involved.
New business in town: Family-owned jewelry business LeoDaniels opened their first brick-and-mortar store late last month in the former Rodeo Drive space at 4110 Minnetonka Blvd. I’m always glad to see new business activity along the Minnetonka Boulevard corridor and hope we see more in the years to come.
Former Holiday Station site listed for sale: I used to love the old Roger’s gas station at 5430 Minnetonka Blvd., which became a Holiday station in the early 2000's. I know a lot of others did too! The station was closed in 2014 to accommodate the expansion of Hwy 100 and the replacement of the Minnetonka Blvd. bridge, and in 2017 the building was demolished. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) owns the vacant site. With access to the site now limited to residential Vernon Ave., council approved a zoning change earlier this year from commercial to residential. This month, MNDOT added the vacant parcel to their property sales website. Bid opening is March 21, 2023. More info here.
Update on Rock Island and surrounds: After a years-long wait, MNDOT has finally, officially, offered to convey to the City two land parcels in Ward 1 they consider excess right-of-way, in the 2800 block of Toledo along Hwy. 100. Many residents refer to this area as Rock Island. The south parcel is being offered free to the city on the condition it remain a public park. The north parcel is being offered to the city at market value without restrictions on its use. Council will discuss next steps in early 2023 with a May deadline to report back to MnDOT. Here’s a link to the council packet that includes a staff report and map (page 78). I heard from many residents about your vision for these parcels and have them in mind as we discuss next steps.
Mayor’s Monarch Pledge: The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) reports western monarch populations have declined more than 99% in recent years due to loss of habitat, pesticide use, climate change, and other factors. Earlier this year SLP joined hundreds of other communities across North America in committing to create habitat for the monarch and other pollinators and educating residents about how they can make a difference. Our report to NWF was recently approved; you can read about the actions we committed to here.
$1K fine for underage THC sales: I’ve written quite a bit about the city’s new THC licensing ordinance, which council approved last month, but here’s an addendum that may be of interest. Prior to approving the ordinance, council voted to increase the fine for underage sales from $500 to $1,000 for a first violation, and from $1,000 to $2,000 for a second violation. The ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2023.
Investing in water quality: Northside Park and Lamplighter Pond will see activity in 2023 related to water quality improvement in the Twin Lakes subwatershed, which is connected to the Chain of Lakes. A large underground filtration system will be constructed in Northside Park to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff. Upstream from Northside Park is Lamplighter Pond, a popular community fishing spot where the carp population is increasing along with accumulated sediment, driving poor water quality. Total cost for these projects is about $610,000, $360,000 of which will be funded by Lifetime Fitness through an escrow set up in 2018 as a required component of their building expansion.
Redo Cedar Lou–your input wanted: The city is planning improvements to Cedar Lake Road and Louisiana Avenue beginning in 2023 and seeking public input. Here’s the project page. Comments will be taken until Jan. 8.
Missed garbage/recycling pickup? I’ve received quite a few messages lately from residents about missed garbage and recycling pickups. Companies are short staffed which makes staying on top of it all challenging. It’s okay to contact me or city staff when your pickup is missed, but the most direct route is to contact Waste Management directly at 763.783.5423 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also bookmark this link and check it when you notice your block or neighborhood hasn’t had a collection to find out when they’ll be coming.
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch!
I send out a monthly summary of city-related news to Ward 1 residents and interested others, posted here. If you’d like to receive it via email, let me know here.