December greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Let’s start with the topic of taxes.
2020 property tax increase: Guided by community and council priorities, the St. Louis Park City Manager has proposed a budget of about $34.8 million for 2020, an increase of about $1.64 million, or 4.96%, over last year’s budget. The 2020 budget includes eight new full-time positions to support the city’s building, energy & sustainability functions (3 positions), public safety (2 positions), engineering (1), information technology (1), and race equity (1), as well as increasing two part-time naturalists to full-time to meet anticipated demands of the new Westwood Hills Nature Center facility. Other major budget items include new (non-personnel) investments in support of sustainability ($300,000), which includes the purchase of wind energy to power all city buildings, and race equity ($60,000) as well as debt service payments of about $3.8 million which includes $1.23 million for the ROC & Rec Center and $1 million+ for Connect the Park projects. The budget also reflects about a 3% salary increase for city staff for the continued provision of high-quality core services. You can find more detail on the budget and process here.
While the impact of a 4.96% budget increase on homeowners and renters will vary, for a median value residential property in SLP (valued at $297,900 in 2020), the city’s portion of property taxes will increase by about $65.51, or $5.46 per month.
If you have questions or comments on the city budget, I encourage you to attend the 2020 Truth in Taxation public hearing tomorrow, Dec. 2, at 6:30 pm at City Hall, 5005 Minnetonka Blvd. You can also email me here.
HRA levy: The Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) levy is another, smaller tax, set for 2020 at .0185% of the market value of all taxable properties in the city, unchanged from 2019. What’s new for 2020 is that the bulk of what’s collected through the HRA, which will total an estimated $1.33 million, will be deposited into the city’s new Affordable Housing Trust Fund to support the preservation and creation of more affordable housing in our community. Preserving and creating new affordable housing will meet the needs of individuals and families across the income spectrum that include teachers, health care workers, service industry workers, retail sales workers, and other working individuals and families whose limited incomes prevent them from renting or buying homes in our community. Related: council will be discussing guidelines for the affordable housing trust fund at our December 9 study session.
Half of PLACE project folds: Last month, staff from nonprofit developer PLACE reported they could not successfully complete the southern portion of a proposed major redevelopment project at the future Wooddale SWLRT station near W. 36th Street and Wooddale, due to financing and other challenges. The southern portion was to include a hotel, coffee shop, café, makers space, shared office space, and 50 affordable live/work dwelling units with artist studios. The northern portion of the project is still scheduled to go forward, and includes a 218-unit, mixed-income apartment building, one-acre “urban forest,” bike shop, e-generator facility, and parking accommodations. Staff and council will be exploring options for the southern portion of the parcel, which the city owns, in the coming year.
Sam’s Club purchase agreement: The City Manager reports that Sam’s Club has entered into a purchase agreement with Minnesota-based developer Oppidan. It appears Oppidan is interested in reusing the existing building as retail space with a later phase involving housing on the south side of the site. Watch for more information next month.
The future of city communications: Times are changing, and city communications are changing too. How do you want to hear from your city about issues that affect you? To optimize services to residents, schools, local government and community organizations, the city is hosting professionally facilitated focus group conversations on the future of cable, community media, and technology in SLP. Focus groups will meet in January; sign up here to reserve a spot.
New community mural: Historic Walker Lake is SLP's charming new small business corridor, with an increasingly interesting mix of businesses and other uses located in our city's historic commercial center. The area is going to get even better with the addition of a community-inspired mural that will tell the collective story of the area’s past, present and future. This grant-funded project is being led by the Historic Walker Lake Placemaking Committee and GoodSpace Murals. To provide ideas for what to include in this new public artwork, you’re invited to complete this short survey. Thanks!
Learning with other city leaders: Last month, I and several of my colleagues on the council, as well as city staff, attended the National League of Cities Summit in San Antonio. This annual event brings together local leaders from around the country to explore solutions to pressing issues our communities face. I attended sessions on responsible budgeting; law enforcement and mental health; climate action and climate resilience; civic engagement; neighborhood revitalization; and creating communities people love (a highlight – ask me!). We council members are regular folks working part-time as public servants and benefit from this type of professional development to become the best community leaders we can be.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events in December:
My First Sunday meetup is TODAY, December 2, 3-4:30 pm at the Birchwood Park shelter. Attendees will determine the agenda. All are welcome!
Ugly Sweater Dash (5K run), Sunday, Dec. 8, 5:30 pm, Louisiana Oaks Park. Info here.
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 4-7 pm, West Lake Street & Library Lane. Info here.
Warming houses open on Friday, Dec. 20 (weather dependent). Info here.
“Be the Light” Winter Solstice Walk, Saturday, Dec. 21, 6:30-8 p.m., Westwood Hills Nature Center. Info here.
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.