Greetings! Here’s city related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Great turnout for city election: Thanks to the 24.2% of registered voters in SLP who made their voices heard in this year’s city election! That’s a record. Nadia Mohamed will take the helm as Mayor in January as the nation’s first Somali American elected mayor. Mohamed won 58.4% of the vote compared with Dale Anderson’s 41.2%. Paul Baudhuin won the three-way at-large council member race with 55.5% of the vote. School board members Virginia Mancini, C. Colin Cox, Taylor Williams, and Celia Anderson won school board seats, with Saul Eugene a close contender who ran a strong race. Congratulations to all who ran; your desire to serve our city is seen and appreciated. Find results by precinct and other details at the Secretary of State’s website here.
Proposed final levy: Council is preparing to approve an all-inclusive 7.3% levy increase for 2024. Couple things to know: this all-inclusive number looks different, and higher, than what’s historically been shared as the “annual levy increase” because it includes total city taxes from all levies, not just the general levy. Also, because residential home valuation increases in SLP were lower this year than commercial/industrial increases (average .4% increase for a median value home) the impact on individual property owners will be less than the overall property tax increase, with commercial/industrial properties absorbing more. You're invited to share your views on the proposed levy at our annual Truth in Taxation hearing tomorrow, Dec. 4, at 6:30 pm at SLP City Hall.
Grants for trees! Kudos to our city staff who heard council’s request for deeper investments in the city’s tree canopy and recently secured two state grants totaling more than $860,000 for trees. Grant funds will address the impacts of emerald ash borer on private and public property, including planting and caring for replacement trees. Well done city staff!
Where to sell cannabis? Council took a first look at regulating where cannabis products might be sold in the city once sales are allowed by the state, anticipated to be Jan. 1, 2025 or sooner. Like liquor and THC, we’ll take into account factors like proximity to schools, daycares, and other types of businesses. Work is continuing.
Big jump in solid waste collection fees: Get ready for a jump in your utility bills soon. While council selected the lowest-cost bidders to provide solid waste collection services last year, increases in labor costs, facility processing fees and other areas made a significant increase inevitable. To avoid big year-over-year increases for the next five years, and to reduce the overall amount paid in over five years, council authorized “catch up” pricing for the first year of the five-year contract, with normal increases (about 5%) for the remaining four years. The proposed fee changes include a 15.5% or $55 increase in quarterly bills for the median user in 2024, and a 5% or $20 increase in quarterly bills for 2025 through 2028. New rates will start going into effect in April for residential property owners.
More airplane noise coming? It looks like we may experience more air traffic over Ward 1 (and potentially other parts of the city) beginning in the summer of 2025 as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rolls out a new navigation system for departures from MSP airport. Designed to improve safety and efficiency, the system, called RNAV, narrows and concentrates flight paths. SLP is a member of the Noise Oversight Committee (NOC) which is lobbying the FAA to disperse flights (and noise) more equally. The FAA will host public information sessions in Summer 2024; I’ll share information when it’s available. Email Brian Hoffman, the city’s director of building and energy, with questions on this.
Zoning code updates: Chances are city zoning isn’t a topic you spend much time thinking about. The way our city is zoned – single-family, two-family, high-density, etc. – has created conditions we’re used to and may assume arose organically. But in fact, our city’s zoning laws were designed primarily to perpetuate racial and economic segregation. For example, duplexes and smaller lots used to be allowed in low-density residential districts in SLP, but around the time that racial covenants and redlining were banned, SLP’s zoning regulations became more restrictive. In this context, allowing smaller lot sizes and increasing the flexibility of housing types across the city is an opportunity to correct historical wrongs. It’s also an opportunity to provide more affordable housing opportunities throughout the city for all. Staff recently proposed changes to SLP’s zoning code and zoning map as first steps in this process. You can review the detailed report here (it begins on page 79). Stay tuned as council continues to explore this topic, including through community engagement, in the coming months.
Proposed changes to boards & commissions: More than 100 dedicated residents currently serve on a board or commission in St. Louis Park, sharing their talents in service to the city. I’m grateful to them. In recent years, both council and board/commission members have expressed a desire to improve how boards, commissions, and council work together, and to diversify membership. In response, staff completed a series of actions over the past year that culminated in a recommendation from staff, recently shared with council and the community, that effectively eliminates all non-statutory boards and commissions and establishes a single, smaller strategic board that participates in project and topic-based groups throughout the year. While a final proposed structure is still being worked out, I’ve heard concerns from the community, which I share, about this direction for boards and commissions. Do you have thoughts on this topic? Please share them here.
New multifamily housing: Three new housing developments, Corsa, Rise on 7, and Risor, have opened in recent weeks. Combined, they include 540 apartments, 163 of them affordable at 60% AMI or lower, as well as 11,450 feet of retail/commercial spaces and an affordable day care.
Via Sol, pending sale: As it has for years, the Via Sol property developed by nonprofit PLACE continues to evolve, present challenges, and to my mind, disappoint. On Monday council will be asked to approve changes to the construction plan that will create conditions for a new buyer, Bigos Management, to improve lease-up and the project’s overall financial viability. The primary changes being proposed are removing the commercial requirement and adding resident amenities including a swimming pool; removing the requirement for an E-generator, greenhouse facility, and rooftop wind and solar panels, with the expectation that solar panels may still be installed in the near future; and changing rental rates to increase affordability, resulting in 40% of all units being affordable at 60% AMI or lower. If council approves these changes, Bigos intends to close on the deal before the end of December.
Regional bike trail through SLP: Three Rivers Park District’s planned CP Rail Regional Trail is envisioned as a north-south, off-road, multi-use, non-motorized corridor spanning from Crystal to Bloomington. Last month, Three Rivers presented their preferred route (SLP4) for the trail through SLP, part of which along Dakota Avenue in Wards 1 and 3. The 10- to 12-foot wide, grade-separated trail would displace parking and/or trees at certain locations along the route. At a public hearing last month, many residents asked questions and/or expressed their opposition to the preferred route, with some proposing Louisiana Ave. (SLP3) as a better choice for the city long-term. I share many of these concerns and questions. To slow the process and make the best decision, staff has postponed further discussion/approvals to the first quarter of 2024. Three Rivers will post responses to questions and concerns raised at the public hearing here by Dec. 12; feedback is also still being gathered here (scroll down to the bottom) or by emailing here.
City joins class action settlement: Cities across Minnesota, including ours, are joining a class action settlement regarding PFAs chemicals found in public water supplies. The settlements aim to hold corporations, like 3M and DuPont, responsible for contaminating groundwater since the 1950s. Please note that our city water currently tests at or better than EPA standards for PFAs.
No deer kill: Several Lake Forest residents reached out earlier this year to express their frustration with damage from deer, and ask the city to consider population control measures. After thoughtful consideration of all the factors at play, including safety and efficacy, staff have decided not to try and reduce herds at this time. If your trees and landscaping are being damaged by deer, there are many steps you can take. Staff have put together a helpful information sheet with tips on identifying who’s doing the damage (is it deer, voles or rabbits?), protecting tree stems, buying deer resistant plants, using physical barriers and more. Contact our natural resources coordinator Mike Bahe for the full tip sheet or to ask questions. Additional resources can be found here and here.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events:
Truth in Taxation hearing, Monday, Dec. 4, 6:30 pm, St. Louis Park City Hall.
30th Annual Cheesecake Sampling, Toy Drive, and Local Goods Bazaar, Friday, December 8, 4-9 pm, The Shops at West End, 1568 West End Boulevard, SLP. Info here.
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, Monday, Dec. 11, 6 pm, just outside STEP. Enjoy live music, holiday decorations, shop local small businesses and support STEP. Info here.
Storytellers Forum, Thursday, Dec. 14, 6:30 pm, St. Louis Park Library Community Room. SLP resident Frank Freedman’s will share his story, “Why I’m a Lucky Guy.”
Be the Light Winter Solstice Walk, Thursday, Dec. 21, 6:30-8:30 pm, Westwood Hills Nature Center. Join community members to remember those unable “to see the light” because of struggles with mental health or difficult situations. Light a candle in honor or memory of someone who struggles with or struggled with mental health. Registration required; register online 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.