Greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
Safety for our Jewish community: The Israel-Hamas war is touching many people in our community. Here’s a statement prepared by our city staff:
It’s a sad fact that even in the best of times, the Jewish community across the world and here in St. Louis Park needs to be extra vigilant of its safety. This latest terrorist attack and the subsequent war have only increased the anxiety in our community, which is home to a large Jewish population as well as several Jewish schools and synagogues. We know this war is hurting those in St. Louis Park with connections in the region. We also know there are fears that retaliation or violence will come to St. Louis Park.
The St. Louis Park Police Department, along with other city staff and elected officials, has an ongoing partnership and dialogue with the Jewish community in St. Louis Park and in the larger region. With these recent events, police continue to coordinate very closely with local and regional Jewish leadership and with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to help ensure the safety of people and property throughout our community. If you see or hear of a threat, or have any concerns, please report it to the police department’s non-emergency line 952.924.2618.
Reminder to vote: Election Day is November 7, and local leadership is on the ballot. Vote early at City Hall or on Election Day at your precinct polling place. Here’s info on who’s running and where you can vote. Local politics matter, please make time to study the candidates and vote!
Council approves preliminary tax levy: Last month council approved a preliminary tax levy of 7.7%. The final levy can be (and usually is) lower than the preliminary levy, but it can’t be higher. That potential increase looks higher than in previous years because it’s “all-inclusive,” combining three levy increases into one number rather than focusing on only the general levy increase. This change in how the overall increase is discussed and presented to the public was made in the interest of transparency to taxpayers.
It's important to note that a 7.7% increase (or whatever increase is ultimately approved) wouldn’t mean all taxpayers will see their taxes increase by that amount. Rather, taxpayers will see increases (or decreases) in proportion to the change in their property's value. A 7.7% levy increase, for example, would result in an actual property tax increase of 4.3% for the owner of a median value home ($373,300), or about $67 for the year. Industrial and commercial properties grew more in value than residential, so they will bear more of the city’s tax burden in 2024. Council holds its annual Truth in Taxation hearing on December 4 and will adopt the final budget and levies on December 18.
City moratorium on cannabis sales: By now most folks are aware that the Minnesota Legislature has legalized growing, selling, and using cannabis in the state, although legal sales probably won’t start until 2025. Cities can't prohibit legal sales, but they can control where cannabis businesses will be located. Not surprisingly, SLP is already receiving inquiries from people interested in opening up shop here, with interest in specific sites. In order to take a thoughtful approach to where cannabis will be sold in SLP, similar to what we do with other types of businesses, council is enacting a temporary moratorium on cannabis sales in the city, effectively pausing the conversation with potential business owners until more study and planning can be done. The moratorium will provide clarity for people coming into the market and level the playing field between businesses from outside Minnesota positioning themselves to capture the market, and small, local businesses who need more time to develop their plan. The moratorium will automatically end Jan. 1, 2025, or sooner if the planning process is complete.
Luce Line Regional Trail through SLP: I’ve shared in previous updates Three Rivers’ long-range plan to extend the Luce Line trail connection through SLP. Three Rivers has now indicated their preferred route (SLP4) and it runs through Ward 1, along Dakota Avenue. For residents of this stretch, it’s time to pay attention if you haven’t been, there are likely impacts to street parking and/or trees. My understanding is that Council will be asked to approve the preferred route at our Nov. 20 meeting. Here’s where you can share feedback with Three Rivers staff. You can share your views with me here.
New firefighters: The Federal Emergency Management Program (FEMA) has awarded the city a grant that will fund three new full-time firefighter positions for three years. Along with fire suppression, the SLP Fire Department provides emergency medical response, emergency preparedness services, and leads efforts to mitigate the impacts of severe weather, which we anticipate seeing more of in future years. Through the SLP Community Health Alliance, the fire department is also addressing the needs of SLP residents with chronic health issues. By accepting the award, the city commits to continue funding these positions once the grant period ends.
Rock Island zoned a park: Residents have poured a lot of heart and soul into preserving two land parcels in the 2800 block of Toledo, in the Fern Hill neighborhood, as park and open space. The parcels have been owned for years by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and were conveyed to the city earlier this year. Last month, council approved zoning and land use changes for the south parcel, which includes the remnants of historic Rock Island, from Right of Way/Residential to Park/Open Space. No additional action steps for this parcel are currently planned.
Closure on 2022 watermain breaks: It’s been about 1½ years since the watermain break catastrophe that impacted 54 properties in the Texa-Tonka neighborhood. In response to the unprecedented incident, council asked staff to set aside a total of $3M to reimburse residents, up to $80,000 per household if needed, after their other insurance options had been exhausted. The program has ended, and 32 property owners were awarded a total of just over $1M in city funds. The unused funds will be transferred back to the city’s general fund.
New brewery in town: Ullsberger Brewing has opened in the Westwood Shopping Center at the corner of Louisiana and Cedar Lake Road. The 20-seat brewery is owned by SLP resident Dan Ullsberger. I'm looking forward to my first visit!
More sidewalk poetry: Who doesn’t love stumbling upon a poem in the sidewalk? More than 75 residents submitted 114 original poems for the city’s third and most recent sidewalk poetry contest; 13 poems were chosen and have been sandblasted into sidewalks in the Fern Hill neighborhood. The new poems are not yet posted on the city website but you can find a map of other sidewalk poetry installations and public art projects here. A cool resource!
Arrive + Thrive: Being planful is critical in how our community continues to develop. Residents (that’s you) are invited to participate in a planning process currently underway for four important areas within our community – three future light rail station areas (Beltline, Wooddale, and Louisiana) and West Excelsior Boulevard, near the border with Hopkins. Plans for these areas are more than a decade old; much has changed and it’s time to update the plans to better reflect our community’s strategic priorities, current lifestyles, economic conditions and other factors. Phase 2 of the planning process, dubbed "Arrive + Thrive," is currently underway. Find info on how to engage here; note that the online survey is not yet live so check back soon. Upcoming in-person events are in the calendar below and on the city’s website. Please make your views known for the future of our awesome community!
2024 alley reconstruction: Years ago, council made a multi-year commitment to reconstructing alleys in the city, with the goal to improve conditions for plowing, garbage collection, general use and maintenance. Three alley segments in Ward 1 will be reconstructed next year, including a long-awaited segment on the 2800 block of Brunswick. Here’s a map of alleys on the schedule for 2024, which includes alleys in Ward 4. An informational meeting is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 28, 5:30-7 pm in Council Chambers.
The state of housing: Housing is probably the topic I hear about most from residents and one we discuss a lot at council. Housing opportunities have and will continue to define our community going forward – impacting our school district, diversity, equity, livability, and more. Every five years the city contracts with Maxfield Research to report on current housing conditions and future needs. Highlights from the most recent report include a 0% vacancy rate for affordable and subsidized housing and a 1.6% vacancy rate for “Active Adult” (senior living without services). Overall vacancy rate for rental housing is 3.7%, below the area average.
Other points of interest:
Wooddale Station Area developer withdraws: Saturday Properties/Anderson Companies has withdrawn their application for a mixed-use development at the future Wooddale Station, citing market conditions. The city will re-issue a request for developer proposals.
Join the League! The League of Women Voters St. Louis Park (LWV-SLP) is an important group of people in our community, and they need new members. Over the years, the LWV-SLP has played a role in establishing our core city structure, bonding for our park system, adopting ranked choice voting, and so much more. Did you watch or attend the most recent and well-attended candidate forums at City Hall? Thanks to the LWV-SLP for that! Info here.
ParkTV changes: Every 10 years the city renegotiates its contract with our cable provider Comcast. The new agreement will result in the city having two additional HD (high definition) channels. This means some of your favorite broadcasts may be moving to a different channel. Information on the changes can be found at www.parktv.org.
Youth for Change Coalition: Children First is looking for youth to lead in the community on issues like mental wellness, equity, post-secondary enrollment and career readiness as part of the Youth for Change Coalition. Students in grades 9-12 are invited. Info and application here.
Got an extra minute? Check out two sweet videos celebrating our community and its values:
Limitless fun in Minnesota's Sweet Spot (1 minute)
A day in the life of a sustainable St. Louis Park resident (1:45)
Here’s a select list of upcoming events in our community:
Arrive + Thrive Pop-Up Engagement Opportunity, TODAY, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2-5 pm, Steel Toe Brewing.
Arrive + Thrive walking tour of West Excelsior Boulevard gateway area, Monday, Oct. 23, 12-1pm. Meet here (bus stop at the NW corner of Excelsior Blvd & entrance to Methodist Hospital). Info here.
Neighborhood conversation about race and racism, Monday, Oct. 23, 6:30-8 pm, Birchwood Park shelter. SLP’s Hope Speaks Project will facilitate an honest, open, personal, and engaged experience for all attendees. Space still available; reserve your spot here.
Community Poetry Jam, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 6-7:30 pm, St. Louis Park Library. Come out and share your original poetry with the community! Hosted by St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts.
Arrive + Thrive Engagement Opportunity, Louisiana Ave. Area Business Focus Group, Monday, Oct. 30, 4:30-5:30pm, Loffler Companies, 3745 Louisiana Ave.
SLP Senior Program Community Craft Fair, Saturday, Nov. 4, 10-3 pm, Lenox Community Center. Info here.
Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7. Polls open 7am-8pm. Info here.
Community Storytelling Forum, Thursday, Nov. 9, 6:30 pm, SLP Library. Tom Schoenberger of Westside Wine & Spirits will share his journey to become co-owner this cool store in the revitalized Texa-Tonka Shopping center. All are welcome.
St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts Annual Fundraiser, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5-7pm, Warehouse Winery. Give some love and support to our community arts partner! Info here.
2024 Alley Reconstruction Project Open House, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 5:30-7pm, SLP City Hall.
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, Monday, Dec. 11, 6 pm, just outside STEP, 6812 W. Lake St. Mark your calendars for this fun annual event which raises money for the St. Louis Park Emergency Program. Entertainment from 6:15-6:45. 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.