October greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
2020 Voting & Election Updates: Early voting is off the charts this year in SLP, with 21,559 voters requesting absentee ballots as of last Thursday, compared with a total 8,908 early voters in the 2016 Presidential Election. As a reminder, in addition to voting by mail (request a ballot here), any SLP voter can vote early in person at City Hall through Nov. 2 (days & hours here), and in person at their precinct polling place (find it here) between 7 am-8 pm on Election Day. Absentee ballots can also be dropped off at City Hall through 3 pm on Election Day. You can check the status of your absentee ballot and confirm it will be counted here. SLP Elections staff predict the number of people voting early in person will double by Nov. 2; vote soon to avoid lines. Here's an FAQ on early voting; find much more elections information at the city's website here. Thank you for voting!
Covid-19 on the rise in SLP: The Minnesota Department of Health reports a recent uptick in Covid-19 cases and deaths in our community. In the past week, 92 SLP residents have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and 5 people have died from Covid-19; since January, 1,001 people in SLP have been confirmed positive and 47 have died. Here's where you can get daily situation updates on Covid-19, including cases in PreK-12 school buildings (none in SLP) and congregate care facilities with exposure (several in SLP).
Ped-bike bridge project approved: Council unanimously approved authorization of contracts for the new Dakota-Edgewood Trail Bridge over the BNSF railroad tracks near Peter Hobart Elementary School last month. Project costs will be spread out over 20 years, reducing the annual impact on taxpayers, a strategy I support given current low interest rates and the fact that this infrastructure project will benefit both current and future taxpayers. Groundbreaking is set for Oct. 19.
Preliminary tax levy: Council voted 4-3 last month to set the city's 2021 preliminary tax levy at 6.11%. I was one of the three opposed, favoring an increase of 4.5% or lower given the economic challenges many residents are facing. It's important to note that the preliminary levy is the maximum amount by which taxes can be raised in the coming year; staff and council fully expect the final approved levy amount will be lower than 6.11%. It's also important to note that valuation increases citywide in both residential and commercial properties impact how any increase translates into actual dollars. For owners of a median value home in SLP ($297,800 in 2021), a 6.11% levy increase translates to an additional $37/year in the city portion of their property taxes. For a home valued at $254,600, the increase would be $57/year because the value of lower-priced homes increased more than median-priced homes. For a home valued at $398,000, the increase would be about $69/year. Council has also requested information on the estimated impact of these increases on renters, who make up nearly half of all residents. Proposed increases in both utility and franchise fees mean most households will also pay an additional $87/year to fund city services in 2021. Council will set the final levy on Dec. 21; our annual Truth in Taxation hearing is set for Dec. 7. Check the city website budget page for information on how to participate as the date draws nearer.
New housing options: Council recently approved the first reading of an ordinance allowing homeowners to create accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, and rent them out for long-term residential use. ADUs, sometimes called mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses, are growing in popularity nationwide as an additional tool in the toolbox of creative housing solutions. Our ordinance will allow ADUs to be built within the footprint of an existing home, as an add-on to an existing home, in place of or over a garage, or freestanding in a back yard. Numerous restrictions apply to reduce impacts on neighboring properties including a minimum 15-foot setback if the property abuts another backyard and prohibition of short-term rental. A second reading is set for October 19 with the expectation that the ordinance will go into effect in November. Here's more info on ADUs including many photos and images of what they look like and here's a link to the City's website page about ADUs.
Walker Lake keeps getting cooler! Exciting new design guidelines have been proposed for Historic Walker Lake that complement the area’s unique character while promoting a stronger sense of place and increased investment. Proposed land use and zoning changes will encourage a variety of uses including micro-distilleries, breweries, restaurants, vendor markets, and second-floor residences. When the future Wooddale Light Rail Station begins operations in 2023, this revitalized commercial area is likely to become a popular destination for both residents and non-residents. Look here for photo representations of what the area ideally might look like in the future.
New multi-use trails along Ottowa Avenue and Beltline Boulevard: To improve safety and convenience for walkers and bikers to the future Beltline Boulevard Light Rail Station, staff has proposed changes to the area around the station that council is expected to approve later this month. Most notable include a new multi-use trail (for bikes and walkers both) along the west side of Ottawa Avenue between Minnetonka Blvd. and CR 25, and an additional multi-use trail along the west side of Beltline Boulevard between CR 25 and 36th Street. I'm excited about these improvements, which were informed by significant community input. Find details on all the proposed improvements here.
Police Department: We are currently engaged in a healthy and respectful dialogue with the police chief and deputy chief about a variety of topics with the shared goal to provide the best possible service to our community. PD has begun posting additional information to the city's website including weekly police report summaries and use of force reports that include data on race. Constructive conversations between council and the police department are ongoing.
Aldersgate Church for sale: The church, located at 3801 Wooddale Ave. S., will be listed at $2.3M.
Here's a select list of upcoming events:
Thai Sunday Market: Today, Oct. 11, 11am-6pm. Support a Ward 1 cultural community hub while enjoying authentic Thai food and culture! Info here.
Food Truck Night at Muddy Paws Cheesecake: Thursdays, 4:30-7:30 pm through October 23. Locally owned business Muddy Paws Cheesecake is hosting food trucks in their parking lot to bring the community together and support small business. This coming Thursday 10/15 will be Bad Rooster Food Truck. Come on out for dinner & dessert! Info here.
Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival: Oct. 15-Nov. 1. Online and entirely free this year! Featuring Jewish-themed narrative, documentary, and short films from around the world. Visit: www.tcjfilmfest.org for a list of movies and to register for a free all-festival pass.
Dakota-Edgewood Trail Bridge Groundbreaking: Oct. 19, 5:30-6 pm, Dakota Park. Info here.
SLP Art-Walk in the Park: Through Oct. 22. Forty works of art by local creatives are on display along St. Louis Park trails. The remaining schedule is as follows: Westwood Hills Nature Center, now through October 15; Aquila Park/North Cedar Lake Trail Oct. 17-22. More info and photos here.
SLP Arts & Culture grant deadline: Nov. 1. Grants averaging $4,000 will be awarded for new arts programs and projects that support community pride, connect artists and the community, and engage people in creative learning. Projects must take place within the city in 2021. Info and application here.
Thanks for reading, be well, and 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.