... Faces Restaurant Entertainment License The City Council issued Faces Restaurant an enter-tainment license on July 3rd after the owner met with several residents of On the Park Condos and agreed to some conditions aimed at reducing noise in their shared atrium.
West Side Flats
The City Council and the HRA also created a TIF district for the West Side Flats on July 3rd.
Theft Bait Cars to Police
The National Insurance Crime Bureau donated a theft bait car to the Saint Paul police department on July 11th.
Dusty Thune's Movie Premiere
Port Authority Buys Gillette Building in Lowertown
We're getting a ballpark!! On July 18th, the City Council authorized a land swap with the Port Authority. The Port’s land at the Gillette site in Lowertown was swapped for the City’s Municipal Ballpark in Midway, thus setting the stage for a possible new Saints Ballpark in Lowertown. In related news, Saints owner Mike Veeck has signed a union card check agreement for the new site.
Schmidt Brewery Final Plats
The City Council approved new final plat maps for the Schmidt Brewery development project on July 18th. Councilmember Dave Thune was honored to sign the plat maps personally. The property will be owned by three different owners instead of the single owner of the land since Fort Road’s earliest days. Dominium Development will own the artists lofts in the Castle and Bottle House. Fort Road Federation will own the Admin Building (Rathskeller) and Keg House. Bruce Hendry will own the industrial buildings at the rear of the property. The City Council also accepted a Metropolitan Council Livable Cities grant of $400,000 for the Schmidt Brewery development on August 8th. Expect a big announcement toward the end of October.
Low-Income Housing Trust Fund
Thune led the first Housing Trust Fund working session to gather ideas on how to spend the $2 million allocated to the Housing Trust Fund along Central Corridor. The HRA also heard from Prof. Prentiss Cox about Home-Owner/ Lender mediation.
Neighborhood STAR Grants and Loans
On July 18th the City Council approved the 2012 Neighborhood STAR grant and loan recipients. The Number One grant/loan recipient in the entire city was J.W. Hulme Company that received a 50/50 grant and loan for interior and exterior improvements to their manufacturing facility on West 7th Street that will allow them to implement a collaborative job training program. If you have never seen their messenger bags or iPad holders, you have to stop by their facility or visit their website at .
Other Ward 2 STAR grant/loan recipients were: (b) Northwestern Fruit, (c) Golden’s Deli, (d) Schmidt Rathskeller that received a $400,000 loan to renovate 20,000 square feet for offices, retail and banquet facilities, (e) Neighborhood Energy Connection, which received a $250,000 grant to buy down low and moderate income homeowners loans for energy efficiency improvements in their homes citywide, (f) Pretty Smart Bakery Café, which received a grant and loan to renovate vacant space in Lowertown into a full-service bakery/restaurant, (g) Merrick on the Move, which received a $200,000 grant to relocate Merrick Center from its current location in Railroad Island, and (h) the Friends of Saint Paul Baseball, which received a $1.5 million grant to assist in design and construction of the Saint Paul Regional Ballpark in Lowertown.
Altogether, $2.6 million in grants and another $1.15 million in loans were awarded; leveraged and matched by $20.2 million in investments from the recipients.
Summit Hill Community Garden
Skyway ADA Issues?
Pat walked the skyway system with a consultant on emergency egress and ADA. He pointed out about five violations with our emergency exit doors in the skyway. The issue was referred to DSI and the Skyway Governance Committee.
Curbside Compost Recycling
Ward 2 has been receiving phone calls supporting curbside compost pick-up – including one from Dave’s lovely wife Sue.
Mazatlan's Liquor License Re-revoked
On July 25th, the City Council re-revoked Mazatlan’s liquor license for failure to maintain mandated insurance coverage for one full month while they were under a stay of imposition of the earlier revocation. Mazatlan is still appealing the original revocation in Ramsey County court. The Department of Safety and Inspections is developing a process to re-sell the liquor license. Each ward in the City has a limit on the number of liquor licenses that can be sold; this license is the only one still available in Ward 2. All the remaining allotment of Ward 2 liquor licenses are in the hands of active bars, bar & grills, and restaurants with full liquor service.
Children's Museum Expansion
Thune met with former Councilmember Pat Harris and Diane Kirz from the Children’s Museum about the museum’s future expansion plans. Dave is very supportive of their concept.
Council Gives Green Light to Ramsey County I-Net
The City Council voted to accept the staff recommendation to lease dark fiber from Ramsey County’s planned I-Net public internet network on August 1st. Overall the staff concluded, after an extensive study, that I-Net will be cheaper, offers the longest term stability, provides the most flexibility, offers benefits from inter-governmental cooperation and service sharing, and provides the greatest ease for future expansion.
Non-Conforming Use and Conditional Use Petitions
For all those neighbors who have had to sign petitions for a nonconforming use, a variance, or a conditional use permit for a business or home that wants to build or open something not allowed in the zoning district, the Planning Commission is relaxing the zoning laws. It also affects the current ability to deconvert a duplex carved out of a single family home after that home is vacant for 365 days. At present, 67% of your neighbors have to sign a petition to allow something that is not allowed in the zoning district. Many of your neighbors most likely worked to put that zoning classification into place to begin with. The Planning Commission has a proposal working its way to the City Council to change the number of signatures from 67% to a simple majority of 51%, or 20 signatures, whichever is less.
These amendments to the zoning ordinances are opposed by Summit Hill Association, Fort Road Federation, Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association, and District 5 Planning Council in Ward 2.
Gordon Parks Centennial Celebration in 2013
Xcel Energy Construction Project on 5th Street
Xcel Energy is starting a construction project on 5th Street this fall and next spring. Many of you downtown and in Dayton’s Bluff may have noticed an unusually large number of power outages this year. The age of their “feeder line” and increased electric demand downtown have conspired to cause periodic failures. Xcel will be upgrading their “feeder line” and conductors to handle the higher electrical traffic loads by mid-2013.
Cossettas Opening Soon
Cossettas construction project is drawing to a close. They withdrew their appeal of the stormwater retention requirements for new construction. They took another look at alternate solutions and decided on a new engineering plan that meets 100% of the stormwater retention requirements of the water shed. It’s always good when problems work themselves out.
Saint Paul Hits Tax-Increment Financing Ceiling
Dave received a briefing from the heads of Planning & Economic Development (PED) and Office Services (our bean counters) on the TIF debt ceiling the City of Saint Paul is bumping into. Many City Councils over many years have set a policy of staying below a ceiling of 10% of taxable valuation to be outstanding in TIF debt at any point in time. This has allowed the City to retain its good rating with credit agencies.
To Tax and To Please, No More Than to Love and Be Wise, Is Not Given to Men
Now that property taxes are due again, Ward 2 has been receiving call about why property values are going down, but property taxes are going up. Last year, Saint Paul had a 0% tax levy increase. But that tax is an amount levied on properties overall in the whole city. If all property values went down equally, then the taxes attributable to the City of Saint Paul could stay the same and hit that same dollar levy amount.
But not all property values went down equally. Some dropped by 300% to 400% and some went down by 20% to 30%. The properties that went down by 400% will pay much less and the properties that went down by 20% will actually see a small increase.
But that was not the only change that happened last year. The legislature has historically given some money back to municipalities in the form of homestead credits, and savings were passed on to taxpayers. The State of Minnesota has paid to reduce homestead property tax rates since the Minnesota Miracle in 1968. Last year, the Republican Legislature eliminated homestead credits and replaced it with a Homestead Exclusion. This program replaces the money the state used to pay to reduce taxes on low-value homes with money that comes from high value homes in the same municipality. It does this by “excluding” some market value on low value homes. Since the municipality levies a certain dollar amount of taxes on all property overall, when some properties have value excluded, other properties that don’t have the exclusion are levied a higher rate to reach that overall levy dollar amount.