Archive | July, 2012

Council eases parking requirements

Posted on 15 July 2012 by robwas66

This summer more St. Paul restaurants will be able to seek wine, beer and liquor licenses without having to add off-street parking. On a 5-1 May 23 vote the St. Paul City Council eased its parking requirements for restaurants and bars.

Other business owners, community groups and City Council members continue to debate the ordinance change’s impact. Ward Two Council Member Dave Thune, who cast the lone vote against, said the changes are “a solution in search of a problem.” He said restaurants wanting to add alcohol could apply for parking variances if there is a lack of onstreet parking available.

But Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark, who sponsored the ordinance, said it provides a compromise. He hears from restaurant owners wanting to add wine and beer, who cannot meet the current parking requirements. Stark said the approach taken provides flexibility for businesses while also protecting neighborhoods from noise and behavior issues.

The restaurant and bar parking changes were originally proposed in 2010 as part of a citywide package of off-street parking changes, but were laid over for more study at the council’s request. In June 2011 the Planning Commission asked that the changes be considered again.

Most community groups support the changes, with Union Park District Council, Highland District Council’s Community Development Committee, Hamline Midway Coalition, Grand Avenue Business Association, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Midway Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit community development group Sparc supporting the changes. Summit Hill Association (SHA), a few restaurant and bar owners and several Grand Avenue area residents oppose the changes.

The city has a per-ward cap on the number of on-sale liquor licenses, so those could only be added where licenses are available. It’s expected that most requests will be to add wine and beer to menus.

Currently restaurants require one off-street parking space for every 100 to 125 square feet of total floor area. Additional parking is required for beer, wine and liquor licenses, based on floor space. If a business has an entertainment license, that ratchets up the parking needs.

Under the changes, an establishment with wine, beer or liquor that closes by midnight is a restaurant. Restaurants will need one off-street parking space for every 400 square feet of gross floor area in their establishment. That is the same standard for restaurants that don’t sell alcohol, and for the city’s office and retail uses.

A bar is defined as an establishment that serves alcohol past midnight. Bars will need one offstreet parking space for every 150 square feet of floor area.

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University UNITED plans to downsize

Posted on 15 July 2012 by robwas66

Facing a tough fundraising climate, University UNITED is moving ahead with a plan to downsize and have a virtual office. Community partners were notified of the decision to close the office last month. UNITED, which has led various University Avenue initiatives for more than 35 years, will focus on creation of living-wage manufacturing jobs. UNITED will become a virtual office, shutting down its storefront at 712 University Av. this summer.

According to Board Chair Stuart Alger, budgetary constraints and a challenging fundraising environment are driving the change. The organization will be less dependent on grant funding and more dependent on revenue it generates through development projects. It will operate for a time with volunteers.

The UNITED Board is seeking feedback and suggestions on its new role, and has been contacting community partners to discuss the changes. Area district councils that have long been members of UNITED’s boards have been discussing the proposed change since last year.

Over the past several months UNITED has shut down its various initiatives, including the University Avenue Business Association (UABA) and U-Plan, an urban planning services office. While UABA could continue as an all-volunteer group, the end of U-Plan was seen by many neighborhood groups as a huge loss. U-Plan was involved in a number of initiatives along the Central Corridor light rail line and in community planning processes, including work on plans for Merriam Park in conjunction with the Union Park District Council Parks and Recreation Committee. While the U-Plan documents and resources may go to the Asian Economic Development Association, UNITED has had to find homes for files accumulated over decades.

“It’s the end of one era and the beginning of another,” said UNITED Executive Director Brian McMahon. He and the UNITED Board are working on environmentally friendly or “green” manufacturing proposals for properties in the West Midway, working with the St. Paul Port Authority, property owners and community groups.

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Redistricting plan impacts coming primary Aug. 14

Posted on 15 July 2012 by robwas66


The Aug. 14 primary in St. Paul will see some candidates in the Monitor readership area facing off before the Nov. 5 general election. The 2012 Redistricting Plan has resulted in new voting precincts.

In Senate District 65 there will be a runoff between 3 DFLers. Incumbent Sandy Pappas, Marcus Walker and Tom Goldstein will compete in a primary. The winner of the primary will face Rick Karschnia (R).

A small portion of the west Midway now falls into District 64—and in that race DFL incumbent Dick Cohen will be challenged in a primary by Alexander H. Jeffries — the winner of that race will face Sharon Anderson (R) in the November election.

In State Senate District 66, incumbent John Marty (DFL) will be challenged by Wayde Brooks (R).

Area House races do not have any primary contests.

In 64A incumbent Erin Murphy (DFL) will be challenged by Andrew Ojeda (R). In District 65A, Daniel Lipp (R) will run against incumbent Rena Moran (DFL). In House District 66A, incumbent Alice Hausman (DFL) will be challenged by Dave Thomas (IND) and Mark Fotsch (R). In District 66B, incumbent John Lesch (DFL) will face Ben Blomgren (R).

The election in November is an election of issues as much as candidates, as interest groups attempt to build up support on opposing sides of the constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot.

Whether to require a voter ID and whether to limit marriage to a union between one man and one woman are the amendments that voters will support or deny this fall.

“Our real priority is taking back the House and Senate,” said Carlie Waibel, deputy communications director for the DFL Party. “And the Voter ID and marriage amendments are really in the forefront.” The party supports a No vote on both amendments.

“One of the big things Congressman Keith Ellison is doing is registering voters to get out and vote against both of these amendments,” Waibel said.

She said redistricting did not affect the DFL so much and worked out well for them.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to get candidates elected in all parts of the state,” she added.

Bill Denney, chair of Congressional District 4 for the Independence Party, said redistricting did not affect the operation of the party, keeping their officers in the districts they preside over.

“Our two big issues are the two constitutional amendments,” he said. The party passed two resolutions at its convention June 23 strongly opposing both amendments.

Denney said the Independence Party has formed a coalition with Minnesota United for Families, which supports equal rights in marriage for all, and Our Vote, Our Future, a group opposing Voter ID.

He said the strong opposing views of the major parties offer an opening for the Independence Party.

“What we hope for is that people will realize as the two parties drive each other farther and farther apart, there is so much middle ground to make up,” said Denney. “The extreme polarization works in our favor.”

The Republican Party was contacted for this story, but did not respond. The Republican Party has supported the constitutional amendments.


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Volunteers of America for North End voted down by St. Paul City Council

Posted on 15 July 2012 by robwas66


The Volunteers of America (VOA) must decide its next steps after the St. Paul City Council upheld one appeal and rejected another July 3. The council’s actions prevent VOA from using 1394 Jackson St., a former residential facility, as a halfway house for up to 74 people leaving the federal prison system. The agency could either seek another location or challenge the City Council decision in court.

The City Council memorialized its decision July 11.

VOA has lost its lease at its longtime Roseville facility and needs to move. In June the St. Paul Planning Commission granted VOA a conditional use permit for 32 residents, not the 74 requested. That prompted VOA to appeal that decision. The nonprofit agency’s attorney Tom Johnson called the number “arbitrary” and said it has been “plucked out of the air.” Planning Commission members said they chose the number because the property could have 16 residents under city regulations and 32 was seen as a compromise.

But the council rejected the VOA appeal and upheld a District 6 (North End-South Como) Planning Council appeal asking that the permit simply be denied. The district council representatives said that while they have respect for VOA and its decades of helping federal prisoners transition into society, the Jackson Street site isn’t appropriate.

Ward Five Council Member Amy Brendmoen agreed and praised VOA. But she asked that the District 6 appeal be upheld, saying that the halfway house use isn’t in compliance with area and citywide plans. “District 6 has longstanding concerns about underutilized industrial land,” she said.

The area is poised for redevelopment and that has to be recognized, Brendmoen added.

The nonprofit VOA, which has worked with federal prisoners for 40 years, hoped to operate a residential facility at 1394 Jackson St., south of Arlington Avenue. The organization is losing its lease at its Roseville location and is looking to move.

The proposed new location, just south of the Arlington-Jackson intersection, is zoned industrial and is surrounded by industrial and commercial uses. Years ago it did house a community residential facility for women, Norhaven. More recently is has been used as adult day care, a restaurant and office space. Johnson said that the building is appropriate for VOA’s proposed use and that the institutional use continued into the 1990s. The VOA use would have provided 20 jobs.

VOA representatives, including a man who was able to make a successful transition back into society thanks to the program, said their use is a good fit for the building and the area. VOA Minnesota CEO and President Paula Hart said the nonprofit would pay the city the equivalent of the property taxes for the site, if the program could locate there. If VOA ever left the site, the city would have first right of refusal for the land and it wouldn’t be sold to another community residential facility user.

Hart also pointed out that one in five of the agency’s re-entry clients are from St. Paul.

Opponents said the issue is not VOA but one of land use. District 6 Community Organizer Kerry Antrim said that the plans for the site call for industrial reuse and job creation. “We are clear on job creation, we are clear on keeping our industrial land industrial,” she said.

Attorney Kirsten Libby represented the District 6 Planning Council. She said the project doesn’t meet the city’s standards for a conditional use permit and that the number of residents proposed is a 400 percent increase over what is allowed.

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Linder’s Greenhouse

Linder’s Greenhouse

Posted on 01 July 2012 by robwas66

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