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Monitor in a Minute October 2019

Posted on 17 October 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Jane McClure

* Online only article
Business could lose licenses
Steps are underway to revoke city licenses for a troubled Hamline-Midway convenience store and gas station. The Midway BP Amoco at 1347 W. University Ave. has been a trouble spot in recent years, with crimes ranging from shootings to loitering. One person died in a shooting this past summer.
A licensing hearing is planned for Nov. 11 at City Hall. Staff from the city’s Police Department and Department of safety and Inspections have called the business uncooperative, as city requests for surveillance tapes and other information have gone unanswered.
The latest effort is to take away the tobacco sales and gas station city licenses, which is driving the upcoming hearing process. A recommendation on the licenses would eventually go to the St. Paul City Council, which would then hold another hearing.
Business owner Khaled Aloul, who owns other twin Cities area gas station-convenience stores, is fighting the city’s plans. Aloul in recent years has tried to do a major renovation of the business. if those plans are thwarted the business could be in jeopardy. Under a sweeping University Avenue rezoning plan adopted by the city in 2010, a new gas station-convenience store at the property likely wouldn’t allowed.
Aloul has a long history of battling with city officials. Illegal tobacco sales, shots fired calls, property code violations weapons and large late-night and early-morning gatherings outside of the business are among the many complaints about the business.
Hamline Midway Coalition is collecting comments on the business in preparation for the hearing, athttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XRNTL5Z?fbclid=IwAR1e8EEhbcs6Ic1rYPbagsCbyIkOzh3-UnbJf4UvBRxI-nf-UhpUS8aAjhk
The survey asked respondents eight questions, including what if any activities they have witnessed at the business and what they’d like to see in the area there in the future. Comments are due by early November and as of late September more than 200 comments had been logged.

Peddler license dispute resolved
A Minnesota State Fair peddler license dispute dating from 2018 has been resolved. The St. Paul City Council Sept. 25 took final action on an issue involving a vendor violating city regulations on where to sell products.
Vendor Todd L. Grosklags was seen in August 2018 selling fair tickets at the corner of Snelling Avenue and Midway Parkway. That violated a regulation that sales not take place within 25 feet of a corner. Two instances of improper sales were observed within a six-day period. Grosklags got a warning for the first sale and was cited for the second sale.
The case went to the City Council but was then sent to an administrative law judge at the state level. A hearing was set for July but Grosklags never showed up. that brought a default ruling in favor of the city.
City officials in recent years have cracked down illegal instance of peddling around the Minnesota state fair, in response to neighborhood complaints.

Tobacco regulations must wait
Activists who want St. Paul retailers to raise the legal tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 may have a longer wait to get such a restriction enacted. Following a September 3 public hearing Council Member Dai Thao amended his proposed ordinance.
One change Thao made, which would remove penalties against underaged purchasers of tobacco products, is considered to be a substantive change. That means renotification of affected store owners and a second public hearing are needed. That will be held in mid-October.
More than three dozen people attended hearings on two Thao proposals. One would raise the legal minimum age to enter a liquor store from 18 to 21. That ordinance won approval Sept. 11. The second, more controversial ordinance, would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco, tobacco-related devices and similar products from 18 to 21.
More than 40 people, including youth activists and e-cig store owners, attended the hearing. Several young people said that strict regulations are needed especially against vaping. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.
Central High student Hayat Fathi described to the council how one of her schoolmates became very ill from vaping. Fathi said vaping is widespread at her school and among her peers. She described how pencil bags are used to conceal the small devices.
“Every bathroom at my school has a subtle fruit smell” because of vaping, she said.
Half a dozen people who own or work at stores that sell vaping equipment and supplies spoke against the ordinance. While agreeing that criminal penalties against minors should be removed, speakers said the ordinance unfairly targets their stores. They said online sales, with supplies that make users sick, should be the focus.
Jacob Bernstein is a co-owner of Imperial Vapor, 227 N. Snelling Ave. he said vaping is a way for people to stop smoking tobacco products and that has to be considered. He and other speakers described starting smoking as teenagers and then switching to vaping.
Bernstein and other store owners and employees said they don’t sell products to people who are underage. They also questioned why vaping products are regulated in the same way that tobacco products are.

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Monitor In A Minute

Monitor In A Minute

Posted on 11 April 2015 by Calvin

Compiled by Jane McClure

Green Line access still a concern

IOC11_14_GreenLineGreen Line light rail is a welcome transportation option for people with disabilities, with easy boarding of trains and space for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. But cracked and pothole-ridden sidewalks, steep slopes, views blocked by tall plantings and gaps between rails and concrete make getting to and from the trains a challenge. In a few places, fire hydrants and light poles placed in the middle of sidewalks make traveling a challenge.

Ways to address those concerns were outlined Mar. 11 in a report released by the District Councils Collaborative (DCC). More than 40 people reviewed the report and saw a video, “The First: Last Mile”, demonstrating the difficulty of accessing some rail stations.

The DCC, which is made up of St. Paul district councils and neighborhood organizations along the rail line, studied walkability in 2011-2012. The walkability studies covered north-south streets several blocks north and south of rail stations. Reports were done for each station area. DCC Executive Director Carol Swenson said that evolved into a more in-depth study focused on access for people with disabilities.

“We received sharp criticism from the disability community, that the studies hadn’t done enough to address access,” Swenson said. About 9,050 people with disabilities live within a few blocks of the Green Line. Many live downtown and others live in the seven Public Housing Agency buildings in adjacent neighborhoods. Studies for September 2014 showed that more than 1,000 people with disabilities use five of the stations, with 2,000 using Central Station in downtown St. Paul.

Kjensmo Walker, a person with disabilities, helped with the study. She said access needs to be broadly understood and that meeting federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines “only scratches the surface” in terms of what accommodations are needed.

One issue the DCC will work on is that of having a place where accessibility complaints can be made, so that those issues can be responded to quickly. Another is to tie into city, county and state plans for transportation and accessibility, and to work with Metro Transit on proposed transit and transit shelter improvements.

Snelling detours set

When Snelling Ave. mill and overlay work, as well as Interstate 94 bridge redecking, gets underway, traffic will be detoured. The St. Paul City Council voted unanimously in March to approve detour routes and road wear and tear compensation from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). MnDOT is involved because Snelling Ave. is a state highway.

Construction gets underway this spring and motorists should watch for signs. The construction area is from Pierce Butler Rte. to Selby Ave.

St. Paul will be compensated $17,315.29 for the “consumption of road life” caused by the detours. The routes posted for detours will be Minnehaha, Prior, and Cretin Ave./Vandalia St. The routes total less than three miles.

Truck weights of up to 9-ton axle loads will be permitted on the detour routes.

The state will handle signage, put up and remove any needed traffic control devices, paint roadway markings and take other steps to control traffic on the detours. MnDOT will also do any street patching as needed during the detour

Brake noise regulated

Noisy “jake brakes,” or compression release engine brakes, have long drawn complaints throughout St. Paul. The devices are used to slow down large trucks, but their noise is disruptive. The St. Paul City Council voted Mar. 18 to ask the Minnesota Legislature to to give St. Paul the authority to prohibit the use of air compression engine brakes on all city freeways, highways, and streets.

The name “jake brake” is used because many of the systems are made by the Jacobs Company. The brakes are used for slowing down on steep grades, or for quick stops. Use of the brakes means being able to shift from highway speeds to a complete stop and back very quickly.

There have been complaints in area neighborhoods about the brakes, along truck routes and the freeway. State Sen. FoUng Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, is revving up the issue at the capitol. Hawj’s district includes I-94, where the noise has drawn complaints.

The City Council resolution states that according to one manufacturer of compression release engine brakes, the decibel level is between 96 and 100 decibels. As a comparison, in St. Paul, rock concerts are limited to 85 decibels.

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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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