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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Monitor In A Minute Jan. 2019

Posted on 13 January 2019 by Calvin

Compiled by JANE MCCLURE

City losing patience over 694 N. Snelling building
A lack of information about building plans, timelines, and finances has had city officials going back and forth with the owners of 694 N. Snelling Ave. The property owners Dec. 6 reached the end of a 180-day period to get needed building rehabilitation work done. But the owners and contractor didn’t attend a Dec. 27 legislative hearing and had until Jan. 8 to submit more detailed information. Otherwise, the city’s legislative hearing officer was poised to recommend rescinding $1,000 of a $5,000 performance bond.

The St. Paul City Council Jan. 9 voted to lay over the recommendation until Jan. 16. Renovations can still move ahead.

Photo right: Monitor archive file from fall 2018)

The building has been vacant since 2012 and is considered a nuisance property by some neighbors. Its owners have had 17 summary abatement calls over the past six years, for snow and ice-covered sidewalks, the need to board the building, graffiti and other issues.

Last year city officials issued a remove or repair order for the building. In July 2018 the City Council gave the owners 180 days to get building renovations done. Such a period is allowed if a property owner can show the financial ability to repair a building and submit detailed timeline and construction documents.

A former restaurant, the building has an estimated market value of $254,800 on the land and $317,900 on the building. The building has been undergoing renovations over the past several months and has been renamed Pho Pasteur.

Owners Nam M. Ho and Le M. Ho didn’t attend the legislative hearing last month. They did submit additional documents to city officials. But more documentation is needed, according to city staff. The city is seeking a specific timeline for when work will be completed, and also wants to see proof that the developers can pay for the work.

City officials estimate it would cost more than $125,000 to repair the building and about $40,000 to knock it down.

Minnetronix Medical can seek loan for Energy Park expansion
Minnetronix Medical Inc. is getting city assistance to seek a Minnesota Investment Fund loan. The St. Paul City Council approved the funding application Dec. 19, 2018.

The medical technology company is planning an approximately 34,000 square-foot expansion of its facility at 1645 Energy Park Dr. The project has an estimated cost of $19 million to support the creation of at least 120 new full-time jobs in three years.

The Minnesota Investment Fund provides loans to businesses that create or retain high-paying, full-time permanent jobs, and invest in machinery or real property improvements. The city will act as the sponsor for the loan application. It was submitted last month and if received, will be administered by the city’s Department of Planning and Economic Development.

City Council members praised the company, formerly known simply a Minnetronix, for its work to provide good-quality, well-paying tech jobs in St. Paul. The funds are allocated by the state.

Pet shop restrictions passed
Sale of dogs and cats at pet shops will be prohibited in St. Paul, as a result of an ordinance adopted unanimously Dec. 12, 2018, by the St. Paul City Council. The intent is to discourage the sale of animals from large-scale commercial pet breeding operations, known as “puppy mills” and “kitten mills.” The operators are often accused of breeding animals in poor conditions. Many pets from these breeders have health and behavioral problems that come at a high cost to the animals and their new owners.

The “humane pet store ordinance” was authored by Ward Two Council Member Rebecca Noecker. It is similar to almost 300 other city ordinances around the nation.

The ordinance doesn’t affect pet supply stores that work with rescue groups to host adoption days and spotlight animals who need new homes. This kind of collaboration with animal shelters, animal rescues, and animal control authorities will still be allowed. The animals in these circumstances need to be more than eight weeks old.

A Dec. 5 public hearing drew dozens of calls and emails to council members, with some attaching pictures of rescued puppy mill dogs to their emails. Several dozen ordinance supporters, including representatives of the Animal Humane Society and animal rescue groups including area group Feline Rescue, attended the hearing. They were joined by pet owners who have adopted animals from disreputable breeders.

Kathy Mock, who leads government affairs for the Animal Humane Society, said the conditions animals are bred and raised in can be “heartbreaking.” The society has four locations, including one in St. Paul, and three full-time agents who work on mistreatment and cruelty cases.

“We do see a number of medical and behavioral issues” with animals bred in poor conditions by commercial breeders, said Dr. Graham Brayshaw, a veterinarian and director of animal services at the Animal Humane Society. Another health issue speakers raised is that ill animals can pass along diseases to humans.

Only one person testified against the ordinance. Kristin Smith owns Four Paws and a Tail, a Blaine pet shop she describes as the last of its kind in the Twin Cities. “A lot of these ordinances are passed on feelings, rather than facts.” Her store works with reputable breeders, and while it isn’t directly affected by the St. Paul regulations, Smith is concerned about the impacts such an ordinance will have on anyone wishing to operate a pet store in St. Paul.

The council also received a letter of opposition from the American Kennel Club, which doesn’t want to see reputable dog breeders penalized.

Although a handful of St. Paul stores specialize in reptiles, fish or birds, St. Paul currently has no traditional pet shops where an array of creatures and pet supplies are sold. The last remaining shop, Petland in SunRay Center on the East Side, closed in February. That store had drawn numerous complaints about ill animals and concerns about the conditions in which dogs and cats sold there were bred.

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