Maplewood City Council Meeting
City Hall, Council Chambers, February 12, 2006
Really Quite Unofficial Notes by JN
After the usual pledge of allegiance, etc., the meeting began.
D. APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Mayor Diana Longrie had these additions to the agenda:
1. Police Chief Thomalla wanted to add information on a free seminar coming up, regarding drugs and kids, under Appointments and Presentations.
2. Another addition to the Appointments and Presentations portion of the agenda: appointments to the Community Design Review Board, the Parks & Recreation Commission, and the Planning Commission.
3. Under Council Presentations, she wanted to add (a) an update on research she's been doing on the topic of wind energy, (b) a letter she received from the league of cities.
Councilperson Erik Hjelle wished to add, under Council Presentations, the subject of a council retreat and possible topics and format.
City Manager Greg Copeland had one addition to Administrative Presentations, the topic of the Police Civil Service Commission.
Councilperson Rebecca Cave offered a motion to approve the minutes, which got a second from the mayor. Cave voted first, all voted aye.
E. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
This is usually a quick and routine part of the meeting, but this time there were a couple of corrections and observations.
1. Minutes from the January 8, 2007 City Council Meeting
Juenemann had what she figured must be an address correction, since she doesn't think “5141 DeSoto” exists. With that correction, Longrie motioned approval of the minutes, and Cave gave a second. Longrie votes first, all voted aye.
2. Minutes from the January 8, 2007 5:00 p.m. Council/Manager Workshop
3. Minutes from the January 8, 2007 6:00 p.m. Council/Manager Workshop
Kantrud caught a typo – items 2 and 3 were Jan. 22nd meetings, not Jan. 8th.
4. Minutes from the January 22, 2007 City Council Meeting
Otherwise, the usual motions to approve, seconds, and all ayes.
Juenemann did raise a question about the EMS topic, which was on minutes of an earlier meeting. (This was a decision not to pursue collection of EMS charges beyond what is paid by insurance from city employees.) She wondered if this constitutes a policy change, and reading over the staff recommended worried that it was “kind of vague.” She requested some staff clarification to come back and better explain what it really says. She perceived that it has “some possible implications,” whether it's budget-wise (the financial cost to the city), or personnel matters (who it applies to and when). The thought the council needs some “policy homework done,” if it's really a new employee benefit. Discussion ensued, in which it emerged that this didn't mean the minutes aren't approved, but rather this was a request for a future agenda to revisit the item for clarification.
F. VISITOR PRESENTATIONS
Jamie Jensen, developer — Mr. Jensen's development, and the moratorium variance for it that the council denied, is a later agenda item. However, Mr. Jensen reported that he was told at a previous meeting that he should come back to visitor presentations, so here he is.
Jenson said that currently no moratorium study is being undertaken, though that is what the moratorium is supposed to make possible. “Both for the benefit of the property owners and of the staff,” he wanted to see the city pare down the 21 items on the list of topics for the moratorium study to just the items that can be done by the staff, so the process can happen more quickly. Specifically, he identified five topics for removal, for the following reasons:
● watershed district requirement – not that there are no requirements, but it's something the city is not going to affect, so the staff shouldn't spend time on it.
● MnDOT traffic/highway plans – the city can't effect these, so it's “pointless” to talk about them, as they are “outside the city's power.”
● Street patterns/traffic flow – no changes are currently required, and traffic flows specifically in the moratorium area have already been studied with an EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet).
● Wetlands, ponding & other water features – again, this is something under the watershed district, not the city's purview.
● Topography. “Topography is there, and it's not changing.” It won't be changed until there will be a development approved, which might propose some kind of major landscape reshaping.
In closing, he observed that item K1 on the agenda is about his development. He just wanted to say that he has no objection to the council's expected action, and in fact offered to waive any objections at the last meeting, so after his presentation he was going to leave the council meeting unless they asked him to stay.
A Woman Whose Name I Couldn't Discern – brought the council a “progress report” on the ice hockey rink by her house, which she spoke about at the last meeting. “Due to the cold weather, I have been blessed,” she said (as the cold kept hockey players indoors and reduced the rink's noise). She wanted to respond to a neighborhood petition related to the rink, saying that none of the signers live right next to the rink like she does. She said these people like the rink because it effectively serves them as a child care facility.
Bill Kaiser spoke on his regular topic, the land he alleges was fraudulently taken from his family by the city. I think he may have been speaking in Latin at one point.
Nancy Lazaryan, who is the sister of the previous speaker, rose to provide more commentary on the same topic. She also suggested that the city council needs a raise.
A group of citizens (Ron Cockriel, George Gonzalez, John Nephew, Joe Bailey, Michael Bailey) spoke together as residents from across the city engaged in the south moratorium study process. They thanked and praised the council and city staff for getting the process moving with the first meeting at Fire Station No. 4 on January 29th, and looked forward to the next meeting at the Carver School on March 13th. They also petitioned the council to appoint an outside facilitator/coordinator to help direct the moratorium study, to ensure that all points of view are brought into the process, to serve as an expert resource for technical information, and to keep the process moving expeditiously.
Bob Schmidt spoke about the revenues at the community center, and the role of his son (whose job was eliminated in the December reorganization) in increasing banquet revenues, bringing together the recent wedding fair, etc. Mr. Schmidt expressed regret at the resignation of Assistant Finance Director Gayle Bauman, and offered his thanks for her service. Also he said he has heard that Maplewood is no longer employing the mentally and physically challenged at the community center, which concerns him.
Richard Curry, of the Historic Preservation Commission, provided an update on the schedule of events for the celebrations this year of Maplewood's 50th anniversary. (You can find the schedule on the city's website.) Ron Cockriel (a member of the same commission) joined Mr. Curry at the podium. Mr. Curry brought laughter with a suggestion that events should feature a dunk-tank for the city council.
Dave Schilling said he sits and listens all the time. “These people that are no longer with us, and I call 'em 'laid off,'...some of these people are good people. But you know the thing is, when they re-did the whole situation here in Maplewood, ... you don't keep the people if you haven't got a job. ... Nobody in Maplewood is hired for life.” He then related a story about Diana Longrie canvassing his neighborhood. He had never heard of her. He asked her if she could handle the “boy's club” down there at city hall, and she said she would. Mr. Schilling said he had heard some years ago that Maplewood was the highest taxed city around. And in some discussion five meetings ago, there was a discussion of union people and supervisor. Where he worked, there were three unions, and there was no way that a supervisor belonged to a union; you couldn't have that. Also, he was concerned about the city paying for employees' education. “People got their fingers in my wallet, and I don't like it,” and he didn't want people going to college on his dime. “Stay tuned, I'll be back.”
Mike Kline had a question he hopes the council will be talking about. He has a very small front yard on a street slated for resurfacing in the coming construction season. He came to express concern about the topic of sidewalks, which is on the agenda for later this evening. He thanked the city for a meeting to be held on Thursday, but he's concerned that a decision to have sidewalks tonight may have a deleterious effect on things. Responding to Mr. Kline, Mayor Longrie suggested that the council should consider, when the agenda item comes up, if it's premature to discuss the sidewalks before the neighborhood meeting. She told him they would consider his comments when they got to that part of the agenda.
Dave Hefner shared his thoughts on several topics.
Bob Monette stated that he has been following events in Maplewood “like the rest of the metro, and probably the state.” He reported that his friends and relatives are “appalled” by what is happening. “I'm embarassed for this city, and disgusted.” He said that the way things have been going is not right. He characterized some of what preceded him as “a sideshow,” with some people coming up and speaking against individual citizens, slandering them. “You bring out your rules when you want to, and you keep them in your desk when you don't... This is absolutely unbelievable, and the rest of the metro knows it.” He voiced a fear of the effect of this, specifically that the mess will keep “the good ones” (quality developers, for example) away from our city.
As visitor presentations concluded, the mayor invited anyone interested in becoming involved to apply for boards and commissions, several of which still have openings.
1. Resolution of Appreciation — Mary Dierich
A long-time member of the Planning Commission, departing this year, was recognized for her volunteer service to the city since 2000. This resolution was moved by Mayor Longrie, seconded by Cave. Juenemann offered some additional compliments to Ms. Dierich. Cave voted first, all ayes.
2. Recognition — Bob Bade
To recognize this veteran firefighter who served Maplewood for 51 years, the city is putting up a plaque. Chief Lukin offered some highlights of Mr. Bade's service, and his personal admiration for his outstanding leadership. Mr. Bade received his plaque, and the whole room gave him a standing ovation.
3. Community Center — Events Update — Karen Guilfoile, Citizen Services Manager
Ms. Guilfoyle talked about recent and upcoming events at the Community Center. She described the recent wedding fair, and said it was a very successful event. She reported that the center now has 36 booked weddings, where people have put down their down payment and are ready to go. She showed pictures of the wedding fair, which you folks at home probably had an easier time seeing.
Last Saturday, Maplewood had its first Shiverfest in Hazelwood Park. Hot cocoa and cider were served, there was a craft fair, and a bonfire. Guilfoyle estimated that 150 citizens attended. A hot air balloon was planned, but it was a bit too windy, though the kite display was “wonderful.”
This spring something new will be coming at the community center: “Taste of Maplewood” will feature the five caterers at the center, and they may expand the event to go outside as well. Another upcoming event is the annual kids' stuff sale. Participants will be able to buy/sell quality children's items at the community center. This will be the 4th year, and it will happen on Friday, Apr. 27.
Copeland said all the events Ms. Guilfoyle mentioned were free. He also called attention to Guilfoyle's new title, and stated that the city is pleased to be promoting from within.
The additions to the schedule:
4. Announcement (on behalf of Chief Thomalla)
The mayor described a free seminar for parents about drugs — what drugs are out there, where kids get them, and more — sponsored by the police department, to take place at the Community Center. Chief Thomalla added that the presenter that evening is an expert from the Hazelden Foundation.
5. Appointments to Community Design Review Board
After some weeks of applications, interviews, and finally votes by the council members, there was a list of appointments to this citizen board. The mayor made a motion to approve the list of appointments; Cave made a second; all voted aye.
6. Parks & Recreation Commission
This was more of the same, but for a different commission. Again the mayor made the motion, with Cave's seconds. Juenemann voted first and all voted aye.
7. Planning Commission
Three appointments to this commission were motioned by Longrie, seconded by Cave. Hjelle voted first, and all were ayes.
I. CONSENT AGENDA
As usual, the mayor explained what the consent agenda is about, and Mr. Copeland went through the list with quick summaries.
1. Approval of Claims
2. Transfer From Tax Increment Funds — Finance Department
3. Cottagewood of Maplewood, City Project 06-08, Approve Board of Water Commissioners of
the City of Saint Paul Private Water Main Agreement
4. Update on Sump Pump Inspection Program/Requesting Approval to Issue Final Letter
Assessing Surcharge/Policy for Handling Future Non-Compliant Properties
6. Vehicle and Equipment Purchase — Public Works
7. Final Plat — Carmax/Mogren Addition
9. Purchase of New Vehicles for Police Department
10. Gang Strike Force Grant Approval — Police Department
Kathy Juenemann made a motion to approve all of the above as a group, and was seconded by Hjelle. Then Juenemann said she hasn't gotten the itemized bills from Bethel, the employment attorneys, that she had been promised, and wanted to make sure she gets them. Rossbach voted first, all voted aye.
5. White Bear Avenue Improvements, City Project 02-21, Approve Joint Powers Agreement with Ramsey County for Design Services
Juenemann pulled this item just to let citizens know that something will be done. “Some of us will be alive long enough to see that intersection improved!” she joked, observing how long it's taken to see it come together. She then motioned the item, Longrie second. Cave voted first and all voted aye.
8. Conditional Use Permit Review — Schlomka Landscaping
Juenemann wanted to verify with Mr. Roberts that there have been no complains and full compliance with the CUP. He confirmed that this is his understanding. Juenemann said of this issue, “you've come a long way, baby,” and then motioned it. All ayes.
K. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
1. Saint Clair Hills Development — Findings of Fact
a) Moratorium Variance
This was supposed to be done at the previous meeting, but was tabled due to an error in the minutes from the previous meeting. The corrected minutes were used by the planning to draw up the formal findings which they now adopted unanimously.
2. Conditional Use Permit Update — Woodhill
City Planner Roberts updated the council with more information from courts and attorneys. The owner of this development in progress, Bruce Nedegaard, recently passed away. There is a bankruptcy proceeding going on for his companies, not just this project. So Roberts' recommendation is to review the CUP again in June, when hopefully there will be updated status in terms of the bankcruptcy proceedings.
The mayor asked about the indemnity in the developer agreement, in terms of suits with the Kaiser family (which the developer is supposed to pay for). She wondered if the city should keep track of those costs and maybe submit them to the bankruptcy court? Roberts said such matters are not his department, and so deferred to Kantrud. Kantrud said he doesn't really have enough information to be able to say at this point; he hasn't seen any of the documents relevant to either.
And in response to other questions, the city staff basically didn't know the answers. The situation combines probate and bankruptcy court, making it “very much a moving target,” in Mr. Roberts' words. The big question that might come up would be if someone wanted to build another house on the land, but he has trouble seeing that happening with all the legal entanglements going on. In any case, the site is stable and safe, basically – maybe there was a street light that hadn't been put up or something.
For a different perspective on the late Mr. Nedegaard, Rossbach noted that there was a write-up in the publication of the Twin Cities builders' association about his death, characterizing him as an active member (a past president of the organization) and listing numerous accolades for what he had done as a respected member of that community. He wanted to offer this “other side of the story,” since Nancy Lazaryan had talked about him during visitor presentations.
Juenemann asked a question about what she characterized as “educational attempts” in visitor presentations (referring to Lazaryan's statements), and if they could create problems. Kantrud's response was basically that if the council does not respond there should not be a problem. As long as the city isn't acting or engaging in a dialogue over these matters under litigation, there's not much to worry about.
In response to a question from the mayor, Mr. Roberts discussed issues of escrow and protection for work the city does during construction.
Juenemann asked: Say someone was insane enough to want to step in and buy multiple lots, and become the new developer/builder, would the same thing (escrows, etc.) apply to protect the city? Yes, said Roberts.
Hjelle made a motion to accept the staff recommendation to revisit this issue in June. Cave seconded. Hjelle voted first and all voted aye.
L. NEW BUSINESS
1. Desoto Skillman Area Street Improvements, City Project 06-16, Desoto Street Sidewalk
Public Works Director Chuck Ahl offered the presentation. The city conducted a poll of property owners. Since council packets were delivered to the members last week, he had updated information to share, since additional votes had come in. Residents both north and south voted against sidewalks (with a much bigger anti- vote on the north side), so it seems that the neighborhood is against the sidewalk.
Responding to an earlier visitor presentation, Ahl said that street width is set by state aid requirements. He thought he knews where the citizen lives, and said his staff are having difficulties trying to look at that specific area, and they may have to go to the state for a variance because of the difficulty. A sidewalk would make it even harder, but he's guessing the council will likely not push for sidewalks given the poll results.
Ahl repeated that the neighborhood meeting is this coming Thursday, Feb. 15th, and more details about the meeting are on the city website. It's an opportunity for property owners to come forward and get involved in the design and the details early on.
Juenemann asked a question I missed, possibly about street markings.
Mayor Longrie invited citizens to speak to the issue.
Dick DeFrank (?) spoke about getting notice of the meeting, and agreed with earlier concerns about the council meeting on this topic coming before the neighborhood meeting. He said there should have been one “undecided” in the poll results, since that was his answer. He'd love to see a sidewalk, but it depends on what has to be done in terms of retaining walls and so forth. He also suggested possibilities like moving the right away when necessary for some requirements of the street work. In any case, he hoped the Roselawn-to-Larpenteur section could have its decision deferred until later, so that the citizens can get more information, as it may change some of their minds. He also expressed some concerns about security — lack of street lights, garbage dumping and vandalism — along one particular stretch of the street.
Mike Fine again came up and voiced agreement with the previous speaker. He didn't think it's a bad idea to have a sidewalk per se, he just didn't know that everything can fit, and again agreed it would be good if the sidewalk decision could be put off until the discussion of the street plan. He was sure that this is a concern among other survey respondents, “paranoid that we'll end up with a 28-foot road and sidewalks on both sides,” where people could knock on the homes' windows when they walk by.
Rossbach: Did you respond to the sidewalk survey? Fine: Yes. Rossbach: And how did you vote? Fine: No, because it was a yes-or-no answer. Thinks “it would detract from the neighborhood in general.” He recalled what the neighborhood was like when he moved in long ago, and there were corn fields and “a sort of rural flavor.” Rossbach: So you answered no, but it really depends on the circumstances? Fine: Correct. The way the survey was written, you had to pick yes or no, so it had to be no.
Juenemann: Do we have to decide tonight, or can we get neighborhood input first? “Maybe this is a yes/no based on what [survey respondents] see or imagine, not what we're capable of doing?”
According to Ahl, where the project stands right now, it is possible to proceed with a dual-design approach (planning both for with and without sidewalks). It was obvious that there can't be two sidewalks – it would be either the east or west side. He also discussed design possibilities around the difficult “S-curve” area.
Rossbach commented on “political philosophy.” He thought the report of citizen feedback told him that you shouldn't go north of Roselawn, but to his mind the south of Roselawn area received “a green light,” given that the default is likely to go against sidewalks because the citizens weren't educated about the options. If you can even get close to a 50/50 split on a question like this (the results were something like 52/48), it suggests it should be looked at more closely. He said in his experience on his own street, a lot of people who opposed the sidewalk in advance wound up being very appreciative of it. He also suggested that the council should consider the interests of future residents and the city as a whole. Thus he favored not doing anything tonight.
Longrie mentioned a citizen telephone call asking for a DeSoto-Trail connection to be considered as part of this as well.
Cave thought it was a great idea to attempt the polling and see what people wanted. She didn't want to make a decision this night, seeing the “cart before the horse” issue both citizens raised tonigh. She was persuaded that it's right to table this, given that it's a very unique area and the street experts should be given the chance to give their advice to the residents there.
Hjelle asked if it's possible to separate the issues, having the dual-track modeling just for one part and not the other. Ahl answered that modeling the north side is not difficult, so it didn't seem to be a problem to just do dual-track design for both.
Rossbach voiced agreement with Rebecca — “let's let the experts take care of it” — but wanted to observe that the experienced experts were all in favor of sidewalks.
Citizen Dick DeFrank returned and asked if Mr. Ahl would be at the Thursday meeting, and Mr. Ahl said unfortunately he expected to have to be at another meeting that night. DeFrank described his own experience working in design, and expressed some concern that the staff present at the meeting might not have the experience that would lead them to understand some of the options available and how far they could go with it. He thought a senior project manager should be on this.
Cave asked Ahl, will there be different options at this Thursday meeting? Ahl assured her that the staff will talk tomorrow and be aware of the concerns expressed this evening.
Rossbach wanted to make a motion, but asked when should they table it to? Mr. Ahl suggested the first meeting of March (March 12th) as being good. Rossbach motioned tabling to March 12th, a second (Longrie?), all ayes.
2. 800 MHz Subscriber Agreement
This is the approval of agreements related to the new radio system for the city's police, fire, and emergency management services. Fire Chief Lukin explained what was going on.
Longrie had a question about the amount of money. “I'm trying to understand, do we have that budgeted? I mean, this is accounted for in our budget?” Copeland answered: actually, no, the city will need to issue bonds to pay for some of it; some is covered by grant; some will come from general funds.
Hjelle asked why it was not included in the budget.
Chief Lukin explained that these items were discussed back in 2002 or 2004, and at that time it was understood that bonds would be issued at the time when it was necessary. Hjelle joked, “When will we do the police bonds?” (it's just one system for all). Then it turned out that a whole bunch of documents (subscriber agreement, other details) weren't included in the council packet as the chief had expected them to be, such as the ones that explained that the break down of equipment across police/fire/emergency management.
Longrie asked questions about past council resolutions and budgets related to this. Ms. Bauman explained that the budget plan was adopted back in 2004, and carried forward. And to confirm, this is the follow-up to fund something that was mandated by an earlier council decision.
Juenemann provided more background, because she was on the council at that time. When the county moved toward this, there wasn't much conversation to be had in the council, she explained — the city could have opted out, but then Maplewood would have been effectively opting out of the safety system. It has held until now, because you couldn't put it in place until the system was there, and that's why it wasn't budgeted earlier.
Longrie then asked how the capital notes work, and how much is being borrowed. Copeland and Bauman provided some information. Bauman suggested that the notes would probably be 5 years or less in duration.
Hjelle motioned the staff recommendation, Cave seconded. Cave voted first, all ayes.
Juenemann finally added as a postscript that 5-9 years is typical for bonding like this, and an earlier dispatch purchase had 7-year notes.
3. Planning Commission's 2006 Annual Report
Mr. Roberts introduced the topic, and Planning Commissioner Tushar Desai. Desai endorsed the idea of offering more training to commission members, especially since numerous new members have joined the commission.
Much praise and appreciation was offered by the council to the Commission by all of the city council.
Mayor Longrie moved acceptance of the report. Juenemann seconded. Longrie voted first. All voted aye.
M. COUNCIL PRESENTATIONS
1. Maplewood Review — Erik Hjelle
Hjelle stated that the Katy Zillmer and the Lillie Papers keep publishing inaccuracies, so he has filed another complaint with the MN News Council, like the one he did with KSTP last year.
2. Council Retreat — Hjelle
Hjelle wanted to suggest a round-table format, where the council could discuss a series of topics and have a chance to discuss philosophies and overall conceptual ideas on topics like development, density, and so forth. “If we better understand where each one of us are coming from,” he suggested it would be easier for the council to move forward and find consensus in future deliberations.
Copeland suggested that the council members could identify the specific goals that they individually have as topics of interest for conversation.
Rossbach “would like to further develop Erik's thought,” that the council submit things, like Mr. Copeland said, that they would be interested in accomplishing — and then discuss only the things where there seems to be a majority agreement on.
The council members talked about suggesting the topics in writing to Copeland by this Friday. Also there was talk of submitting days that would work for it. The council had previously discussed some days, which were already passed, so Hjelle in particular was interested in getitng something to happen.
3. Wind Power — Longrie
The mayor has recently attended some seminars/open houses about energy efficiency and wind turbines. The city of Medina recently received a grant to install a wind turbine to power their city hall, and various universities have been doing this sort of thing as well.
4. League of Cities — Longrie
Longrie brought the news that she has been appointed to the national League of Cities energy policy committee.
N. ADMINISTRATIVE PRESENTATIONS
Copeland passed out a out state statute regarding qualifications for the Police Civil Service Commission. An employee of the Ramsey County Sheriff Dept. applied, but the statute says that no employee of the city or law enforcement officer can be part of the body. Also, a pay-per-call firefighter was interested in applying, but again as a city employee he's not able to do it.
One commissioner seeks re-appointment, so the question is whether to reappoint her. Hjelle suggested holding the application period open another 30 days. Rossbach said the council's policy has been to work with whoever applies, and Juenemann concurred, so it doesn't seem right to extend this. Cave said she's fine leaving it open for 30 days. So Rossbach asked the other councilmembers to explain why this is different from every other commission, where the council has taken the people who presented themselves, and in every case when there were not more than enough people to fill commissions those people were on. (I.e., if there were a number of applicants equal to the number of open seats on a commission, they would all be appointed.)
Cave said that from her standpoint, they lost a candidate that she didn't realize they couldn't have, a candidate that she liked.
Rossbach pointed out that just tonight the council decided to go ahead with the people they had, who had completed the process, rather than wait and try and have an interview with the last remaining candidate, who had been unable to be present for an interview in time.
Since motions are not typically entertained in the presentations portion of council meetings, Mayor Longrie suggested that the next meeting should have an agenda item either to appoint the one applicant or to choose to leave it open.
Juenemann said it's important to establish a pattern and stick with it. She has no problem with open applications, but when you have a policy of having deadlines and going with the people who apply before the deadline, you shouldn't change that arbitrarily.
Longrie clarified that she was saying that the appointment to the PCSC needs to be on the agenda for the next council meeting.
Copeland also described some information in a memo from Mr. Kantrud about the purchase of Applewood Park, the topic that two citizens speak about during visitor presentations at every meeting. He said Kantrud's memo would be put on the web. Kantrud said that he was available for questions, but there were none.
And in spite of the relatively early hour, we arrived at...