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The final West St. Paul City Council meeting of the year included a 2020 budget, a climate change resolution, a presentation on the crime map, an appointment, and debate over the proposed apartments at the former K-mart site.
Proposed Apartments at K-mart Site
Perhaps the biggest thing from tonight’s meeting happened during the Economic Development Authority (EDA) work session when the developer pitched their plan for proposed apartments at the former K-mart site.
The project includes two buildings: a 137-unit, four-story workforce apartment and a 232-unit, five-story independent senior living apartment. Traffic studies show the apartments would generate less traffic than K-mart did when it was open (though there are questions about those comparisons) and market studies show incredibly high demand for apartments like this.
But the project doesn’t work without a subsidy in the form of tax increment financing (TIF). The question is how much?
TIF is notoriously complicated, but the shorter version is that the developer is asking for $3.98 million over 15 years and Ehlers, the city’s financial advisor on deals like this, is recommending $3.282 million over 12 years. The developer says their financing doesn’t come through with the lower amount.
So the $98 million project is quibbling over $700,000. While the EDA is generally supportive of the project, they are split on the subsidy decision, with some supporting the 12 year approach and some open to the 15. A deadline is quickly approaching so city staff is going to continue working with all sides and hopefully bring a development agreement to the EDA in January.
Tonight’s meeting included a presentation on the crime mapping tool that’s available on the West St. Paul Police Department’s website. It’s a vastly under-utilized tool that the city has had for more than 10 years. The public can seen incident reports mapped and get a sense for where crime is happening (with the exception of homicides and sexual assaults, which aren’t included for privacy reasons).
Climate Change Resolution
Tonight the City Council unanimously passed a climate change resolution that encourages Congress to acknowledge the impact of climate change and put a price tag on pollution. The resolution was supported by local resident Claudia Egelhoff.
“Members of Congress need to hear that municipalities care about this issue,” Egelhoff said.
West St. Paul joins seven or eight other cities in Minnesota that have passed similar resolutions.
- Planning Commission appointment: Mayor Dave Napier appointed Tori Elsmore to the Planning Commission to fill a vacancy. She moved into West St. Paul last year and previously served on the Inver Grove Heights Planning Commission. (This appointment likely marks the first time the West St. Paul Planning Commission has been majority female with four women and three men serving.)
- Future appointments: The City Council is also looking to make appointments to other committees. If you’d like to apply, you better do so ASAP. They’re likely looking at applications at the first meeting in January, so you probably need to apply by January 8 at the latest (however, that could be later if the first meeting is too full and it gets pushed to the second meeting in January—either way, apply now).
- Budget: The 2020 budget and tax levy were passed unanimously. Property taxes will go up 6.51%, an amount lower than expected. That works out to an increase of $113 for a median value home—though much of that increase is due to rising property values. The final 2020 budget also came in lower than the conceptual budget proposed last year.
- Vacant commercial property: A proposed ordinance for a vacant commercial property registry went down in flames tonight. The ordinance seemed to get more and more watered down and was ultimately more work than it was worth. The Council voted unanimously to table it.
- Heroes & Helpers: Mayor Napier made a point to thank Interim Police Chief Brian Sturgeon for the department’s work with the Heroes & Helpers event. Police officers and fire fighters shop with kids at Target, which creates some real photogenic moments.
City council meetings are open to the public and generally held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. (though for December there won’t be a meeting on the fourth Monday). You can also watch this meeting online.
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