West St. Paul

City Council Preview: June 22, 2020

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After more than three months of virtual meetings due to the pandemic, the West St. Paul City Council will be meeting in person on Monday, June 22. This will also include the first Open Council Work Session (OCWS) in three months, when the Council discusses business. As such, there’s a lot on the OCWS schedule and an Economic Development Authority (EDA) work session about the proposed housing project at the former K-mart site.

COVID-19 Restrictions

The meetings are open to the public with social distancing restrictions enforced. Attendance in the council chambers will be limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Overflow will be in the lobby and conference room with screens available. The meetings will also be broadcast online and on cable TV.

Speaking during citizen comments or public hearings will require signing up in advance, either by emailing the city clerk by 4:30 p.m. the day of the meeting or signing up in person. Speakers will be called to the podium and can then enter the chambers and leave when they are finished.

Signal Hills Housing Project

The big item on the agenda is the proposed housing project at the former K-mart site for the EDA work session. This project slowed down with debate over the amount of tax increment financing (TIF) and then again with debate over the prevailing wage ordinance. The developer, Dominium, is back with a new proposal that accounts for the prevailing wage ordinance.

The new proposal adds 24 units to the two buildings and combined with increased financing costs and the prevailing wage requirement adds $23 million to the project cost (they attribute $15.3 million of that to the prevailing wage requirement).

Back in January the Council agreed to a 13.5-year TIF term (when the project didn’t include prevailing wage), but now Dominium wants a 16-year term. That amounts to a subsidy increase from $3.64 million to $5 million.

On the Agenda

  • Use of force: The Public Safety Committee reviewed the police department’s Use of Force policy and is sharing their input (though no suggested changes) with the Council for further discussion. (See our separate, more in-depth recap of the Public Safety Committee meeting.)
  • Pride: In addition to an earlier proclamation for Pride Month, the Council will consider a resolution to fly a Pride flag at city hall.
  • Ice arena: There’s an existing plan to expand the ice arena, but the Council will consider a new proposal from the Sibley Area Youth Hockey Association to lease the facility and handle improvements themselves.
  • Food truck ordinance: Earlier this spring the City Council considered a food truck ordinance, though pushed the item back until they could discuss it in an OCWS meeting. Now is the time, though some of the objections raised at the earlier meeting haven’t been addressed—including a rule that restricts food trucks from operating within 300 of an existing restaurant.
  • Housing improvement: The Council will consider the creation of a Housing Improvement Area (HIA) where the city can offer low-interest loans to townhome or condominium associations to make needed repairs.
  • Audit: Look for a presentation on an audit of the city’s 2019 finances. This will not include an impact from the spring pandemic shutdown, but will cover the progress being made on reducing the city’s debt.
  • Art park: Council will review a community engagement plan to place a sculpture in the art park at the corner of Butler and Oakdale. The Council previously accepted a grant for the sculpture, though there was some confusion about the project. This review should clarify any confusion and allow the project to move forward.
  • License adjustment: The Council will consider whether or not to reduce or refund some business license fees as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.
  • Picnic space: While a community pollinator garden has been proposed for the empty, city-owned lot at the intersection of Smith and Dodd, COVID-19 has put that plan on hold. With many restaurants not allowed to operate at full capacity, a picnic space could be useful. There’s a temporary plan to place picnic tables in the lot and encourage socially distanced picnicking.
  • Council salary: The Charter Commission is recommending a 2.75% salary increase for the mayor and council members for 2021 and 2022. Council will discuss it during OCWS, but an official vote would come at a future meeting (assuming they choose to move it forward).

The public can watch the meeting live on Town Square TV or cable channel 18 starting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 8, 2020 (5 p.m. for the OCWS Update: OCWS and EDA meetings were not broadcast). Remember that you need to sign up ahead of time to make public comments.

If you’re not able to attend the meeting in person, you can always use our coloring pages to imagine you’re there.

Keep City Council previews and recaps coming by supporting West St. Paul Reader.

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