West St. Paul City Council meeting on September 14, 2020

City Council Recap: Sept. 14, 2020

Thanks to Amore Coffee for their support.

The West St. Paul City Council passed a preliminary budget for 2021, including the lowest property tax increase since 2016. The Economic Development Authority (EDA) meeting included some news—Camelot Cleaners is for sale and “ribs and steak” might be coming to the Baker’s Square space. There was no Open Council Work Session.

2021 Budget

Perhaps the most important business of the night was all about the budget. The City Council passed the 2021 to 2030 capital equipment and infrastructure plan. If you want to know where and how the city plans to spend its money over the next decade, that’s where you should start.

The Council also approved the 2021 preliminary budget and 2022 conceptual budget. It’s a $45 million budget for 2021 and includes a maximum property tax levy increase of 5.62% (it could come down, but that’s as high as it can be). The budget will be officially approved on December 14.

Here are the property tax levy increases for the last five years to give a sense of context:

  • 2020: 6.51% 
  • 2019: 9.96%
  • 2018: 10.9% 
  • 2017: 6.33%
  • 2016: 4.77%

(Disclaimer: The way property taxes are calculated is super complicated. This percent increase does not correspond to the percent your property taxes will go up. A lot of other factors come into play, including the value of your home, how that value compares to other homes, the county and school portion of property tax, etc.)

Economic Development News

The EDA business wrapped up early, so Economic Development Director Jim Hartshorn gave an update on new business around the city:

  • New restaurant: There’s a deal in the works to bring a new restaurant to the vacant Baker’s Square space. Hartshorn couldn’t say what it was, but hinted at “ribs and steak.”
  • Perkins: A deal to bring a laundromat to the vacant Perkins space has fallen through, so that property continues to search for a buyer.
  • Camelot Cleaners: This long-time family business near the intersection of Smith and Dodd is for sale.
  • Starbucks: A lot of people have been asking, and the new Starbucks coming in front of Cub Foods is in addition to the existing Starbucks (as we reported earlier).
  • More new businesses: Tii Cup was mentioned during the meeting, but several other new businesses have recently opened or will soon open that weren’t mentioned during the meeting, but we covered in our story on how business are coping with COVID-19, including a new Thai restaurant that’s replacing Pho Saigon.

Other Notes:

  • Business subsidy: More Space Storage is planning to build a new facility at 1665 Oakdale and was on the agenda to request a $25,000 business subsidy grant from the EDA for soil mitigation and site constraints. However, they cancelled the morning of the meeting. They told the city they won’t do anything until next year, and weren’t even interested in lining up the grant now to begin work in spring. So we’ll have to see if this project goes through at all.
  • Whose fence?: There’s an accidental fence on city property at 1010 Dodd. The previous owner of the adjacent property put in the fence without a permit, and the current owner is trying to set things right. Last time the council seemed willing to do an encroachment agreement, but tonight the EDA agreed to sell the land for $4,000. The decision basically hinged on the fact that the property line is only four feet from the existing house. Any future development or road changes that happen at 1010 Dodd couldn’t possibly come that close to the house, so selling seemed like a simpler solution. This will have to go through another public hearing, so it will come up again before it’s officially done.
  • Cable franchise: There was a public hearing for the renewal of the cable franchise, it was approved with no comment and little discussion.
  • Proclamations and recognitions: The Council proclaimed this week Direct Support Professionals Week and recognized Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15.
  • Constitution questions: During citizen comments, one person called in to lambaste the Council for passing the conversion therapy ban over the objections of the city attorney. The caller was quick to condemn conversion therapy and applauded the Council for their intentions, but had concerns over how the ordinance was passed without hearing potential Constitutional issues. No one on Council addressed the concerns raised.
  • Candidate forums: Race-specific candidate forums are coming October 1 and 2. You can submit questions here.
  • Art Park: There are more opportunities this Wednesday and Saturday to participate in the Art Park events. There’s also a little bit of fundraising left to do if you’d like to donate.

City Council meetings are currently held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch these meetings online: City Council and EDA.

You can support West St. Paul Reader to keep these City Council recaps coming.

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