West St. Paul City Council chambers

City Council Preview: Sept. 27, 2021

We provide these West St. Paul City Council previews with your support.

West St. Paul’s City Council will consider a veto override, look to further tweak the Open Council Work Session (OCWS) meetings, and consider an expansion of the Smith/Dodd Overlay.

Overriding a Veto

Last week Mayor Dave Napier vetoed a Council measure to expand the Planning Commission and require equal ward representation. The Council can override the veto, which requires five votes, and they’ll have the opportunity to consider that at this meeting. Considering the original motion passed with five votes, it’s likely they can override the veto. However, anyone can change their mind and it’s possible someone would change their vote and allow the veto to stand.

The original motion didn’t actually make changes to the Planning Commission, which would require multiple readings a public hearing, but it would have set the wheels in motion to make that happen.

Currently the Planning Commission is down to six members with one vacancy, thanks to the appointment being wrapped up in the expansion and then vetoed. At the last Planning Commission meeting, only four members attended, just barely making quorum.

Tweaking OCWS

City Council recently discussed the location and transparency of OCWS, exploring the idea of moving back to the conference room and/or discontinuing the broadcast of the meetings. Council wanted to avoid costly changes and still maintain transparency with the broadcast, so that meant staying in the council chambers.

In an effort to make the OCWS more of a free flowing conversation, they’re trying a series of measures to relax the atmosphere, including mostly ditching Robert’s Rules of Order, no longer taking minutes, and allowing anyone to freely speak. Technically, minutes and the rules of order weren’t required, but had become a normal part of the OCWS. The meetings will still be recorded and broadcast.

As part of the revamping, city staff will share an upcoming OCWS schedule, so look for a discussion on Planning Commission composition on October 11 and the sign ordinance/public art on October 25.

El Cubano and Expansion of Smith/Dodd Overlay

El Cubano added outdoor seating under a special exemption during the pandemic, but has now applied for a liquor license and the outdoor seating needs an official permit. This raised an issue with parking and a simple solution was to expand the Smith/Dodd zoning overlay to include some of the Forty Acres area. This allows for no parking minimums, which works for El Cubano.

But a challenge with the Smith/Dodd Overlay is that auto repair shops are a prohibited use, and both Zak’s Auto and Cherokee Service take issue with that. Both shops can be legal non-conforming and continue to operate as is, perform maintenance, and sell to other parties. However, expansion would be a problem.

The solution is likely to leave Cherokee Service out of the Smith/Dodd Overlay expansion and potentially amend the Smith/Dodd Overlay to allow auto repair as a conditional use. There will be a public hearing on both the El Cubano permits and the Smith/Dodd Overlay expansion.

Butler Avenue Trail Dead?

Council will look at the results of the Butler Avenue trail study during OCWS, which explored adding a trail to Butler Avenue between Robert Street and Concord Avenue in South St. Paul. MnDOT determined that the 52 bridge can’t handle a trail, so the project is limited to the existing sidewalk on the north side of Butler. Additionally, South St. Paul’s City Council isn’t interested in the project. Here’s the full study.

The Council report notes that “just widening one side to an asphalt trail is not a viable project.” The project could get a second look in the future, especially with reworking the Bike & Ped Plan, but it appears to be dead for now.

Other Items on the Agenda:

  • Closed: OCWS will have a closed session to discuss labor negotiation strategy.
  • Hispanic Heritage: The Council will proclaim Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15.
  • More public hearings: Robert Street sidewalk snow removal contract for the coming winter and vacating an alley will also come up for public hearings.

The public can watch the meeting live on Town Square TV or cable channel 18 starting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (5:45 p.m. for the OCWS).

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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