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With Mayor Dave Napier out of town and presiding remotely for last week’s City Council meeting, they rescheduled the Open Council Work Session (OCWS) for October 18. The agenda covered Planning Commission expansion, Marthaler Park improvements, and limiting tobacco shops.
The big item was expansion of the Planning Commission and requiring ward representation, which prompted a veto from Napier and was overridden by Council. Napier’s most recent appointment shifted the ward balance to 1-3-3. Council Member Julie Eastman proposed expanding the Planning Commission to nine members in order to balance ward representation, and then make that representation required. The Planning Commission had nine members from 1969 to 2011 when it was dropped to seven due to lack of applicants.
Discussion covered whether nine members is a burden on staff (an increased burden, but not an undue one), what to do when there are no ward applicants (a 30-day period and then shifting an open position to at-large seemed to be the favored approach), and whether expanding to nine is required (Napier and Council Member Dick Vitelli argued for sticking with seven and eventually getting to ward representation, but the rest of Council wanted to get ward representation now).
In response to interest in tobacco licenses, the city is considering putting a cap on tobacco licenses to limit the number of tobacco shops in the city. There are currently three and nearby cities have implemented restrictions or bans, which may push more shops into West St. Paul.
Council was amenable to limiting tobacco licenses, though were leery of appearing to push out existing shops. They do want to explore other ideas, including limits on vaping products, flavored tobacco, CBD, and potentially marijuana in anticipation of statewide legalization, though those items will be a longer process.
Marthaler Park Master Plan
Council reviewed a draft of the Marthaler Park improvements after getting input from residents last month. The most exciting change is a potential overlook/observation deck at the top of the hill. The plan will move forward for official approval, with the improvements coming in phases over the next three years.
City Council meetings are usually held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. You can watch the OCWS meeting online.
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