West St. Paul City Council chambers

City Council Preview: Nov. 8, 2021

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

West St. Paul City Council will have two public hearings on Monday to limit tobacco shops and make Renaissance Plan updates. There will also be first readings on a sign ordinance change and Planning Commission expansion and ward requirement.

Sign Ordinance

With the school board election over, the sign ordinance is going back into effect. However, the one sign per yard rule become unenforceable after a judge ruled against the city, as we reported earlier this fall. City staff is recommending a simple ordinance change to return the one sign rule while Council discusses any further changes to the sign ordinance. Effectively, city staff want to return to the previous restrictions while future changes are discussed, as opposed to letting signs proliferate in the interim.

It’s unclear when that future sign discussion would happen.

Planning Commission Expansion & Ward Requirement

The ordinance changes expand the Planning Commission and encourage equal ward representation are finally coming up for a first reading. The changes expand the Commission from seven to nine members and encourage (not necessarily require) equal ward representation. The ordinance changes require posting openings for 30 days in an effort to get equal ward representation. If an applicant from the desired ward doesn’t come forward in 30 days, the seat will become at-large.

That at-large measure is an attempt to make the ward requirement a goal but not a hard and fast rule. After all, what happens if no one from a needed ward applies? The seat shouldn’t go empty.

But given the mayor’s power to make Planning Commission appointments, what happens if there are applicants from the desired ward but the mayor doesn’t want to appoint them for whatever reason? According to Mayor Dave Napier, he wouldn’t be obligated to appoint them and could presumably make an at-large appointment after 30 days. Though if this were problematic, the Council could simply not approve the appointment.

This kind of confusion is the result of not wanting to force ward representation and seems the best balance of power we’re going to get. We’ll see if any further issues come up at the first reading on Monday or the public hearing on November 22.

Public Hearings

There will be two public hearings:

Limiting Tobacco Shops

The city is considering limiting specialty tobacco shops to two, especially as other cities are cracking down or prohibiting them entirely, potentially pushing more into West St. Paul.

Renaissance Plan Updates

A public hearing will be held for several updates to ordinances to implement and update Renaissance Plan requirements. These include consistent building setbacks, limiting parking that fronts Robert Street, and reducing parking minimums.

Other Items on the Agenda

  • More police: For the second meeting in a row, we’ll get more police officers with a third officer being sworn in this week after two last meeting.
  • Stop sign: A stop sign has been requested at Arion and Gorman (next to Emerson Park), though a traffic study shows that it doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for a stop sign (there haven’t been any crashes at the intersection in the last 10 years). This conversation will happen during the Open Council Work Session (OCWS).
  • Assessments: Residents at the intersection of Moreland and Charlton noted at the last assessment hearing that they were being hit for both road improvements due to changes in the assessment policy in the last few years. Council will consider if and how to adjust the assessments for these residents.
  • Staff benefits: Council will review and approve the 2022 employee benefits.
  • Strategic plan: Further review of strategic initiatives.

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

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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