West St. Paul City Council with K9 Cecil

City Council Recap: Nov. 22, 2021

Thanks to Dakota County for their support.

West St. Paul City Council took the first steps to regulate marijuana in anticipation of eventual state or federal legalization, discussion started on a new West St. Paul Days, two drive thrus were approved, and a townhouse project moved forward after some consternation.

New K9 Officer

Police Chief Brian Sturgeon introduced another new member of the West St. Paul Police Department, this time newly graduated K9 Cecil. The dog will work with handler Nicole Murphy.

Marijuana & CBD Regulation

During the Open Council Work Session (OCWS), Council gave direction for the first steps in potentially regulating recreational marijuana and CBD products. While recreational marijuana is not currently legal in Minnesota, it’s expected the state legislature could legalize it soon and having a regulatory framework in place could give West St. Paul a boost in both recruiting new businesses and maintaining control over a flourishing new industry.

Council was primarily concerned with keeping marijuana shops from opening too close together and doing research to find the right mix of regulation. Potentially regulating home-grown marijuana was also discussed. Council also wanted to make tobacco, marijuana, and CBD licenses incompatible with each other so that no store could focus on more than one of the three products.

Staff will need time to draft a proposed ordinance before this comes up again.

New West St. Paul Days

Since Celebrate West St. Paul Days shut down in 2020, the city has considered starting their own local event. The tentative plan is an early- to mid-August date with proposed events including a sporting tournament of some kind, street dance, food truck round up, art/cultural fair, family fun fest, fireworks, and a parade. The event will likely be rebranded with a new name to differentiate from the former Celebrate West St. Paul Days.

Thompson Oaks Townhouses

The Economic Development Authority (EDA) considered a new development agreement for townhomes planned on the east end of the former Thompson Oaks golf course. A former development agreement was dissolved after the city was unable to secure a state grant for soil remediation.

The proposed terms were similar to those discussed in October—essentially the developer pays for the soil clean up in exchange for the land, within certain limits. The proposed site plan is unchanged from October—58 multi-level townhomes. But this time the plan drew sharp criticism from Council Member Dick Vitelli, who didn’t say anything against the plan in October. Vitelli argued the plan had too many units and should be focused on single-level walkouts that appeal to seniors. Due to the soil issues, the plan only works with more units, making single-level units unfeasible. Vitelli said if we can’t get what we want, we should leave it as green space.

The other council members had no concerns with the density, though parking was a concern that will have to be worked out at the site plan stage. Mayor Dave Napier was swayed by Vitelli’s argument, but ultimately the development agreement passed unanimously.

Other Items on the Agenda

  • Public hearings: Including the townhouse development agreement mentioned above, there were a total of six public hearings:
    • An updated business subsidy policy, which among others things strengthens the prevailing wage requirements.
    • Drive thru at Hawaii Poke Bowl, which drew criticism for being a pick-up window only with no walk up counter or menu board for on-site ordering. Council expressed concern about the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, with no apparent resolution.
    • Drive thru at Southview Square (for Erbert & Gerbert’s).
    • Restoring the ‘one sign per yard’ rule invalidated by a judge this summer, though as a sort of stopgap measure until Council can rehash the sign ordinance early next year. An attempt by Planning Commission to make it two signs per yard went unheeded.
    • Expanding Planning Commission and encouraging ward balance, the issue vetoed and overturned earlier this year.
  • Grant for Hawaii Poke Bowl: Big night for Hawaii Poke Bowl as EDA approved a $10,000 grant to help with exterior improvements.
  • Hazardous building: Neighbors of 927 Charlton will be encouraged to know the city has initiated a rare process to declare the building hazardous and have it removed. The house has burned three times since 2019 and is uninhabitable, with the owner convicted of arson and currently in jail. The legal process still has to be followed, and there’s not a set timeline, but it is moving forward.
  • City manager review: City Manager Nate Burkett received a six-month performance review from Council during a closed session.
  • More townhomes?: Also during a closed session, in a last-minute item, the EDA considered offers for the sale of property at 1500 Crawford Drive. Previously this area has been slated for townhomes, so presumably that’s the plan. If anything moves forward we’ll find out at the next meeting on December 13.

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

Here’s the Council video recap from ward 2 Council Members John Justen and Robyn Gulley.

We’re able to do these City Council recaps thanks to our members. You can join them with monthly or annual support through Patreon.

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