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West St. Paul City Council swore in a new police officer, started conversation on public art policy, made a change to require fewer public hearings, and got a glimpse at the 10-year financial forecast, including proposed levy changes.
New Police Officer
Mayor Dave Napier swore in the fourth new police officer since October. Carter Hinderscheid is a former community service officer in West St. Paul and previously served in St. Paul. Hinderscheid is a second generation West St. Paul officer as his father, John Hinderscheid, recently retired from the force. Back in August of 2019, the City Council also recognized Jack Hinderscheid, Carter’s grandfather, who served as a marine in the Korean War.
Public Art Policy
The City Council began an initial conversation about public art policy that could lead to more public art in West St. Paul. Last year the city drew national attention when a Black Lives Matter mural violated ordinances and had to be removed. Council weighed potential changes to the residential sign ordinance at the time, but public sentiment seemed to be in favor of the status quo.
Now the discussion is starting with whether or not to allow art in public spaces such as parks and other city-owned property. The conversation could eventually expand to include commercial spaces, but for now it’s focused on public spaces and how narrowly to define them (i.e., does it include schools, nonprofits, etc.?).
The Council gave city staff approval to move forward and start working through the legal framework. Specific proposals will likely come forward in March for more detailed review.
“Looking forward to public art being in public spaces and hopeful for it,” Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne said.
But Mayor Dave Napier and Council Member Dick Vitelli were less eager.
“I’m a little uneasy about the whole thing myself,” Napier said. “I’d want to enter with caution.”
While the conversation focused on general policy, there are two proposed mural projects in the works that would require ordinance changes to move forward.
Fewer Public Hearings
City Council held a public hearing to consider requiring fewer public hearings. After nobody spoke during the public hearing, the Council voted unanimously to approve a measure that reduces the number of required public hearings.
Formerly two public hearings were required for site plans and conditional use permits, one before Planning Commission and one before City Council. Only one is required by state law and the reduction will help streamline the process, reduce costs, and avoid confusion. The downside is less opportunity for public input, though City Council could always invite public comment at their discretion.
Planning Commission also held a public hearing on the matter in January, though no one from the public spoke then either.
If you like to dig into the weeds and/or look into the future, you might be interested in the 10-year projection that offers a glimpse at the city’s finances over the next decade. Of special interest is the projected levy increases over the next decade, which average 3.84%.
Other Items on the Agenda
- Park naming policy: Several city parks lack official names (pool park, art park, etc.), so before diving into a naming process, the council considered a naming policy. They had no comments or questions, so this will come forward in a future consent agenda to be officially approved.
- Limiting self storage: Council approved the first reading of a proposed ordinance change to limit self storage facilities to industrial areas.
- Ice arena: The ice arena expansion project slowed down due to the pandemic, but it’s again moving forward with a proposal to lease the building to the West St. Paul Hockey Association. They will finance the expansion that includes new locker rooms and a dry land training space.
- Solar: Council approved an ordinance change to allow free-standing solar power systems.
You can also watch the video recap from Council Members Robyn Gulley and John Justen.
Learn more about how city council works with our Guide to West St. Paul City Council.
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