City Council is ready to declare a climate emergency and is moving forward with a townhouse development on the former golf course.
During the Open Council Work Session (OCWS), Council discussed whether or not to join 16 other cities across Minnesota in declaring a climate emergency. The Environmental Committee raised the issue and unanimously approved a motion to forward a resolution to city council. The resolution will urge the legislature to take further action on climate change. The proposal meets best practices for the Green Step Cities program, the environmental and sustainability program the city has been following.
“The sum of our actions will make a difference,” Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne said. “This is us doing our part as leaders to mitigate, to decrease the impacts of climate change on our community.”
“Let’s continue to put that into concrete steps,” Council Member Robyn Gulley said. “A resolution is great, it tells us what our direction should be, but putting it in ordinance means that we actually get to enforce it.”
All six council members supported the resolution, though Mayor Dave Napier had concerns about some of the specific language.
“I don’t support it the way it’s written,” Napier said. “However, I support the intent and will continue to support all the efforts we can to do our share.”
The resolution will come before the City Council on March 14 for official approval.
The Economic Development Authority (EDA) looked at a proposed townhouse development for the east end of the former Thompson Oaks golf course. The area includes contaminated soil that complicates the development process. The proposal included two options, one already approved with 58 multi-level units and minimal cost to the city and another new option with 39 multi-level and 12 single-level units with a cost of around $300,000 to the city.
The single-level option came after Council Member Dick Vitelli voiced concerns back in November about needing more options for older residents. However, this time around Vitelli came out rejecting both plans, arguing that the city should take the risk of remediating the soil and come up with a better plan.
There wasn’t much support for Vitelli’s proposal, especially when City Attorney Kori Land pointed out that a development agreement is already in place (passed unanimously in November) and walking away from the project could be a breach of contract. Vitelli made a motion to table the discussion and do more research, but didn’t get a second and the motion died.
The Council was torn between the value of adding single-level homes and the additional cost to do so. Ultimately they took no action, which means the approved, 58-unit proposal will move forward. However, their desire for more single-level units at a better price point is noted and city staff will continue to work with the developer to see what’s possible.
Other Items on the Agenda
- Public hearing: Self storage facilities were restricted to industrial zones with no comment from the public.
- New business: The Open to Business program presented on their accomplishments in 2021, including supporting 15 businesses in West St. Paul, including Hamburguesas El Gordo.
- Annapolis: We got another update on the Annapolis reconstruction project, reflecting the latest open house and survey input.
- SRSBA: Dave Motz was recognized for 15 years as president of the South Robert Street Business Association.
- Local preemption: In a last minute addition to the agenda, Council passed a resolution from the League of Minnesota Cities objecting to local preemption by the state in housing policy.
- Women: Council recognized March as Women’s History Month.
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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