The West St. Paul City Council covered a lot of ground this week, including the future of the former Hy-Vee/YMCA property, No Mow May, and battling catalytic converter thefts.
The City of West St. Paul is acting quickly in response to the news that Hy-Vee will not be building a West St. Paul location. City officials expressed disappointment that the Hy-Vee project is not going forward, but also said they were excited about the opportunity the vacant land presents. City staff gave a presentation on the options for development before going into a closed session to discuss a potential purchase offer for the 9.59 acre site.
So far, Hy-Vee is willing to work with the city on the future of the site, though it’s not clear if that means some kind of partnership or an outright purchase. The city having some sort of say in the project is important, because otherwise the city has no power. Without a voice, Hy-Vee could sell to a developer who would build a 500-unit apartment complex and the city would have little ability to stop it. None of the council members were in favor of that kind of outcome.
The city presentation looked to the Renaissance Plan for guidance on the site, which shows a mix of restaurants and shops, some type of housing (probably a necessity to make the project work financially), and some sort of community space. That community space could be an outdoor park-like feature or a community center space, like the YMCA. Though at this point there are no specific proposals or price tags. Instead the city is envisioning how this could be a central gathering place in the city, especially with the library, River-to-River Greenway Trail, Thompson Oaks watershed restoration project all nearby.
“Everything is on the table,” said Mayor Dave Napier.
No Mow May
For the second year in a row West St. Paul will be participating in No Mow May, an initiative to discourage lawn mowing in the month of May to protect pollinators. Educational yard signs are available from city hall and are technically required, though the city isn’t going to cite anyone for not having their yard sign (the city attorney noted the required signs would not count against the one sign per yard rule). Lawn height rules will be enforced again starting on June 1.
In 2021, West St. Paul became the third city in Minnesota to support No Mow May, following Rochester and North Oaks. This year we’re joined by Edina, Monticello, Vadnais Heights, and New Brighton, among others.
The city reported receiving about 20 complaints in 2021, and hopes to focus on education this year to limit the complaints.
“Last year was really a trial run of sorts and we didn’t require any sort of registration, so [there was] no way for us to quantify,” Assistant City Manager Dan Nowicki told the Star Tribune.
This year support for the No Mow May resolution was unanimous. Last year, Council Member Dick Vitelli was the lone no vote.
Catalytic Converter Thefts
West St. Paul is considering how to combat the rise in catalytic converter thefts. In 2021, the city saw 177 converter thefts, up from 45 in 2020 and none in 2019. These thefts happen in broad daylight and can take less than a minute for thieves to come and go. The police report some residents have been hit multiple times.
West St. Paul Police Chief Brian Sturgeon says action needs to happen on the state and federal level to limit the ability to sell stolen catalytic converters. Tagging converters can be a way to discourage theft and the city will have an upcoming event to just that. The police department will also be releasing a list of vehicles that are frequently targeted.
Sturgeon proposed an ordinance that will make it illegal to possess a catalytic converter without proof of ownership. This will give police a tool to act when they come across catalytic converters in the back of a car. Council gave initial approval during the Open Council Work Session (OCWS) and a formal ordinance will come forward at a future meeting.
While the proposed Doddway redevelopment plan wasn’t on the agenda, Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne gave an update on the project in response to resident concerns. Basically the developer hasn’t brought back any updates since the initial proposal last August. The city has applied for federal funding to help realign the intersection, a project they are pursuing whether the development project happens or not.
Other Items on the Agenda
- Street maintenance: Council considered 3.2 miles of mill and overlay projects for 2023, which is a maintenance approach to prolong the life of pavement for another 10 to 15 years without completely rebuilding the street.
- Truck parking: An ordinance to limit commercial vehicle parking on residential streets received an initial nod from Council during the OCWS. This will come back with more formal ordinance language for approval.
- Compliance hearings: The West St. Paul Police Department did compliance checks on establishments that sell tobacco and alcohol, and six failed the alcohol check: Applebee’s, Cub Liquor, El Nuevo Morelos, MGM Wine and Spirits, R&B Liquor, and Smith Liquors.
- Gift card fraud: An ordinance to address gift card fraud—where thieves break into cars or gym lockers to steal credit cards and then immediately buy gift cards before the stolen credit cards are cancelled—received initial approval from Council during OCWS. The ordinance will require retailers to check ID before selling the gift cards.
- Child care facility: Council approved a conditional use permit for a child care facility at 1025 Dodd.
- Thompson Oaks: Council and EDA approved a joint powers agreements with Dakota County to finalize details related to the Thompson Oaks watershed restoration project.
- Parental leave: Council approved a paid parental leave policy for birth/adoption of a child.
- Union contracts: Council approved union contracts with the police officers, police sergeants, and teamsters unions.
- AAPI Heritage Month: Council proclaimed May to be Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
Learn more about how city council works with our Guide to West St. Paul City Council.
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