West St. Paul Mayor Dave Napier swearing in new police officer Anthony Tonda.

West St. Paul City Council Recap: Sept. 26, 2022

Thanks to our members for enabling us to do these city council recaps. Join them and support neighborhood news in West St. Paul.

Long-term development took center stage during West St. Paul’s City Council meeting, including the former Hy-Vee/YMCA property with a proposal for apartments, a sit-down restaurant, and public space, Dakota County’s mental health crisis recovery and treatment center, and a feasibility study for a community center.

Park Master Plan and Community Center Study

In response to local interest in a community center, the city is planning to add a community center study to their long-term park master plan. The city has been in talks with surrounding communities and other potential partners, but fleshing out specific needs and costs is an important next step. A ballpark cost of a community center is in the range of $20 to $100 million, with ongoing operations/maintenance costs in the $1.5 to $3 million range (potentially offset by $1.5 million in memberships/fees).

While most of Council was on board to at least study the issue, Council Member Dick Vitelli called it a waste of money.

“We’ve been down this road,” Vitelli said. “You’re throwing your money away.”

City Manager Nate Burkett said the additional expense for the community center study would likely be $5,000 to $10,000 and within the budget for long-term planning.

Mayor Dave Napier agreed that West St. Paul couldn’t afford a community center on its own, but it’s all about finding partners. A study is the first step to laying out costs and seeing if the project is feasible or not. The study would likely be completed by spring/summer 2023.

Hy-Vee Land Redevelopment Presentation

The Economic Development Authority (EDA) work session got a first look at a preliminary proposal for the redevelopment of the former Hy-Vee/YMCA property. The developer’s proposal included 460 units of market rate apartments in two buildings, 27 rental townhomes, a sit-down restaurant and commercial space, as well as public park facilities with an amphitheater, pavilion, and more. A pedestrian promenade is a big part of the plan, connecting the proposed restaurant on Robert Street to the public park amenities on the east end of the property next to the pond.

As discussed when the city agreed to purchase the Hy-Vee property, housing is necessary to bring in other amenities such as a restaurant.

Greco Properties proposed the project and compares it to the Mississippi Crossings project they’re working on in Champlin.

The construction timeline would break the project into two phases stretching over four years, with most of the work happening in the first two years but pushing the second apartment building into the second two years.

The next step is to flesh out plans, determine a subsidy amount, and approve a development agreement in time for a December closing date to coincide with the purchase agreement on the Hy-Vee property. Potential costs were not discussed during the meeting.

Dakota County Crisis and Recovery Center

During the OCWS, Dakota County made a presentation about a proposed crisis recovery center for the east end of the Dakota County’s Northern Service Center property. The 16,000-square-foot building would house intensive residential treatment services (stays up to 90 days, relocating 15 beds from South St. Paul and adding one), crisis residential services (stays up to 10 days), and a “welcoming place to go” 24/7 staffed by the Dakota County crisis team.

This fills a needed gap in mental health services, allowing people in crisis to stay in the community for treatment and have an easier transition. The facility it would replace is actually three homes in South St. Paul that have outlived their usefulness.

The project would be a partnership with Guild Services, who has been working in the community for decades. Plans will come before the Planning Commission in November with construction hoping to start in summer 2023 and opening in fall 2024.

Marijuana Regulation

City Council got a first look at proposed regulations for intoxicating THC products. The city passed a moratorium on new sales earlier this year so they could hammer out a regulatory framework. The ordinance includes licensing, zoning, a limit of two specialty shops, and other regulations. This will go through the approval processes this fall with a planned effective date of Jan. 1, 2023.

Council expressed frustration with the state legislature for how this has been rolled out.

Other Items on the Agenda

  • Explore WSP Days: During OCWS the Council discussed this year’s inaugural Explore West St. Paul Days events and plans for the future, including shifting the dates to June 8-10 to avoid conflicts with other local events and get marching bands in the parade. The schedule is still in flux, but they’re looking at moving the parade to Saturday morning, adding a ‘music in the park’ type concert to Friday with fireworks at the end, and adding an arts event to Saturday afternoon. As a bonus, this year’s event brought in over $33,000 in sponsorships, allowing the event to break even—a huge win for a first year.
  • Commercial grant: The EDA approved an exterior improvement grant of $10,000 for the Amore Coffee building.
  • New officer: Mayor Dave Napier swore in new police officer Anthony Tonda.
  • Property awards: After a hiatus for COVID-19, the city gave three properties the Outstanding Property Award. These awards are nominated by residents and approved by City Council.
  • Budget: City Council approved the preliminary budget and levy for 2023 as part of the consent agenda. Continual budget refinement will happen through the fall before final approval in December, but this set a maximum for potential property tax increases.
  • Expanded parking: Council approved a proposed parking lot expansion for a Dakota County CDA apartment at 1675 Livingston, south of the sports dome.
  • Closed session: The EDA had a closed session to consider the sale of 1619 Oakdale, the property at the corner of Oakdale and Wentworth that the city purchased earlier this year for redevelopment.
  • Neighbors, Inc.: Mayor Napier attended the 50th anniversary celebration of Neighbors, Inc. and beat South St. Paul Mayor Jimmy Francis in a Neighbors, Inc. trivia contest, proudly “bringing home the hardware” with a trophy.
Mayor Dave Neighbor showing off a small trophy.

You can watch the City CouncilOCWS, EDA, and EDA work session meetings online. You can also watch the video recap from Ward 2 Council Members Robyn Gulley and John Justen.

Learn more about how city council works with our Guide to West St. Paul City Council.

Thanks to our members for enabling us to do these city council recaps. Join them and support neighborhood news in West St. Paul.

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