City to lift street-lighting moratorium

The City Council will soon lift a two-year moratorium on new pedestrian-level street lighting projects.

Lighting efforts have become controversial because part or all of the cost goes on a landowner’s property tax. Adding to political fire, many neighborhoods found the old petition process to get neighborhood input ill-defined.

A drawn-out lighting petition polarized the Lyndale neighborhood in 2002. The $3.2 million project would have cost the owner of an average-sized lot $2,500. Opponents raised questions about how long petition signatures remained valid and whether renters were allowed to sign something that would raise their landlords’ property taxes.

Like the old policy, the draft policy said a neighborhood petition would need signatures representing "at least 65 percent of the total square footage of affected property owners." The new policy sets a one-year deadline to complete and return the petition, from the neighborhood submission date. (A Councilmember may grant an extension up to six months.)

The petition is advisory only. A Councilmember could reject a project with more than 65 percent approval or approve a project with less than 65 percent approval.

In September, Public Works staff will give the public information for self-guided tours of the city’s existing pedestrian lighting projects, so people could compare light levels and light fixtures. The city will develop new light fixture and light pole options and seek community comment.

In October, the city would seek public comment on the policy itself and report back to the Transportation Committee Oct. 12.

As the discussion moves ahead, Public Works will provide lighting policy updates to neighborhood groups and business associations, Wertjes said. It would post information on its Web site, www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/public-works/.

People interested in getting on the mailing list should call Beverly Warmka, 673-3762.