Council approves Rybak’s selections for Planning Commission

The Minneapolis City Council has approved Mayor R.T. Rybak’s appointment of two Southwest residents to the city’s Planning Commission.

Lara Norkus-Crampton of East Calhoun and Lauren Huynh from Kenny have taken the places of former commission president Judith Martin and commissioner Michael Kraus on the 10-member panel, which advises the City Council on long-range planning issues including development, zoning and capital improvements. Kraus resigned and Martin was not reappointed.

Norkus-Crampton and Huynh are among four commission members appointed by the mayor with City Council approval. The rest of the commission consists of the mayor or designee and representatives from the City Council, Library Board, School Board and Park Board. Commissioners serve two-year terms.

Most of the planning commission’s time during the next couple years will be spent updating the city’s comprehensive plan, working on the development of several small area plans, amending zoning code and reviewing land-use applications, said Minneapolis Planning Director Barb Sporlein. The commission will also get a chance to review and make recommendations on the new Twins ballpark, she said.

Sporlein said the experience former commissioners Martin and Kraus brought to the table made them valuable members of the panel. Martin, for instance, served as president for eight years and was on the commission for 15 years. But Norkus-Crampton and Huynh bring fresh voices to the group and are qualified for their new roles, Sporlein said.

“Judith and Michael were quite good,” she said. “But these two new ones have very impressive resumes and are very eager.”

City Councilmember Ralph Remington (10th Ward) said he encouraged Norkus-Crampton to apply for the planning commission because of her community involvement. Up against a dozen other applicants, she made the cut.

Norkus-Crampton is an East Calhoun resident who works as a registered nurse at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. She has lived in different neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis during the past 20 years.

She is on the Uptown Small Area Plan steering committee and was an East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) board member until her appointment to the planning commission. She resigned from the board because of a potential conflict of interest. She has also served as chairwoman of the ECCO zoning committee and has been engaged in community development issues for years.

A couple years ago she was among a group of community members that spoke out against and eventually reversed the Park Board’s decision to close the 32nd Street beach on Lake Calhoun. She opposed the Edgewater condominium project on Lake Calhoun and the mixed-use development Mozaic, planned for Lagoon and Fremont Avenues.

Norkus-Crampton said she’s not against development, she just thought those projects were not appropriate for the area, largely because of their height. She said she supports developments that are compatible with the communities in which they are built.

“It’s exciting that people want to live here and build here,” she said. “We just have to make thoughtful decisions.”

She said she wants to see a successful, pedestrian friendly, growing Minneapolis. Strong public awareness and engagement are required to get there, she said.

“If people feel the process is fair and they’re going to be heard, that will go a long way toward making the right decisions,” she said.

New commissioner Lauren Huynh, who lives in the Kenny neighborhood, said she also believes in an involved citizenry. That’s the main reason she applied for the job.

“I’m interested in helping Minneapolis grow to be a better city,” she said.

She also thought she could offer the commission ample experience in planning and development.

Huynh has spent the last seven years working for Downtown-based ESG Architects. She has been involved in the design of the Edgewater, the Lander Group’s upcoming 2626 West Lake condominiums and other Minneapolis developments.

Huynh is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional at ESG and is the chairwoman of the company’s Green Core Team, a group of roughly 25 designers focused on sustainable design.

She is also active in the Twin Cities Green Roof Council and the local American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (COTE) Steering Committee. COTE’s aim is to educate professionals and the public about sustainable design issues.

Huynh recently joined the mayor’s Washington Boulevard Design Team, which is evaluating Downtown property along Washington to determine how development should progress in the area.

She said she wants to see sustainable, environment-friendly, energy-saving development in the city. Like Norkus-Crampton, Huynh said the city’s amenities should be accessible by foot or bicycle and developments should be appropriate for the areas they are proposed in.

Jake Weyer can be reached at jweyer@mnpubs.com and 436-4367.