city council actions

2/9 Meeting

Condo conversion regulations: The City Council voted 7-6 against an ordinance calling for restrictions on converting apartments to condominiums.

Council Member Cam Gordon (2nd Ward) authored the failed ordinance, which was meant to address a recent affordable housing loss and improve protection of condominium buyers.

The ordinance would have required converters to apply for a permit from the city's Department of Regulatory Services and receive city approval before redeveloping a building. The applicant would have to provide descriptions of repairs and improvements as well as current rent, projected selling cost of a converted unit and other details. Some tenants in converted buildings would have been eligible for a relocation payment, according to the ordinance.

Gordon said many tenants have suffered during the condo conversion boom of the last several years, and more than 283 affordable units were lost to such developments between 2001 and 2005.

Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) called the ordinance a &#8220solution in search of a problem,” arguing that condo conversions provide affordable housing for people who need it most. She said the ordinance was just another hoop for developers to jump through.

Council members also discussed the need for more accurate and up-to-date statistics.

New development: An ordinance to rezone properties at 2833 Lyndale Ave. to permit the construction of a mixed-use building with 109 dwelling units and commercial space was approved.

West Lake Street construction: The Council approved a funding agreement between the city, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Hennepin County for the reconstruction of West Lake Street. The Council also decided to delay a resolution establishing uniform assessment rates for 2007 street construction and renovation because of a 20 percent jump in assessments for businesses on West Lake Street.

Billboard moratorium: The Council approved a moratorium on electronic billboards. The moratorium was enacted immediately. Council members will evaluate which parts of the city are appropriate for such signs.

city council actions

1/26 Meeting

Uptown Moratorium: Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) introduced an ordinance to extend for another six months the current moratorium restricting the height of buildings constructed within the Uptown Small Area Plan boundaries.

Remington initially introduced the moratorium, which restricts developers from building higher than the city's zoning code allows, to slow Uptown development during the creation of the small area plan.

Hotel Uptown: The Council voted to grant the proposed Hotel Uptown - located at 3017, 3021 and 3027 Holmes Ave. S. - a waiver from the Uptown moratorium. The proposed six-story hotel is seven and a half feet higher than the maximum permitted height of 56 feet.

Public Works Director: The Council approved the appointment of Steve Kotke as director of the Public Works Department.

Mayor R.T. Rybak nominated Kotke for a term ending Jan. 2, 2008. Kotke began serving as acting director of Public Works May 12 after Rybak chose not to renominate former Public Works Director Klara Fabry. Kotke was officially appointed as interim Public Works director in July and has been serving in that post since. He has worked for the city since 1989 and has served as the deputy director of Public Works and director of Internal Services.

War Resolution: The Council passed a resolution by Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) &#8220urging the cessation of war and combat operations in Iraq and the return of American troops.”

The measure received nine votes, with Council President Barb Johnson (4th Ward) and Council Members Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) and Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) declining to vote on the issue. Ostrow argued that it is not appropriate for the Council to vote on national issues, but Remington and other members of the Council argued the resolution was appropriate because the war impacts residents of the city.

&#8220I think there are some issues of national importance that the city has to weigh in on,” Remington said.

Fuel Contracts: The Council authorized city officials to enter into binding contracts for fixed fuel prices. The city currently buys fuel in the competitive market but, according to the city staff report, widely fluctuating gas prices have caught city departments off guard. Most of the cost increases in fuel happened after city department budgets were set and were beyond the inflationary adjustments factored into the budgets.

The Minneapolis Police Department, for example, saw its annual fuel expenses increase from $687,500 in 2004 to $987,000 by Oct. 31 of 2006. Contracting for fixed fuel prices will aid the city in budgeting and will also protect the city from unanticipated fuel price increases. St. Paul and Ramsey County have had similar contracts since 2001 and have saved more than $2 million so far, according to the staff report.

&#8220This is being done to save money and to provide our departments with one solid number they'll need to pay for fuel,” Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) said.

The volatility of the market makes fuel bids good for only a few hours, so the Council authorized staff to sign a contract on its behalf.

Legislative Agenda: The Council approved a resolution identifying the joint legislative priorities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The two cities listed funding for light rail along the Central Corridor as their highest priority, noting that it &#8220serves as critical infrastructure for the economic hub of the state.”

Minneapolis and St. Paul will also take an agenda to the Capitol that pushes for property tax and local government aid reforms that &#8220address adequacy, equity of distribution, predictability of appropriations and the appropriate roles served by the core cities for the benefit of the state.” Other priorities on the list include support for a comprehensive metro transportation package that includes transit and transportation capital and operating costs; permanent funding for public safety; increased funding for affordable housing; and municipal authority over anyone providing video services in the right of way of either city.