Council approves restrictions on dangerous dogs

Friday’s City Council Actions

Dangerous animals: In response to a near-fatal dog attack on a Minneapolis resident last spring, the City Council voted 13-0 to approve tougher restrictions for people who own dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs.

The Dangerous Animals Ordinance Work Group convened in April and recommended many of the changes.

The Council altered its definitions of dangerous and potentially dangerous animals. It also approved tougher restrictions for those who don’t comply with the new rules.

For example, anyone who owns a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog and violates the ordinance can be prohibited from owning an animal for five years. Also, it will be more challenging for convicted felons to own a dog that weighs more than 20 pounds.

Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) said that declaring a dog as potentially dangerous is a very serious issue for dog owners and that the city needs to have a high standard for making such a declaration.

Throughout the discussion, Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) wanted to make sure the Council was not approving a breed ban.

The Council did not vote on the civil fines schedule and referred the issue back to the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee.

Three-month foreclosure suspension: A resolution calling for a voluntary moratorium on foreclosures in the city divided the Council and fueled an emotional debate. It passed 9-4 with Council Members Goodman, Paul Ostrow (1st Ward), Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) and President Barbara Johnson (4th Ward) voting against it.

The resolution asks the 25 largest subprime mortgage lenders in the country to suspend foreclosures of owner-occupied properties in Minneapolis for three months.

Though supportive of taking action on foreclosures, Goodman and Ostrow did not believe the resolution had any teeth. Instead, they said it created a false sense of hope for those affected by foreclosures. Goodman said the resolution wasn’t about creating change; it was about hoping for change.

Remington, a resolution author, said the city had to take a stand and say “no more” to subprime lenders.

“This is the right thing to do at the right time,” he said.

Future of NRP: The Council unanimously approved a draft report that outlines plans for the future of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP).

Funding for NRP will run out in 2009, forcing city and community leaders to come up with a plan for what will happen next. In December, the NRP Work Group comprising four Council members, the director of NRP and a mayoral policy aide, released draft recommendations for the future of the program. Informational meetings will be held this month and next month.

According to the report, the Work Group agreed that the city should provide approximately $2 million annually in administrative funding to neighborhood groups.

Community Participation Division staffing to support NRP activities after 2009. It would be a new division within the City Coordinator’s office and would include city community participation staff and NRP staff.

It also agreed on creating a Neighborhood Investment Fund (NIF), which would be allocated by neighborhoods to address priorities. This money would be approved by the city and a new Community Participation Governance Board (CPGB) – made up of representatives elected by neighborhood groups, and appointed by the council, mayor and other members.

It would also be allocated through a request for proposal process for specific projects. The CPGB would make the grant awards.

Karmel Village:
The vote on whether to approve a conditional use permit for Karmel Village, 2848 Pleasant Ave. and 2825 Grand Ave. S., turned into a debate on the city’s zoning code.

The Council upheld the Planning Commission’s decision to deny the site plan approval but it compromised by voting 12-1 to grant a conditional use permit for up to 77 units for the property. The developer had requested 92 units, while the Planning Commission had recommended a permit for only 58 units.

Council Vice President Robert Lilligren (6th Ward), who wanted the Council to side with the Planning Commission, said there are livability issues in the Whittier neighborhood and he blamed the city. He said the area has moved quickly into high-density residential and commercial development.

“We are choking off this area,” he said.

Council Member Colvin Roy, who agreed with Lilligren but voted for the permit allowing 77 units, said the city’s zoning code has made it nearly impossible to allow development in an orderly fashion.

824 Hennepin Ave: The Council didn’t sing the blues when it rejected the only proposal it had received to purchase and redevelop its 824 Hennepin Ave. property.

John Laurent and Steven Heckler pitched turning the theater into the 824 Blues Club, showcasing blues music six nights a week. Their proposal included an offer to lease the basement and first floor of the building “as is” for 10 years and an option to purchase the building within the first 24 months of the lease for $1 million.

Their proposal was considered “non-responsive.” According to documents, city officials wanted to sell and not lease the building. The proposed arrangement would have made it difficult to continue running the theater because of the noise from the club and the basement holds a majority of the dressing rooms.

Heckler and Laurent have blues and development expertise. Heckler is the founder and executive director of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and the Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues Festival, and executive director of the Twin Cities

Festival of Nations. Laurent designed, developed and constructed the Minneapolis restaurant 112 Eatery and is a board member of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

The Council issued the Request for Proposal this fall. Staff will now look into long-term lease options.

Youth Crime: The Council approved the “Blue Print for Action” goals and recommendations.

The plan outlines four goals and 34 recommendations for achieving them. A committee that worked on the plan was formed last spring after the Council and Mayor R.T. Rybak approved a resolution recognizing youth violence as a public health problem.

Among the recommendations: increase the number of private businesses offering jobs and expand summer employment programs for at-risk youths; ensure there is a trusted adult in a young person’s life; provide safe spaces for activities by increasing hours at libraries, parks and schools.

Rybak launched the “Blueprint for Action” plan at a Minnesota Meeting at the Convention Center on Jan. 9.