City council actions

DeLaSalle: There will be grass

After months of dispute over whether a proposed athletic field — or stadium depending on whom you ask — at DeLaSalle High School on Nicollet Island will have synthetic or natural turf, the high school withdrew its appeal Feb. 29, effectively ending the debate.

“There will be grass,” said Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward) following the Feb. 29 City Council meeting.

Officially, the City Council unanimously denied the High School’s appeal of the Feb. 14 action by Heritage Preservation Commission that denied the school’s application to install synthetic turf on the proposed athletic facility (field, stadium, et al). Schiff said that it was his understanding that the appeal was at the behest of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, not the high school. It is unclear when construction will begin on the nonsynthetic playing surface.

Council approves yanking rental licenses

The City Council unanimously voted to pull the rental licenses of property owners of 45 housing units in North Minneapolis.

“These folks bought up over 100 properties in North Minneapolis under a scam,” said Council Member Don Samuels (5th Ward), who singled out Roseville-based TJ Waconia for contributing to the area’s housing problems. Samuels said the process usually worked like this: owners would buy properties, sell them to “straw buyers,” make themselves managers, collect the rent and oftentimes not pay the mortgage, Samuels said.

Samuels said that of the 45 properties, nine are still occupied. Those occupants have been allowed a 90-day extension to move.

Samuels said the affect on the community over a few short months was much more profound than drug dealers on the street.

“It is a shame that … they’re just names on a page and yet they create way more havoc than 10 drug dealers,” he said. “I think it is good that we say their names and say them often.”

Council President Barbara Johnson (4th Ward) thanked the city’s housing inspectors, commending their “tremendous amount of work chasing this ownership trail.” The city’s Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department did the initial work in tracing ownership of the properties with assistance from Family Housing Fund.

Street lighting

Street lights are a lot like air traffic controllers; no one really notices them until they are not there.

The City Council directed the city’s Public Works department to implement a plan that outlines lighting to be provided on all streets and a process to get it done.

The project, which has been in the works since 1999, has “very many moving parts” said Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward). “So we are taking this in two steps: general framework and direction followed by staff policy recommendation.”
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) recommended a few changes to the project’s funding verbiage, including: using a uniform rate to pay for street light installation costs; continue using net debt bonding, direct property charges — but not utility fees — and other available revenue sources such as grants to pay for parkway lighting and installation costs.

Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) floated the idea of installing lighting without petitions as part of large development projects, unless owners want to opt out. Instead, it was referred to CPED.

“It doesn’t mean we won’t do it later, it just means we won’t do it now,” Goodman said of the changes.

Care for a drinking fountain?

The City Council also approved the location of the final two (of 10 total) sites for the city’s drinking fountain project.

One will be located near the intersection of Lowry & Central avenues in Northeast and the other in Uptown, on the edge of Lake Calhoun near West Lake Street.

The $500,000 project will be funded, according to a Council staff report, by equal contributions from the Arts in Public Places Fund and the Water Fund.

The “artistic” fountains will also not begin construction until signalized intersections have been installed.

Inspiration for the fountains came from the theater production “Invigorate the Common Well” by Sandy Spieler and In the Heart of the Beast Theatre, according to city staff reports.

One goal of this project is to celebrate the role water has played in the city’s history as part of the sesquicentennial celebration. Thirty-eight artists are vying to design the drinking fountains.

Funding approved for West 54th Street road work

The Council approved $2.2 million to be used to reconstruct West 54th Street from Upton to Penn Avenues from late April through November.

Due to the deterioration of the street, homeowners will endure a bit of reconstruction and be charged special assessments, or extra property taxes, that can be paid over 20 years, said project manager Jeff Handeland.

City staff met four times with the roughly 50 residents affected along 54th Street, and are planning a fifth meeting. Affected homeowners will be notified by the city.

A public hearing will be held at the March 25 City Council meeting at City Hall, 350 S. 5th St.

Reach Steve Pease at [email protected]