Green digest // Power lines wont overhang Greenway

Xcel Energy must bury two new high-voltage transmission lines under East 28th Street instead of stringing them above the Midtown Greenway as the utility originally proposed.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s Jan. 12 ruling on Xcel Energy’s Hiawatha Transmission Project ended more than two years’ worth of debate over where the lines should run and whether they were even needed. The Commission also granted Xcel a Certificate of Need for the project, determining Xcel’s arguments for the need to improve the Midtown area’s electrical infrastructure were valid.

Xcel cited population growth and successful urban revitalization projects as two main factors driving increased electricity demand in the area. The utility first proposed adding two energy substations connected by two 115-kilovolt transmission lines in 2009, but some neighborhood activists countered that conservation was a better approach to matching electricity supply and demand.

The nonprofit Midtown Greenway Coalition never officially endorsed that position, but it did lead the effort to keep the power lines off the bike and pedestrian corridor. Coalition leaders argued routing the power lines above the Greenway would discourage commercial and residential development along the corridor.

Although the 1.5-mile project will run between Oakland and Hiawatha avenues and not enter Southwest, several Southwest neighborhood organizations were among the Coalition’s supporters in opposing Xcel’s original plan.

Xcel estimated the total cost of the project at $30–$43 million. Burying the lines under East 28th Street is expected to move the final cost closer to the high end of that range.

More information on how the project will impact utility rates is expected in coming weeks from Xcel.


Public comment on urban ag plan Jan. 23

New zoning rules for urban agriculture get a public hearing in front of the City Planning Commission 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at City Hall.

The hearing may be one of the last opportunities for public comment on the zoning code amendments, which are the city’s first attempt to develop regulations for many urban agricultural practices. City staff began drafting the new rules after the City Council adopted the Urban Agriculture Policy Plan in April.

City Planner Aly Pennucci said the proposed zoning amendment was slightly altered based on feedback from the public during a community open house in late November.

Some at that open house complained that a proposed rule limiting small market farms to selling their produce at on-site farm stands to just 15 days a year was too restrictive. That number will likely be expanded before the City Planning Commission hearing, Pennucci said.

She said another revision would allow bee keeping as an “accessory use” to the farms. The proposal also now has more detailed regulations for hoop houses, which are temporary structures used to extend the growing season, Pennucci added.

To read the full text of the proposed zoning code amendment, go to ci.minneapolis.mn.us/cped/projects/cped_urban_ag_zoning.


Watershed seeks board applicants

Two seats on the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board of Managers come open in March, and the Hennepin County Board is seeking applicants to fill the positions.

The deadline to submit an application is Feb. 23. Candidates will be interviewed by the Hennepin County Board, which jointly appoints members to the watershed’s seven-person board of managers with the Carver County Board.

The terms of current managers Lee Keeley and Jeff Casale both expire March 8. Managers are charged with protecting water quality and preventing flooding in the 181-square-mile watershed, which includes the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis.

The board meets on three Thursday evenings each month at either Minnetonka City Hall or the watershed district’s headquarters in Deephaven. For more information, or to apply online, visit hennepin.us/volunteering.


City offers vacant lots for gardening

The city had 10 vacant lots available for community gardens as of January.

The lots are available for lease to qualifying groups on a first-come, first-served basis. Groups must be not-for-profit or affiliated with a not-for-profit sponsor.

Those groups new to community gardening will be offered one-year leases, while more experienced groups could have the opportunity to negotiate three- to five-year leases. The city reports the lots are “not appropriate for development,” meaning the land should remain available for gardening even as the economy picks up and construction projects return to Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Community garden operators will have to hold liability insurance. Applicants will also meet with city staff to discuss their plans for managing the gardens and how the gardens will be used to benefit the community.

The gardens can be used for vegetable farming, but are not required to grow food.

For more information, or to apply, visit minneapolismn.gov/health/homegrown/dhfs_gardeners or call 673-5051.

Reach Dylan Thomas at dthomas@mnpubs.com.