City Hall update // Council gives Linden Hills development the red light

Not so fast, the Minneapolis City Council told a developer who wants to build a 60-unit apartment complex on France Avenue and 45th Street. 

Despite winning a 4-2 vote from a key city committee, developer Scott Carlston was denied a waiver request that would have allowed his project to get a yes or no from the City Council. 

Betsy Hodges (Ward 13) fought against the waiver request and eight other council members took her side. The Council voted 9-4 against Carlston. Only Gary Schiff, Barb Johnson, Kevin Reich and Lisa Goodman voted in favor of the developer — the same four who voted in favor of the waiver request during a Zoning and Planning Committee meeting.

The waiver denial means that Carlston will have to wait until at least next April before he can get city approval or denial for his project, which is called France Avenue Apartments.

Carlston had previously proposed a 62-unit, five story building at the site, calling the project Sunnyside Flats. The Planning Commission denied that project. Carlston appealed, but withdrew his appeal and re-tooled the proposal. The new project calls for 60 units and four stories. He took out plans for commercial space on the ground floor.  

Carlston argued that he had gotten city advice to pull his appeal and believed his project would have been grandfathered in and unaffected by the moratorium on large projects in the Linden Hills neighborhood. 

The moratorium was set in place to give time for the Linden Hills neighborhood to work on a small area plan to guide development in the neighborhood. 

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council plans to hold an open house to discuss the small area planning process and whether or not to go forward with it. 

The open house runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 23 at the Linden Hills Recreation Center, 3110 43rd St. W. 

City utility fees have increased 62 percent under Rybak

Mayor R.T. Rybak has taken plenty of criticism over the past few years for increasing property taxes in Minneapolis. Those tax hikes have been well documented.

But what about utility fees under the third-term mayor? 

When Rybak took office in 2002, the average Minneapolis household was paying $641 a year for water, sewer and trash removal. Under his proposed 2013 budget, that same house will pay $1,040 for the same services, an increase of 62 percent. 

Water costs have gone from $181 a year to $340 a year. Garbage and recycling has gone from $213 a year to $296 a year. Finally, sewer and storm water has gone from $219 a year to $404 a year. 

Rybak this year is proposing a 2.5 percent increase in utility fees. On average, he has increased utility fees by 4.5 percent per year during his tenure. 

If city utility fees had stayed on par with inflation over the past decade, they would cost the average family $816 in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. 

Rybak’s spokesman, John Stiles, gave three explanations for the increased costs.  

“Exploding” pensions obligations for public employee retirement funds that were closed before Rybak took office.

Deferred maintenance in water and sewer infrastructure that Stiles said had been ignored in the years prior to Rybak’s election. Stiles said Rybak’s budgets have invested in those improvements. 

Increased fees from the Met Council for inflow and infiltration that were imposed on Minneapolis and other cities “in order to pay for exurban sprawl, which amounts to an unfunded mandate that Minneapolis has strongly objected to,” Stiles said. 

City awarded grant for electric vehicle charging stations 

A $220,000 state grant will allow the city of Minneapolis to install 25 electric vehicle charging stations in downtown parking ramps.

The grant is from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and requires the city and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to chip in another $55,000. Two of the ramps are DOT-owned and two are city owned.

The city would have to pay $16,000 and the DOT would have to pay $39,000, according to a resolution to be discussed during the Sept. 11 Transportation and Public Works Committee meeting.

The grant would allow for 13 charging stations at Ramp A and four at Ramp B. Both of those ramps are near Target Field. Four would be installed at Haaf Ramp, near the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, and another four would be installed at the Leamington Ramp near the Hilton.

A city spokesman said the city has not yet decided if it will charge customers for using the stations. The city currently operates three charging stations at the Haaf ramp and customers who pay for parking can use them for free.

The charging stations are expected to be running sometime next year.