Reading the Highland Villager #132

[Villager stacking up in West Saint Paul.]

[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.] 

Headline:  Council denies appeal, calls for shorter building on Shepard Road
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to build a six-story mixed-use apartment building on the site of an old, smaller office building but neighbors don't like it because they think it's too tall and/or would ruin views from/of the river valley below. The planning commission approved it, but the City Counci over-rued the decision citing height. the Friends of the Mississippi River (FOMR) are mentioned as a key plaintiff in the appeal. [Why is a supposedly environmental group fighting urban density that would help prevent sprawl?] Quote from FOMR head: "The variance would alter the essential character of the surrounding area." [Note: any time someone starts taking about "essential character" of something, you should get really skeptical. It doesn't even matter what it is, essentialism is troubling. Ask the Dakota people what they think about the essential character of the river.] Another quote from a National Park Service site who says "the projct would have major impacts on the river area, while giving the neighborhood little in return." [I really don't understand this logic at all. Density in Saint Paul, along a key transit corridor, is really good for reducing our impact on the surrounding land, and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Saint Paul is a city.] The developer is going back to the drawing board. The building is the first of a multi-part development on the site.

Headline: Commission OKs new rules on size, design of homes; Most of the rules would apply only in Highland and Mac-Grove for now
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Planning Commission [of which I am a member] approved new rules for "teardowns" and additions that would shift [slightly] what developers can do, but only in the city's 3rd Ward [i.e. where almost all of the wealthier people in the city live]. The commission approved an amendment that reduced heights even further than city staff recommended. A lot of people are pissed about "teardowns." [I don't think this proposal will stop teardowns, and won't likely solve the probem except around the very extremes. The root of the issue is changing tastes, private property, and the real estate market.] One big debate was over whether or not to apply rules city-wide or just in Ward 3. [Some commissioners don't want to begin creating different ruels for different neighborhoods, and have (IMO very valid) concerns about a slippery slope that would fracture the city's otherwise relatively straightforward zoning code along class and geography lines.]

Headline: Union Park, city come to terms over cell tower funds
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is going to pay the neighborhood group $50K out of a fund from cell phone tower fees because of previous negotiations.

Headline:  Hundreds of comments collected on Ford site traffic plan; City eyeing infrastructure on Ford site that lessens the dependency on cars
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a big public meeting at the site of an old car plant in Highland Park to talk about how to not drive all the time. People are concerned about traffic and parking. [Reminds me of the famous Onion headline: "Report: 99% of US commuters favor transit for others."] The redevelopment is "expected to have a profound effect" on traffic and parking. Some ideas floated: making the river road one-way, with bike lanes; reducing speeds on Cretin and/or Montreal, no big-box stores; roundabouts and/or chicanes [I bet folks had to look that up]; and paying for parking. [Dear lord, a parking meter in Highland? That'll be the day!] Best quote from a city planner: "We could build a ton of parking, and people would be delighted." [Bet you a beer that's what ends up happening.]

Headline: Options narrowed for intersection of Hwy. 5-Shepard Road; Study seeks bets way to direct traffic off West 7th
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is studying whether or not to try to improve traffic flow where the highway from the airport runs into West 7th Street and Shepard Road [right next to where the aforementioned development is located]. The goal is to divert more traffic onto the under-utilized Shepard Road and off the over-utilized and pedestrian-heavy West 7th Street. [It's impossible and dangerous to cross the street there, and there are also many transit riders, poor people, and/or people of color who live along there.] There is a consultant on board. The solution, if any is chosen, will likely involved "curved streets" diverting eastbound traffic. "Traffic calming benefits vary," according to a city engineer.

Headline: Rising cost of street work may waylay [good word!] some St. Paul projects; Bids are coming in much higher than anticipated
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: It turns out roads are expensive.

Headline: Hopeful continue to push for CIB funds; some say it's unfair to pit playgrounds against public safety
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on "the process" [see my recent pieces on it]. The city is funding some rec centers, police, fire, and bridge projects [and now also many bike/walk improvements, at least so far].

Headline: New police, fire stations to city's requests
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [See also.]

Headline: St. Paul OKs Sunday growler sales; restaurants also may begin selling liquor at 8 a. m. on Sundays
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [You can stop driving to Wisconsin, going to church.] CM Thune was the one vote against the ordinance, saying "this just opens the door for those who want Sunday off-sale in Minnesota."

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