Reading the Highland Villager #137

[A Villager on a patio.]
[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: New district would open door to more full liquor licenses along Green Line; Ward 4 is now tapped out when it comes to cocktails
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Property owners are pushing the city to make a new "commercial district" along the Green Line that would allow more full liquor licenses. [See also, some of the existing Green Line imbibing establishments.] Currently Saint Paul caps its liquor licenses [in an arbitrary way, historically controlled by the Catholic church, according to rumor] outside of downtown according to Ward, and Ward 4, the Western half of the Green Line ward, is full up. [Which explains the lack of bars West of Vandalia. I would think you'd want bars to be next to light rail stations, so that drunk people wouldn't drive their cars but take the train instead.] There are also 60/40 limits on percentage alcohol sales revenue [similar to the rules in Minneapolis that were recently struck down]. Neighbors had mixed feelings [3 parts NIMBY, 1 part enthusiasm, shaken with a rinse of long-range vision, and poured into a long linear LRT-shaped special use district].

Headline: City sweetens stadium  deal with tax exemptions; And indicates to MLS what it expects in return
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [In a move that smacks of generations of Minneapolis-centered insecurity] The City Council passed a resolution re-committing, in a non-binding way, that the city is willing to make the proposed MLS soccer stadium site tax-except [something the Mayor has already stated]. A resolution was added by CM Stark to try and make sure that a stadium would be TOD-focused. Article includes some of the history of the site, station area plans. Article includes some context about what exactly "MLS" is. [I'm sure most Villager readers haven't heard of pro soccer.] The legislature would have to approve any tax exemption. CM Thao quote: "This resolution says what we're willing to offer and what we're not willing to compromise on." [A big part of me is pretty sure that any "deal" Saint Paul makes with the McGuires/Pohlads/insert another Wayzata businessman will go down almost exactly like the deal that Jerry made with Wade in Fargo.]

Headline: City Council tweaks Exeter's plan for new housing addition
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to build a five-story building on a parking lot that would "cap" an existing historic one-story building by the Raymond Avenue light rail stop. Historic preservationists are upset. CM Stark "encouraged [the developer] to work with the HPC on the placement of HVAC equipment." [The new committee is called HPHVACC.] The developer seems sanguine. The building used to be  a truck dealership. The proposed development would have 120 apartments and mixed-use space. [Seems OK to me!]

Headline: Suicide prevention efforts pushed as part of new High Bridge design
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People keep jumping off the High Bridge. Mn-DOT is re-decking the High Bridge and had a meeting to talk about designs. [I was there, and bumpouts for Smith Avenue weren't rejected out-of-hand, which pleases me because speeding cars not stopping for pedestrians is a huge problem for development along Smith.] People upset about suicides, especially the most recent death of a high school girl, have been petitioning for something to be done. Ideas are pretty much limited to stencils. Some people would like to see traffic calming on the bottom/North end of the bridge. [Also there, please! I heard that originally, when they built the bridge int he 80s, Mn-DOT and the city wanted to make the High Bridge 4-lanes wide. Thankfully the neighborhood said "no." There's a lot that needs to be done to make sure people don't speed on either end of the bridge. Bridge design is kind of a nightmare in that regard.] Also, some neighbors "want on-street parking to remain" while others say "removing parking would improve traffic flow." [The last thing we want to do is increase speeds.] There will be more open houses in the future.

Headline: BZA snuffs plea for e-cig store on Grand
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Board of Zoning Appeals rejected a "distance variance" for an e-cigarette store because it is too close to a cigar store. Best quote from the rejected business owner: "At Imperial Vapor -- and I hate using this word as a verb -- they're vaping. It's a tenuous connection at best." [Yawn.]

Headline: Ran-Ham owner adjusting well to new chiropractor; Premier Health gives storefront with shady past a welcome facelift
Author: Chad Faust

Short short version: A chiropractor [along with tattoo parlors and VHS-to-DVD conversion studios, the sure sign of a thriving community] has moved into a store that used to be a pizza place that sold pot under the counter next to a large Catholic school. Best quote from neighbors: "We had an idea that pizza wasn't their primary source of income."

Headline: Union Park considers proposed drive-through coffee shop; New Starbucks would occupy vacant lot at Marshall and Snelling
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group will vote on whether to approve a conditional use permit and variance for a drive thru coffee shop on a corner that previously housed an auto repair shop, bike shop, and tiny drive-thru coffee kiosk [though not all at once]. Quote from neighbor: "It's just a bad idea." [Sound logic.] Some neighbors would like to see something built right away, even if it kind of sucks. Others would like to wait for a development proposal that doesn't consist of people sitting in idling cars impatiently drumming their fingers against the steering wheel. There are traffic issues, and the other Starbucks two blocks away might close. [See also my article on this in Minnpost.]

Headline: St. Paul approves $1.5M to buy land for Lex-Ham park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is buying a parking lot along University Avenue to turn into a park behind an existing high school. The parking lot used to be a place where circuses would set up tents. A non-profit is helping with costs.

Headline: Tavern on Avenue agrees to fine for excessive noise.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A West End biker bar will pay $500 for having loud music and an open door.

Headline: City rewrites law requiring developers to give to parks
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council approved rules that change the city's "parkland dedication requirement." The rules are a compromise between the lower rates that developers and the Chamber wanted, and the higher rates that park advocates wanted. CM Thao voted against it because he wanted more money for parks in lower income neighborhoods. There are a great many details. Article includes CM Stark quote: "Parks clearly have economic benefits, but there is a point of diminishing returns."

Headline: St. Paul residents pushing for new rules governing home teardowns
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Fresh on the heels of adopting new rules for home teardowns] People who own homes would like to see the city adopt new rules for home teardowns. [I told you that the rules that passed wouldn't solve the problem.] Some people would like a moratorium. Preservationists are being called in to help, and are contemplating doing an "historic survey." Anti-teardown advocates would like to see teardowns treated like major zoning variances. [I wonder what the zoning committee would think about that? Their meetings are already grueling.] Article includes quote by CM Tolbert about wanting to avoid "unintended consequences."

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