Reading the Highland Villager #168

[A Villager stoops.]
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.] 

Headline: St. Paul lays out its hopes for old Ford Plant prior to sale; Master redevelopment plan unveiled on Nov. 14
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The place where the truck factory used to be is going to have buildings on it. There will be [was] a meeting where the city will tell everyone about the plans. [Via Twitter, over 35% of the building space will be used for parking and there will be parking minimums. So much for sustainability.] There will be buildings, streets, sidewalks, etc.  Neighbors are concerned about traffic. [See article on this in today's paper.]

Headline: Mayor finds another $1M to keep Palace renovation on schedule
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Man the couch in the Mayor’s office is huge. Lotsa cushions. You probably don’t wanna sit on it if you’re wearing pants with pockets.] The theater downtown is being remodeled [using “8-80” money for some reason]. It’s over budget and the Mayor’s office found money to keep the project going. CM Stark is quoted complaining about the lack of oversight from the Council. The money is coming from a fund from the Victoria Park redevelopment, a residential project on an old “oil tank farm.” Council Members were upset that they didn’t know about the extra money. CMs Prince and Tolbert were upset too. The theater already has a show booked for March. There was a dispute about how the bar and green rooms should be designed. Article includes pictures. [There’s a photo showing the marquee with the words “Welcome To The Palace” on display. Spending extra money on palaces is kind of a famous mistake for royalty, no?]

Headline: Objections raised about St. Paul police body camera policy; changes are also sought for city commission that reviews police misconduct
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City is contemplating changes to its body camera and civilian oversight policies. The City Attorney says that the City Council has no authority over the issues. Lots of groups are involved in providing comments on the policies. [See this Minnpost article on it.] Neighbors are concerned about police shootings and accountability.

Headline: City’s right-of-way maintenance fee is beset on all sides; Council addresses property owners’ appeals as lawsuit threatens $30-plus million per year in assessments
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: For a long time the city has taxed people for street maintenance calling it a fee. Some people argued that they were paying too much and received a small rebate. Meanwhile there is a lawsuit in Ramsey District Court about whether churches “are paying for more city services than they are actually benefiting from.” [This sounds impossibly difficult to prove. How could you prove that? What is the value of a street or a snowplow anyway? Like for me, who rides a bicycle and takes the bus, a ton of the money spent on streets has minimal value.] It’s a lot of money, over $30 million per year. One neighbor is quoted saying that a potential lawsuit “is going to bankrupt the entire city” and “all we’re asking for is basic fairness.” [I’m of the opinion that a fee for use structure is basically fair. What is a more fair way? Property taxes? People don't seem to like those either IIRC.] Neighbors are concerned about high fees and crappy streets. One is quoted “comparing Highland Parkway to a washboard.” [How do people propose that city streets get paid for? Parking meters?] One neighbor says the city is wasting money on the Palace Theater and Jackson Street.

Headline: St. Paul Public Works unveils five-year plan for road work; Completion of residential street-paving program is pushed back to 2037 [Innocent question: didn’t the Soviet Union have “five year plans”?]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: For a long time the city has been trying to pave all the residential streets in the city but it’s taking a long time and much of the money has been shifted to heavily used arterial streets so it’s going to take even longer. The city has $12.5 million per year that they spend on paving.Just reconstruction the Summit Avenue Bridge over Ayd Mill Road is going to cost over $7 million. [I'm starting to think that streets are really expensive and we should try not to build so many of them.] In 2021 the city is planning on spending $3 million to mill and overlay Ayd Mill Road. [A far better use of money would be to not have this be a freeway in the first place. It serves suburban commuters far more than residents of Saint Paul. Spending city money on Ayd Mill Road is just subsidizing people who live in Mendota Heights and Eagan, in my opinion. “de-paving” or “parkifying” or “parkwaying” Ayd Mill Road would generate money for the city by raising property values along the corridor. Additionally, maybe some of the land could be developed at major streets. People who are really concerned about Saint Paul’s budget and fiscal future should consider this option instead of continued wasteful subsidization of suburbia with city tax dollars. In general, we waste a lot of tax money chasing the illusion of congestion-free streets.] Best line: “no major projects are planned int eh Villager’s distribution area in 2017.” [They will have trouble filling up the pages!] Article includes details lists of upcoming projects from the proposed plan.

Headline: Model museum; volunteers keep the love of trains alive on a scale kids can appreciate
Author: Bill Stieger

Short short version: Adorable article on the Twin City Model Railroad Museum, now located on Transfer Road.

Headline: With big projects on the horizon, city is reducing its use of TIF some
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the status of Saint Paul’s tax-increment financing (TIF) districts, of which there are seven (7). For example, the Macy’s store, the Ford plant, and the Schmidt Brewery. Article explains TIF [which is hard to do]. CM Brendmoen says the city is “conservative” with TIF. CM Tolbert is “less hawkish” about TIF than he used to be. New TIF districts include Hamline Station, the Custom House, and something on the West Side Flats.

Headline: Committee waylays effort to preserve historic Tangletown
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group group had a mixed vote on the idea of a “conservation district” for a single-family home neighborhood in Mac-Groveland. “Conservation districts are a way for residential neighborhoods or commercial districts to establish specific zoning regulation to protect and preserve their character.” [“Neighborhood character” is an insufferably vague term to me. Just say smaller or older houses if that's what you mean.] Neighbors are concerned about teardowns and would like control over “specific parameters for lot coverage, roof and sidewall heights, exterior construction materials, window space, garages, stormwater runoff and tree preservation.” [This all sounds impossibly complicated.] One attorney does not think that the design standards passed last year are doing anything. [Saint Paul is a whirlwind of contradiction.]

Headline: City grants extension for West End theater
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A couple of people who are trying to restore an old theater can keep trying. [Same article as the last three issues of the Villager. In fact, it might even be the same article as the one about the Palace earlier in this issue. My memory is fuzzy.] Article includes picture and some history of the building.

Headline: St. Paul to study railroad spur leading to former Ford plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The old railroad to the truck factory is just sitting there. It could be used for all kinds of things like transit or other stuff.

Headline: Gambling license delayed for RAS Restaurant in Highland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An East African restaurant would like to have pull tabs but the neighborhood group has shot it down. Neighbors are concerned about parking, trash, noise, and fights. [Aah the good ol' days when this was a Steelers bar. I wonder what the skin color of the people complaining is? Genuinely curious!]

Headline: After nearly two years, work finishes on Highway 5 bridge
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Road construction on the bridge over the river by the fort is done. It cost $13.8 million. [Roads and freeways are really expensive. Good thing our gas taxes cover all the costs. That was sarcasm. They don’t.]

Headline: The return of a legend; Yoeerg beer is being borught back to honor its long history in St. Paul
Author: Lisa Heinrich

Short short version: [Another brewery is opening up next to my house. Expect a decline in productivity.] The beer and brewery name date back to 1848 and was Saint Paul’s first brewery. Article includes lots of history.

Headline: BZA approves variances for lot split on Highland Pkwy
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A zoning appeals committee says a family can build another home on their large lot so her elderly mother can live in it. One neighbor was concerned, saying “you have to be careful not to take away from the character of the area.” [See? “Neighborhood character” literally means whatever you want it to mean. For example, the “neighborhood character of the Midway parking lot is broken glass and soul-sucking emptiness, and I know a guy who is mourning the loss of the character of even that.]

Headline: Some neighbors make racket over tennis club’s plan for rooftop deck [Oof da pun alert!]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A “club” for people to play tennis is planning on having a rooftop deck when they reconstruct their pool. Neighbors are concerned about noise and people looking into windows. The Planning Commission approved the plans. [Rooftop pool. What could go wrong? This is the ultimate symbol of Saint Paul's inequality in some ways.]


Stacey said...

I recently found your blog, and I like it very much. And summarizing the Villager is a great service!

I am a St Paul west sider, and I use Ayd Mill most work days to cut the corner (otherwise, it's into downtown to get 94, which can mean I end up in a Watchtower convention traffic jam or similar). I had not thought of the road as primarily benefitting suburbanites, but I haven't done a survey of fellow drivers! Ayd Mill would make better sense as a freeway if it actually connected to 94, which I imagine is a non-starter. Given that reality, the parkway idea is terrific. I would likely still use it regularly, but it would be a better feature for the neighborhood. Is the rail line the reason it's been so utilitarian up until now?

Bill Lindeke said...

Ayd Mill Road has a long history, but the reality on the ground is that Saint Paul city dollars have to pay for it, and it needs a lot of work. It'll be expensive either way, but the question to me is, who will benefit from the investment Saint Paul is going to make? Will it be primarily people outside of the city, boosting the property values of people living in Dakota County? Or will it be designed to improve the lives of people in the city, and boosting the property values of people living in Saint Paul? That's how we should be framing this debate.

Rob said...

"the “neighborhood character" of the Midway parking lot is broken glass and soul-sucking emptiness, and I know a guy who is mourning the loss of the character of even that"... I see what you did there, and it is awesome - as are all the "Reading the Highland Villager" posts.

Anonymous said...

Point of correction on the Tennis Club : the pool is not going to be on the rooftop. The pool will be in the ground, as it is now, and will be more or less in the same location as it is now. The plans call for a deck on top of the new office building that would allow viewing of the tennis courts and pool. Neighbors have objected to the deck. - Signed, someone who attended the Distrcit 16 Meeting and saw the plans