This recap covers all of July, which is a bit different because there was only one council meeting, instead of the usual two. Specifically, I’m covering the Work Sessions and Council Meeting on July 14, a special EDA meeting and work session on July 20, and the July 23 Code Review Task Force Meeting. There was a West Metro Fire Board work session originally scheduled for July 15 but it was rescheduled for August.
Work Session Highlights
- Old Public Works Facility Site – The council discussed some of the history of the new public works facility, and then discussed what to do with the land that the existing facility sits on (roughly 41st and Brunswick) once the new building is opened. Ultimately we decided to put this discussion on hold until the new building is open and we’ve had some time to transition. The question is whether to hold the land, re-purpose the land for a different city use, or to redevelop the land into single family homes. High density housing is not a use that is being considered for this property.
- Blue Line LRT Update
The council received an update from the Blue Line LRT project team on the Blue Line project.
Specifically we talked about the current “S-curve” rail crossing at 48th Avenue and were presented with options on how to “fix” the crossing to make it work better with the light rail. A number of the proposals (including the ones preferred by city staff) would trigger a “turnback” of West Broadway from the county to the city, meaning that West Broadway would become a city street and would no longer be a county road. That means that Crystal taxpayers would be on the hook for maintenance of that road going forward. I expressed my displeasure to the Blue Line team and the County, explaining that it is their project that is requiring a change to the crossing, not a city initiative, therefore it is ridiculous to make Crystal take over the road (and the cost) because of something the Met Council and the County are doing to us. I encouraged the county to re-think their position on the “turnback” provision, as I feel it’s an artificially imposed penalty on Crystal. We’ll see what happens.
We also discussed the station area planning process, which is the process to talk about potential redevelopment options around where the station would be. That process will happen later this summer.
The project team also informed us that their new projections say they need more parking spaces, so they presented a new plan for the Bass Lake Road station that includes a parking lot, as it should have in the first place. I’m glad they came around on that issue. The notion that we would have a station but no parking was always one of the silliest features of the plan.
I continue to be skeptical about this project and it’s impact on our city. The price is now expected to balloon past $1,000,000,000, which is an amazing burden on taxpayers at all levels. In addition, Crystal seems to be an afterthought to many of the plans.
I will continue fight to make sure that if this project gets built, the negative impacts to our city are minimized, and that the needs of our city are represented. We cannot sit by and allow this to just happen to us, we need to make sure we are loudly advocating for ourselves in this process.
- CenturyLink –
The council had a special work session at the request of CenturyLink to discuss issues they had with one of our city ordinances.
In June the council voted to relax our ordinance on undergrounding new utility lines at the request of CenturyLink and Comcast. Despite the fact that CenturyLink reps were aware of this process, they waited until after we had the second reading of the ordinance to raise concerns with the language. I have been quite frankly disgusted with the way CenturyLink has handled this whole situation. At the work session CenturyLink reps basically said “change your ordinance or we won’t expand our service in Crystal”.
Ultimately, what CenturyLink is asking for is not entirely unreasonable. They want to be able to add new lines to existing poles. The only real downside to this is that we’ll most likely never see the utilities run underground. But, we’re also not seeing new poles get added.
But the way the company went about seeking the change to the ordinance, their posturing at the meeting, and the fact that they have been unable or unwilling to resolve an issue for one of my constituents that has been going on for over six months, makes it very difficult for me to consider voting for this change. I told CenturyLink I don’t think they are good partners, and their behavior since our meeting has not changed my mind. I also have concerns about their lack of maintenance of their existing equipment in Crystal.
We’ll be voting on a new, new ordinance in August. I really don’t know where I’ll land on this. I want to bring competition into our community so we have more choices, but CenturyLink’s inability to be a good partner has me having second thoughts about going out of our way to accommodate them.
Council Meeting Highlights
- Housekeeping – A few housekeeping items: the second reading of the Bloody Mary Law ordinance (first day for 8 AM Bloody Marys in Crystal is August 23!) and adoption of a new data practices policy.
- Projects – We approved the 2015 Alley Reconstruction project, and a new boiler for city hall, both planned projects.
- Gaulke Pond Homes – We approved the final plat for the new subdivision on Douglas Drive at about 39th Ave. Lot sales can start now, and construction could begin as soon as this year! FYI, the house that’s there now is currently for sale and will be staying there.
- Fire Budget – We approved the 2016 West Metro Fire Budget, about a 3.5% increase over LY.
- NWHHSC Withdrawal – The city formally voted to withdraw from the Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council. I talked about this last month.
- Point of Sale Inspections - Another topic I covered last month, the council voted 6-1 to repeal the requirement that you get a city inspection prior to selling your home. Second reading is in August. While I certainly understand and appreciate concerns about maintaining the quality of our housing stock, I think that there are ways to do that don’t require government interference in a private transaction.
We had a special EDA meeting to approve the sale of a city owned lot to a builder who lives in Crystal, Day Construction.
City Code Task Force
The second meeting of the City Code Task Force was in July, and they got through part of their assignment to review chapters 1, 2 and 3 of the code. The group is working through their process and they will continue to refine it and adjust as time goes on. I heard some great suggestions already, and they are just getting started. A lot of the first round suggestions have to do with improving the readability and overall user friendliness of the code, which is much needed.
In the Community
- Crystal Frolics was July 23 – 26 and was awesome this year. I was in the Dunk Tank with Mayor Jim Adams, Council Member Casey Peak and Fire Chief Sarah Larson raising money for local food shelves on Saturday night. It was steamy that night, so the water actually felt so good I volunteered for a second shift!
- There was a ribbon cutting for the new playground at Bassett Creek Park on July 29. I captured some good pictures of the Mayor testing out the new equipment at the playground.
- On July 22, my almost 2 year old son and I checked out the musical stylings of the Splatter Sisters at Welcome Park, part of this Summer’s Music in the Park series. They were good, but that song about the old lady who swallowed the fly is pretty demented.
In The Community: Upcoming Events
- Night to Unite is next Tuesday. Check out this great map created by the Police Department that has all the party locations on it. If your neighborhood doesn’t participate, pick a close by party and join them!
- Crystal Lions Corn Feed is August 8. All you can eat corn for $6. Details here.
The inaugural issue of my neighborhood newsletter is out. I’m dropping it at as many houses as my feet and schedule allow. Check out the online version here.
The next council meeting is August 18.
You can watch the video of the council meeting here and find the agendas and meeting notes here. Audio recording of work sessions can be found here. Check the city calendar for updated meeting dates, locations and times.