Temporary Health Care Dwellings

Earlier this year the Minnesota Legislature passed a law that would allow for the placement of temporary health care dwellings on private property.

The idea is that if you have a relative who needs some living assistance you could put a temporary structure (think trailer home) in your yard and have them live near you while they recover.

The League of MN Cities has a good recap of the law here.

Unfortunately, though the law was well-intentioned, the implementation of the law as written would be problematic in a fully developed and dense suburban city like Crystal. For example, the setback requirements in the law would exclude the majority of lots in Crystal from ever hosting a temporary dwelling.

The way the law is structured, cities have the option to “opt-out” of the law entirely, or to accept the law in its entirety. There isn’t an option to partially adopt or modify the law. ¬†We do, however, retain the right to regulate land use through our regular zoning and planning authority.

After discussion at the council work session this week, it is very likely Crystal will vote to opt-out of the law at our next meeting. Many of our neighboring cities will likely do the same.

The City’s Code Review Task Force, which was created by the council last year and is reviewing our City Code chapter by chapter, recently discussed the topic of land use for similar types of structures.

The recommendation from the task force was that the council should have a more in-depth conversation about how temporary or permanent small dwellings could or should work in Crystal.

As our population continues to age there has been a national trend related to “tiny houses”, “granny pods“, temporary health care “drop homes” and other types of smaller dwellings.

Although we will be opting-out of the state law on temporary health care dwellings, the Council is committed to discussing this topic in a comprehensive manner and coming up with policies that make sense for Crystal.

An important part of that process will be seeking feedback from you. If you have any thoughts about the topic, please let me know.

City Meetings Update – May (and Early June) 2016

As always, a lot going on in our city.  Here are the highlights of the meetings that happened in May and early June 2016.

Recognizing Officer Gabe Storz – Officer Storz was recognized for saving the life of a 2-week-old baby.  The baby was choking and stopped breathing.  Storz responded to the call and was able to get the baby breathing again.  Baby Eleanor was about 7 weeks old at the meeting.  Listening to the 911 call of the panicked mother was chilling.  I’m not ashamed to admit some sawdust flew into my eye and I needed a few moments to get myself back together.  Mama and baby and the hero pictured above.

Recognizing Officer Caleb Selin – Officer Selin was recognized for being the MADD Rookie Officer of the Year, and for his lifesaving actions at a house fire.  Selin ran toward the flames to save a life. These guys are amazing.

Annual Audit/Financial Report – Each year the city’s financials are audited by an outside auditing firm. Crystal once again received an “unmodified opinion” on our annual financial audit, which is a name only an accountant could dream up, but is the best opinion you can get.

Welcome to Beacon Academy – Beacon Academy is a public charter school that will be relocating from Maple Grove to Crystal.  The school will be taking over the building currently occupied by a church and school at 34th and Nevada.  The council approved a conditional use permit and site plan for the school’s plans to expand the building. They have a lot of work to do before school starts.

Long Grass – The council approved an amendment to the wording of our code pertaining to long grass.  Somebody read it and interpreted it to mean they only had to mow a majority (51%) of their lawn.  So, we clarified you actually have to mow the whole thing.  Sorry, Mr. Clever Guy.

Open Book (Property Valuation Appeals) – There are two options for cities on how to handle appeals to property valuations- they can either have a Local Board of Appeal and Equalization (how Crystal currently does it) or they can use the Open Book process (how Crystal will do it going forward).  Many residents find the formality of going before the board intimidating.  The Open Book process allows residents who wish to appeal their valuation to work directly with the county assessors, on a more flexible timeline that meets their needs.  The residents do not give up any opportunity to appeal by using this process.  Many of our neighboring cities have adopted the Open Book process and it has worked well for them.

Blue Line Update – The Blue Line Project Office began discussions with the neighborhood north of Bass Lake Road that will be impacted by the removal of trees and relocation of the tracks as part of the Blue Line project.  The goal is to secure visual screening that will help mitigate the impact of the new project.  The council doesn’t really have a say in this process, but we are advocating for our residents on this piece, to make sure the final solution is workable for everyone.  Negotiations continue on the pedestrian bridge at Bass Lake and West Broadway.  We are going on a tour of bridges in a few weeks so that we can get some ideas for what will be workable for our bridge.  The county wants to rush some improvements to the at-grade crossings at that intersection. The council (generally) would prefer to put the brakes on and make sure we have a good solution rather than a fast solution. There is also concern about someone using the new at-grade improvements as an excuse for not needing a bridge, so I’m keeping my eye on that closely.

Open Meeting Laws – The council received our annual training on Open Meeting Laws.  There’s a lot of detail and nuance to this issue, but the bottom line is that the public’s business should be conducted in public, and that attempts to get “creative” with workarounds (as happens in other cities- not Crystal) are not a good thing.

Railroad Quiet Zones – The city is in the early stages of working through the red tape required to pursue Railroad “Quiet Zones” at the Douglas and West Broadway crossings of the CP rail line.  The feds think our plans are OK, but the county objected to them.  I would have figured the other way around, but you really can’t predict or control a bureaucracy that’s this convoluted, I guess.  Work continues to get the county to get their act together.  I’d like trains to blow their horns less.  How about you?

We’re about to head into the summer months, which means we theoretically meet a little bit less.  Only one formal council meeting currently scheduled for July and August.  That is, as always, subject to change.

Links and Info

You can watch the video of council meetings 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.

As always, if I can be of assistance, let me know.