Civic beat :: Stone Arch site environmental review declined

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August 31, 2009 // UPDATED 8:32 am - August 31, 2009
By: Cristof Traudes
Cristof Traudes
The City Council can return to deciding the fate of the proposed second phase of Stone Arch Apartments after declining a request for an environmental review of the Main Street site.

Action had been put on hold since mid-July, when citizens petitioned the state Environmental Quality Board to complete an environmental assessment worksheet. The petitioners argued that the development’s potential impact on historical districts and natural areas automatically required such a review.

Deciding whether that’s the case was left up to the City Council, after the environmental board named the city the site’s responsible governmental unit. Planning staff in turn said the review isn’t mandated.

In a report from senior planner Becca Farrar, the 600 Main St. parcel is shown to be outside of the St. Anthony Falls historic district. While the development would abut the area, Farrar said, not being within it doesn’t require a review. Also, she said, any potential environmental impact is “speculative.”

Despite the council’s 12-1 vote to deny the review, some council members said it wouldn’t hurt to get more environmental and archeological information. Council Member Diane Hofstede (3rd Ward), whose ward covers the site and voted to deny the environmental review, said she wants city staff to look into the possibility of a special archeological study.

Assistant city attorney Erik Nilssen said the council’s decision to deny would be the safest move.

“The idea of ordering [a review] without findings could be illegal,” he said.

The council now can go back to considering the question it was pondering before the petition’s filing: whether to overturn a Planning Commission denial of a variance that would allow the developers to construct a 79-unit building.

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Newsrack fee avoided by city’s print media

Minneapolis’ print media have staved off a fee from City Hall by cleaning up their act.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved an ordinance to battle the citywide aesthetic and unsafe clutter of newsracks. Without a source of revenue, the city had not yet begun to enforce the new rules, but that was expected to change Oct. 1 with the arrival of a $42.34-per-newsrack fee.

Media representatives balked when that amount was unveiled in March. The economy, plus the unique financial pains rippling through the newspaper industry, make this a difficult time for such extra expenses to be imposed, they said.

In response, more than a half-dozen print companies banded together to form the Twin Cities Publications Coalition, which formulated a self-policing plan that wouldn’t involve a fee.

Intrigued, a City Council committee gave the coalition permission to try out that plan on a trial basis, with city staff tracking its moves. The results more than pleased council members.

Ten resident complaints about newsracks during the trial period were each dealt with within a week, according to a staff report. The coalition brought newsracks in 10 high-traffic business districts into compliance with the ordinance, and stickers featuring a direct number to the coalition will be placed on every box so people know whom to call. The city, meanwhile, launched its own newsrack complaint system for people who call 311.

As a result, the City Council’s regulatory services committee decided to delay implementation of a fee by at least a year, to fall 2010. Staff will again evaluate the coalition’s work at that time.

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Convention Center sustains $350,000 damage

Repairs are under way at the Minneapolis Convention Center after the Aug. 19 tornado left its roof with about 1,800 square feet of damage. The city reported water damage in the center’s exhibit hall B, while strong winds hurt several doors.

The total estimated cost of repairs was between $350,000–$500,000, and city spokesman Matt Laible said the city was in the process of filing insurance claims.

Repairs are expected to be completed by Sept. 7.

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Portion of 13th Street to honor Rainville

A part of 13th Street in Downtown will be renamed Alice Rainville Place, after the former City Council president who died in March.

Rainville, 80, sat on the council from 1975 to 1997 and was its president — the first woman to hold that seat — from 1980 to 1989. Her daughter, Ward 4’s Barb Johnson, is the current council president.

Alice Rainville Place will stretch from Marquette Avenue to Nicollet Mall near the Convention Center.

“There was nothing (Rainville) was more proud of than her work on the convention center,” Johnson said.