CITY HALL UPDATE // Dont Dump on Northeast campaign heads to City Hall

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June 20, 2011
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
A group of residents wearing “Don’t Dump on Northeast” stickers showed up at City Hall June 9 to testify against a proposed hazardous waste facility in the Holland neighborhood.

The city and Hennepin County have proposed opening a center at 340 27th Ave. NE that would allow residents to drop off electronics, paint, aerosol cans, construction debris and other hazardous wastes that residents can now drop off at sites in Brooklyn Center and Bloomington.

The Don’t Dump on Northeast group, however, is arguing that the center cannot be built at the proposed site in an I-2 district, asserting that it’s actually a solid waste transfer facility, and not a recycling facility as the city calls it. Recycling facilities are allowed in an I-2 district. Transfer stations are not.

“It’s like taking a brothel and calling it a hotel because a few people happen to sleep there,” said Jacob Frey, an attorney and Northeast resident.

The residents were testifying during their appeal to the City’s Zoning and Planning Committee over a decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustment to allow for the facility in an I-2 district.

The committee did not make a decision on the appeal in order to allow for another public hearing on June 23. Residents argued that they had not been sufficiently notified of the meeting and as a result many were unable to take off from work.

The group’s attorney, Jim Peters, submitted a letter to the committee from November 2010. The city’s consultant, URS, sent the letter to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The letter calls the proposed facility “a solid waste transfer station and household hazardous waste collection facility.”

Peters said the letter is evidence that the city only began calling the facility a recycling center once residents appealed the zoning administrator’s decision.

The city’s zoning administrator, Steve Poor, told the committee that the primary use for the facility would be recycling and that recycling facilities are bound to have waste byproducts. Further, the facility is meant to improve residential recycling in the city and contractors won’t be allowed to use it.

Even if the Zoning and Planning Committee denies the appeal, the facility will still need to be approved for a conditional use permit by the City Planning Commission and by the Minnesota PCA.

Nicollet streetcar study rolling 
along slowly

It may be several years before streetcars could once again roll down Nicollet Avenue and connect Southwest and Northeast Minneapolis, but the city is taking small steps toward making the possibility a reality.  

On June 13, the city’s Ways and Means Committee authorized city officials to enter into a sub-recipient agreement with the Metropolitan Council that would allow the city to spend a $900,000 Federal Transit Administration grant that was awarded in March.

The grant is for the city to hire a consultant to conduct an analysis of a possible streetcar line and enhanced bus service on the Nicollet Avenue and Central Avenue corridor. If plans go accordingly, the city will finalize a contract for the analysis in November or December. Requests for proposals on the analysis contract are scheduled to go out 
in August.

Pension fight 
drags on

The five-year legal battle between the city of Minneapolis and two closed retirement fund associations took another step May 31 after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled partially in the city’s favor but sent the case back to district court.

The city won a ruling last year in Hennepin County District Court that said the Minneapolis Police Relief Association (MPRA) and the Minneapolis Firefighters Relief Association (MFRA) overpaid pensioners $52 million since June 2000.

Mayor R.T. Rybak applauded the ruling in an e-mail to constituents.  

“It affirms what we’ve said all along: that taxpayers should and will pay City pensioners every penny that pensioners have earned, but not more than pensioners have earned,” he said.

Rybak, did not, however, say what the city would 
do next.

The city had tried to merge the two retirement funds into a state pension plan during the 2011 legislative session. The pension fund managers had agreed to the merger, but the Legislature did not vote on the merger before the session expired.

City officials have expressed interest in taking up a pension bill during a special session.

“Because of today’s ruling, we have new and expanded options for protecting taxpayers, and we’re evaluating all of them,” Rybak wrote.

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.