St. Boni citizens express displeasure over parking lot plan

By Lorrie Ham

The proposed construction of a MnDOT park and pool lot in St. Bonifacius prompted several citizens to request a public hearing which was held June 19. The project is designed to replace the park and pool lot that was located at Highway 7 and County Road 25 before the roundabout was built.
The city of St. Boni had already voted to enter into an agreement with MnDOT and the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority (HCRRA) to allow the construction of a park and pool lot with 25 spaces near the intersection of Bell Street and Kennedy Memorial Drive. MnDOT approached the HCRRA about putting the lot on HCRRA owned land. The 20-year agreement calls for the city to be responsible for maintenance of the lot. When MnDOT applied to the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) for the necessary permits for construction, the watershed district sent the required notification to residents within 600 feet of the project.
Several residents of Kennedy Memorial Drive contacted both MnDOT and the city opposing the project. Neighbors feel that there will be an increase in traffic in the area with a park and pool lot. They are also concerned about losing trees on the lot.
While the council listened to residents’ concerns, it did feel that the lot was a “win-win” for the city as MnDOT would be responsible for the construction. The location of the lot will be a benefit for the city, providing additional parking for the trail, city hall and the community center, noted Mayor Rick Weible.
However, in further discussion later in the meeting, the council reviewed HCRRA’s proposed changes to the agreement. One change requires the city to be responsible to remove the park and pool lot and restore the property to its previous use if the HCRRA determines that the facility should be removed.
The council questioned why that change was proposed.
“That didn’t fall out of the sky,” said Councilmember Joe Arwood. MnDOT representative Carl Jensen noted that the HCRRA has included that language in other similar agreements as well.
“Certainly not in the face of all the public opposition to it — to then agree to something as onerous as that?” said Councilmember Joe Arwood.
“We need to see an amendment on that,” said Weible.
The project is in MnDOT’s court for now as they need to get the required permits from the watershed district. All three parties need to sign the final agreement. If the HCRRA won’t budge on the language, the agreement will be back before the council.
In the meantime, the council voted to establish a landscaping committee to make plans to enhance the site once it is completed. The committee will begin meeting this fall.
In another matter, the council turned down Tom Miller’s request for a conditional use permit to construct a self-storage facility at 8910 Highway 7 on a 1-3 vote (Weible in favor, Arwood, Anderson and  Ruotsinoja opposed). The council and planning commission held a public hearing June 11 to consider amendments to the architectural standards ordinance. In order for the council to approve the project as presented, the city code would have to be amended to allow the materials, namely steel, that are proposed for the project. The storage doors would also have to be excluded from the standards and the code would have to be amended to allow pole buildings in certain zoning districts.
No amendments were made as a result of the June 11 hearing, but the council did direct city attorney Larry Harris to interpret the language in the ordinance and define “comparable and equivalent materials” for building standards. The council scheduled a work study on the architectural standards for June 25.
“I’d be willing to approve the CUP, but then you’d have to meet the existing architectural standards,” said Arwood. If amendments are made to the standards, Miller is welcome to reapply and would then have to meet the standards in place at that time.
In other business, the council:
• heard county updates from Commissioner Jeff Johnson.
• approved an on sale wine license for the St. Boni Bistro and a rider to allow service and consumption on a fenced-in patio, contingent on receiving certificate of insurance and police department approval.
• passed a resolution providing for the issuance and sale of $1.8 million in general obligation bonds, per the recommendation of Steve Mattson of Northland Securities.