Ward 3 Newsletter- Fall 2014

Councilmember Tolbert's Ward 3 Newsletter

Chris Tolbert Larger

Chris Tolbert

310-C City Hall

15 Kellogg Blvd., West

Saint Paul, MN  55102

Em:  Ward3@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Ph: (651) 266-8630 

Ward 3 website

Like my facebook page to get the most up-to-date information on Ward 3.

    Ward 3

    Ward 3 covers the southwest corner of the city, extending from the West End to Fort Snelling.  The ward includes large green spaces along the river bank and in Highland Park, and it's home to some of the city's numerous colleges.

    Happy Fall Ward Three Residents and Friends!

    As the days get shorter and the temperatures get lower, the work is picking up in the Ward 3 office. Right now the City Council is busy reviewing Mayor Coleman's proposed 2015 Budget. If you have thoughts about your budget priorities please, as always, feel free to call or email my office. I always love to hear from you.

    Have a safe and happy Fall,



    New Ordinances Passed to Improve Residential Construction Standards

    The past year has seen an increase in residential home remodeling and rebuilds in the Highland Park and Macalester Groveland neighborhoods. The Ward 3 office is excited about new neighbors moving into the Ward; however, with this increase in construction we have seen more problems including messy construction sites, overflowing dumpsters and dangerous sidewalk conditions.


    To combat these issues I passed an ordinance requiring all residential, exterior construction projects costing over $25,000 complete a Construction Management Agreement prior to construction. This Agreement reiterates the current Saint Paul City Ordinances and Minnesota State Building Codes that govern residential construction. Prior to construction the Agreement must be signed by both the contractor and the property owner. It must then be distributed to all neighbors on the block in question and the block face across the street. The Agreement requires that the contractor's contact information be included in the Agreement for all neighbors to have access to, and be posted on a sign in front of the property. In addition to the Construction Management Agreement, I passed several ordinances that tighten up dumpster regulations.  The new legislation requires dumpster haulers to be licensed, adds a sliding scale to dumpster permit fees (the longer they sit on the street, the more the contractor will need to pay per day), and creates new safety signage for dumpsters.


    Another concern the Ward 3 office has heard pertains to the height and density of these new homes. Many neighbors are concerned new construction is changing the character of Highland Park and MacGroveland. Residential zoning ordinances were reviewed in 2009 when the market collapse led to a slew of cheaply built homes popping up across the city. During that time the city researched putting into ordinance a zoning code that would require “new development shall relate to the design of adjacent traditional buildings.” However, it was retracted because the ambiguity, subjectivity, administrative cost and hindrance to architectural innovation it would cause. In place of that, new design standards were passed. To make sure all bases are covered in light of this new development, I have asked the City’s Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED) to study the height and density of new homes that have gone up in order to determine the effect different zoning changes would have on them. When the study is complete it will be reviewed by the City's Planning Commission and at that time the Planning Commission will hear public testimony on the proposed changes. Following the Planning Commission process, the proposed changes will go before the City Council where public testimony will again be taken. It is my goal to have zoning changes adopted prior to the start of next summer's construction season. If you have any questions about the PED study, please contact Mike Richardson, City Planner who is taking the lead on the study. He can be reached at mike.richardson@ci.stpaul.mn.us or (651) 266-6621. Mike will also be joining the local district councils to present and get feedback from the community.


    10/21: 1st Presentation (Introduction / Information Gathering) to Highland Community Development Committee- Hillcrest Rec Center, 6:30PM

    10/22: 1st Presentation (Introduction/Information Gather to Mac-Groveland Housing and Land Use Committee- Edgcumbe Rec Center, 6:30PM

    11/18: 2nd Presentation (Draft Recommendations) to Highland Community Development Committee- Hillcrest Rec Center, 6:30PM

    11/26: 2nd Presentation (Draft Recommendations) to Mac-Groveland Housing and Land Use Committee- Edgcumbe Rec Center, 6:30PM


    I hope you can join us for one or more of these meetings.


    Building a 21st Century Community at the Ford Site

    In July, I joined Mayor Chris Coleman, representatives from Ford, and other leaders to update the community on the next phase of the Ford Site Redevelopment.  As the final slabs come up and the pollution is remediated, we as a neighborhood and a city need to capture our vision for the future of the site. We owe it to past, present, and future Highland Park and Saint Paul residents to strive for greatness at this site.  We have the opportunity to incorporate the best parts of our past with the boldest parts of our future by embracing the things that we love about Saint Paul, while planning for the things that will keep our city strong for future generations. 

    To prepare for success at the Ford Site, the City is currently working on several different aspects of redevelopment.

    First, the Ford Task Force is working with the Planning and Economic Development Department to envision the future of the site through zoning. Beginning in November residents and stakeholders will be able to start talking about what they hope for at that site. By learning about different kinds of zoning and the land uses allowed on each we will be able to paint a picture of the Ford Site’s future.

    Second, currently there is no electricity or plumbing coming to the Ford Site. As the site is redeveloped these will be necessary assets. We have the opportunity as we construct this infrastructure to challenge our energy use and strive to create a zero waste site. The City is working with Ramboll Energy Consultants to evaluate our energy options. Their findings will be available for public comment in early 2015.

    Third, as anyone who has driven through Highland Village during rush hour knows, the intersection of Ford Parkway and Cleveland cannot handle a huge increase in traffic. The City needs to begin thinking about how to get people and materials in and out of that site and as the zoning study identifies different land use scenarios the Department of Public Works will be working to create traffic design plans that meet these needs.

    We do not own this site, but we do own our community.  As we move towards redevelopment, it is paramount that we respect the people, families, businesses, and organizations that built our neighborhood, our city, and our region, but we also must plan with an emphasis on what is best for future generations. To do that, it is essential that we have maximum public involvement and partnership from the neighborhood, organizations, all levels of government, Ford, and any future developer.   I look forward to working with you, listening to you, and advocating for you as this process continues. 


    City Council Right Track Intern, Carlos Rucker, Finishes the Summer Strong


    The City of Saint Paul’s Right Track Program was developed in 2013 to pair high school juniors and seniors from low-income families with paid professional summer internships. This summer we had 100 participants, five times that of last year. Many private companies participated in the program including Ecolab and Xcel Energy, as well as non-profits, the City, and the State. 

    This summer the City Council Offices had the honor of hosting Carlos Rucker, an incoming senior at Como Senior High, as our intern. Carlos worked on special projects throughout the summer, including researching college readiness programs across the city, converting old files into electronic files, and participating in the Council’s Habitat for Humanity Day. When Carlos graduates he hopes to go to college in Chicago to study journalism. When asked what the highlight of his internship was, Carlos quickly pointed to the day he attended President Obama’s Town Hall Meeting at Minnehaha Park. While he didn’t get to ask a question, he did get to shake the President’s hand- and even better, Mayor Coleman handed out M&M’s he snatched from Air Force One!

    I have long been an advocate of this important program and am proud to say that I helped create it. The Right Track Program gives our Saint Paul students the skills and the relationships needed to succeed in the professional world.  For 2015, Mayor Coleman has requested that an additional Program Manager be hired so that we can do more outreach to both students and employers, and also make sure that the employers have the tools they need to make the internship a valuable experience for our students.    


    Canadian Pacific (CP) Rail Line/Riverview Corridor Study


    The Canadian Pacific Rail Line running from the Ford Site to the West End neighborhood near the Schmidt brewery site was originally built in 1924 to serve the Ford Motor Company. With the Ford Plant now closed and no strong industrial or “heavy” rail users likely coming into that site, Canadian Pacific has indicated they may be interested in divesting themselves of the property. With this in mind, Ramsey County is currently including the rail line in their Riverview Corridor Study.

    The Riverview Corridor Study was initiated because of the strong need to have a better transit connection between Downtown Saint Paul and the airport (and from there the Mall of America). The way planners talk about it, the metro area is missing an important leg of the triangle, now more than ever since the Green Line is up and running. Until that portion from the Airport to Downtown is completed, Saint Paul will continue missing out on tremendous economic opportunities. The Riverview Corridor study is the opportunity to identify what the best link is for that area and the population it will serve. Planners will be identifying the preferred route and mode of transportation over their year-long study. One of the routes they are considering is along the CP Rail Line.

    Throughout the Riverview Corridor process, the County will be collecting public input through a variety of methods. They will soon launch a website in the next few weeks which I will share on my Facebook page. If you have any questions or concerns before then, please feel free to contact the County’s Transit Project Manager, Mike Rogers at either (651) 266-2773 or Michael.rogers@co.ramsey.mn.us .

    As a follow-up to the Riverview Corridor study the City has applied for and received a federal TIGER grant to study the potential re-use of the spur. This study will begin in early 2016.

    I know that many neighbors adjacent to the rail spur are concerned about what’s next. This will be a long, thought-out process with a number of opportunities for community input. I have no doubt that the final product will be something that benefits our neighborhood and our city.


    Saint Paul Library Tour- Fourteen Unique Locations


    As Chair of the Library Board, over the summer I had the opportunity to tour all fourteen library locations (including the two currently under construction!). I am amazed by how unique each library is to their location and how well each embodied their community. Hayden Heights Library, for example, has an entire collection of auto repair manuals. If you ask, they also have small appliance repair manuals for things such as tape decks (remember those?) and audio/visual devices. The next time your car breaks down, you can bike over to Hayden Heights to check out a repair manual rather than forking over big money to your local auto repair shop. Rondo Library has a Black Culture and History Collection including transcripts from oral history interviews with former and current Rondo residents. Also, to celebrate the Green Line outside the window of their children’s section, they have a transit themed-play area. It is really exciting to look outside and see our bustling, booming city while around you children discover a love for reading and learning.

    Mark your calendars! The Highland Park Library reopens November 16th, 2014. From what I’ve seen and heard it is going to be a revolutionary change to our neighborhood. Our much beloved library will now be accessible and welcoming to all ages and interests with its new Teen Center, increased technology and outdoor reading garden- to name a few! One fun fact is the new Highland Library sign will be backlit by a green light in reference to Saint Paul author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. So much thought is put into the layout, contents and programming at each library and I am so proud that we have this resource in our City.


    Highland Village Streetscape Work Underway

    No more tripping over bricks on your way to Patina! The final phase of the Highland Village Streetscape will be completed this fall. New sidewalks, lighting, trees and landscaping will refresh the Village and make it safer for pedestrians. I have fought long and hard to get this project completed and I am looking forward to seeing the final results. I know that during construction traffic has been delayed and pedestrians and businesses have been inconvenienced and I want to personally thank you for your patience. For construction updates, check out the city’s Highland Streetscape webpage.