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WELCOME

Welcome to the new Park Watch website.  We hope that you will find the new format easier to read and to use. To facilitate navigating the website, there is a search feature and an index of topics.

In addition to the current postings, the new website includes ALL the postings from the old website beginning with January 2004.  With ten years of postings, the Park Watch website  presents a valuable perspective on a critical period in the Park Board’s history.

ABOUT PARK WATCH

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Steven R. Goldsmith’s Comments on Southwest Light Rail

The following letter-to-the-editor from Steven R. Goldsmith regarding SWLRT was published in the April 15, 2014 issue of the StarTribune:

Unacceptable Costs

The editorial portrays the conflict as one of regional development vs. “the interests of disgruntled property owners.” This is both inaccurate and unfair to those who have expended countless hours of public and private time on this proposal.

The core of the conflict is actually the integrity of the planning process for regional transit development and the proper observation of key regulatory activities. The Metropolitan Council recommendation violates a key tenet of the planning process for this line, which from Day One has been based on relocating freight out of the Kenilworth corridor. Further, it may have placed federal funding for this project in serious jeopardy by approving a plan quite different from the previously chosen “locally approved option,” which was fully vetted by an environmental-impact statement. Beyond that, the dispute is about the need to balance the developmental needs of the region with the imposition of potentially unacceptable costs not just on homeowners but on thousands of metro users of a wonderful urban amenity. Last, the editorial fails to mention that there has been a proposed solution for Kenilworth — the “deep tunnel” — which if submitted to and vetted by an environmental-impact statement would make all current conflict moot.

Steven R. Goldsmith, Minneapolis

Ben Becker’s Comments on Southwest Light Rail

The following letter-to-the-editor from Ben Becker regarding SWLRT was published in the April 15, 2014 issue of the StarTribune:

Newspaper Unhelpfully Chooses Its Villains

I am very disappointed that the Star Tribune is positioning Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and the City Council as the only things standing in the way of the Southwest Corridor light-rail project (“Lack of leadership threatens SWLRT,” editorial, and “For Minneapolis, LRT hits deal or no-deal time,” front page, both April 13) and trying to boil down the issue to the NIMBYs, when the real problem is that the current plan provides no transportation benefit to residents. The route runs through one of the least-dense, most-affluent areas of the city.

The editorial mentions the need for public transportation that more efficiently moves people to jobs throughout the metro area. Metro Transit already provides an exceptional system serving the areas along the route. In the past seven years, every workday, I have ridden the bus from either Minnetonka, St. Louis Park or Uptown to my work in downtown Minneapolis, and to evening classes at the University of Minnesota, and I have found it convenient, on time and efficient. Many of my co-workers ride the bus from Eden Prairie and the other cities around the proposed light-rail line, and they are not disappointed in the service.

Ben Becker, Minneapolis

 

Heads-Up for the April 16, 2014 Park Board Meeting

5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers can call 612-230-6400 before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting to sign up or they can sign up at the Board meeting prior to the start of “Open Time”

6:30 P.M. PUBLIC HEARING for Dickman Park Playground Improvements

Some agenda items of interest:

–Approving a Professional Services Agreement with Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc., to Provide Master Planning, Concept and Schematic Design, Construction Documentation, and Construction Administration Services for Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park for a Fee Not to Exceed $200,000

–Approving an Amendment to the Concession Lease Agreement with Sandcastle, LLC for the Lake Nokomis Concession

–Accepting the Non-Appointed Community Advisory Committee Recommendations and Approving the Concept Plan for Xcel (NSP) Fields

–Authorizing a Professional Services Agreement with Loucks Associates, to Provide Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documentation, and Construction Administration Services for the Northeast Athletic Field Park Phase 1 Fields and Maintenance Building Project for a Fee Not to Exceed $95,515

–Entering into an Agency Agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to Accept Federal Funding that Enables Construction of Three Trail Projects and to Appoint the Commissioner of Transportation as its Agent in the Acceptance of Federal Aid Funds for the Projects

–Approving a 4(F) Letter to Three Rivers Park District Regarding the Construction of Crystal Lake Regional Trail at Wirth/Memorial Parkway Regional Trail

–Discussion of Recommendations for Reinstating the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Memorial/Donation Program

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners meeting on April 16, 2014 is at http://minneapolisparksmn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on the above web page two business days prior to meetings. Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the same web page two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the previous two months.

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects. The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. They are normally in the agenda packet for the first regular meeting of the month.

View Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast Cable. You may also view live meetings online on the Channel 79 webpage: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79

Regular meetings are typically re-telecast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Telecast schedules are subject to change.

The Park Board’s website is www.minneapolisparks.org. The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

 

Letter from FERC to Crown Hydro, April 3, 2014

This is an introduction by Doug Verdier to the latest letter from FERC to Crown Hydro’s president, Thomas R. Griffin:
 
FERC’s Edward A. Abrams is reminding Crown Hydro of the many requirements FERC expects to be included in any “amendment application” and giving them a deadline of Sept. 30, 2014 for submission.  FERC also emphasizes the concerns raised by interested agencies as well as the public, several of which were not listed in Crown’s Feb. 22 report to FERC on their progress, including the public meeting of Nov. 26, 2013.

Verdier goes on to comment that he continues to be amazed that FERC is referring to the “amendment application,” especially after FERC had stated very clearly many months ago that an amendment was inappropriate due to the numerous changes to the project’s location and scope.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch
_____________________________________________________

Project No.11175-024 — Minnesota
Mill Hydroelectric Project
Crown Hydro, LLC

April 3, 2014

Mr. Thomas R. Griffin
President, Crown Hydro, LLC
2432 East 1st Street
Duluth, MN 55812

Subject:  Preparation of amendment application

Dear Mr. Griffin:

We received your February 25, 2014 report, filed in response to our October 9, 2013 letter. In our letter, we reviewed your plans for initial consultation, including a meeting with interested agencies, tribes, and the public as part of developing an application to amend the license of the Crown Mill Project. We asked you to file, within 90 days of the meeting, a detailed schedule for conducting or otherwise responding to all study requests, developing a draft amendment application, soliciting comments on the draft application, and filing a final application for Commission approval.

February 25, 2014 Report

 

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Southwest Corridor light-rail route gets green light

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the April 10, 2014 edition of the StarTribune. The full article, with any associated images and links, can be viewed here: http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/254566841.html

Southwest Corridor light-rail route gets green light

The Twin Cities’ biggest transit project passed a major milestone Wednesday with the approval of a $1.68 billion design that emerged from years of planning and quarreling.

The Southwest Corridor light-rail line now faces a showdown with Minneapolis that will likely decide its fate.

The Metropolitan Council, the agency in charge of the project, voted 14-2 in favor of a plan to hide the light-rail line in twin tunnels through the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis, despite complaints that it will disrupt and transform the neighborhood.

“This is really about building a project for the next century,” Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh said.

One of the two dissenting votes was cast by Council Member Gary Cunningham, who represents part of Minneapolis and is married to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who opposes the plan.

“I stand with the elected representatives of the city of Minneapolis,” Cunningham said, though he later indicated that negotiations could resolve some of his objections.

The Minneapolis City Council last month came out against the tunnels, and Hodges last week refused to consider the tunnel route at a meeting of mayors and other leaders of communities where the line would run.

Now cities get to vote

 

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Dayton: Tunnels sole path for LRT

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the April 9, 2014 edition of the StarTribune:

Dayton: Tunnels sole path for LRT

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Gov. Mark Dayton said if Minneapolis officials continue to oppose the tunnel option, the Met Council must decide if it will proceed without the city’s consent. But, the governor said, a protracted dispute would likely doom the project.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday said a plan to run the Southwest Corridor through tunnels in the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis is flawed but the “only option” for the light-rail line to advance.

His comments came on the eve of a crucial Wednesday vote on the plan by the Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the project. “There does not appear to be any other viable alternative to what the council will be considering,” Dayton said in an interview with the Star Tribune. “It’s the only option for the line to go forward, and I support the line going forward.”

Dayton said if Minneapolis officials continue to oppose the tunnel option, the Met Council must decide if it will proceed without the city’s consent. But, the governor said, a protracted dispute would likely doom the project, bogging it down in many months of negotiations and lawsuits.

“The federal funding would be likely to disappear,” he said. “I don’t see any practical way that the Met Council can proceed over the adamant opposition of the elected officials in Minneapolis.”

Kate Brickman, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, declined to comment on Dayton’s remarks.

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Developers Pitch Two Apartment Buildings Along Lake Calhoun

The following article by Jim Buchta was published in the March 27, 2014 edition of the StarTribune.

PARK WATCH NOTE: This article is being posted on Park Watch because the proposed Greystar project is across the street from Lake Calhoun and, therefore, is subject to the Shoreland Height Ordinance, which at this site allows building height up to 60 feet.

Structures located on lake shore property elsewhere are limited to two and one-half stories or 35 feet. Because the Greystar developer wants to go even higher, it becomes a park related issue. CIDNA is having meetings on the issue April 7 and 9 at 6:00 at the Jones-Harrison Residence, 3700 Cedar Lake Avenue. Arlene Fried.

DEVELOPERS PITCH TWO APARTMENT BUILDINGS ALONG LAKE CALHOUN

A pair of developers are poised to present plans for two luxury apartment buildings near the coveted north shore of Lake ­Calhoun, where neighbors have been wary of previous proposals deemed too big and out of scale for the neighborhood.

North Carolina-based Greystar wants to build an eight-story, 90-unit building next to the Calhoun Beach Club. Just a few blocks away, Trammell Crow of Texas is planning a six-story building with 155 apartments next to Tryg’s restaurant.

These are not the first proposals for these sites, which are among the last major development opportunities on a popular spot along W. Lake Street in the neighborhood, which will offer residents views of Lake Calhoun and the downtown Minneapolis skyline.

The Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association (CIDNA) is concerned about how much traffic might be drawn to a neighborhood that’s already stretched to the limits with cars and people, especially in the summer when trails around the lake draw thousands of sun-starved visitors.

There also have been concerns about how any buildings might dwarf–and shade–the nearby Loop Condos and Midtown Greenway, a popular recreational trail built along a former railroad corridor that’s used primarily by bicyclists.

“This is one of the busiest intersections in the city and state,” said Bob Corrick, chairman of the neighborhood association’s Land Use and Development Committee. “We’re concerned about pedestrian safety and the friendliness of our paths and walkways.”

 

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Metro Leaders Endorse Tunnel Plan for Southwest Rail Corridor

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the StarTribune on April 3, 2014:

METRO LEADERS ENDORSE TUNNEL PLAN FOR SOUTHWEST RAIL CORRIDOR

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The leaders voted 11-2 for the plan, with Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges denouncing it as “a fundamental failure of fairness” to her constituents.

Over the protests of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, a group of metro leaders Wednesday endorsed sinking the region’s biggest light-rail line in tunnels in the Kenilworth recreational corridor and rejected her claim that the project won’t benefit the city.

The 11-2 vote came minutes after Hodges denounced the plan as “a fundamental failure of fairness” to her constituents — an assertion one metro leader from Minneapolis said was “just astounding.”

If the decision is approved next week by the agency overseeing the Southwest Corridor light-rail project, it will trigger negotiations to determine whether there is room for compromise with Minneapolis or if the city will threaten to play spoiler on the project.

 

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Tunnels are Likely Route for Light Rail

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the StarTribune on April l, 2014:

TUNNELS ARE LIKELY ROUTE FOR LIGHT RAIL

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After months of delay and studies, transit planners once again recommend digging tunnels for the Southwest light rail on either side of a water channel in the Minneapolis Kenilworth corridor.

Transit planners told Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday that they’re recommending digging tunnels in Minneapolis’ Kenilworth corridor so the Southwest Corridor light rail can run under recreational trails and near freight trains, a step making it more likely the project will be approved over the city’s objections.

The recommendation emerged from a closed-door meeting at the Capitol with Dayton and key Twin Cities leaders and will be sent Wednesday to a panel of metro leaders.

“Routing a transportation project of this size through long-established and densely populated urban areas will inevitably cause unwelcomed disruptions to the lives of numerous citizens,” Dayton said in a statement after the meeting. “I deeply regret that those disruptions appear to be unavoidable.”

He criticized planning years ago for the project, saying officials should have foreseen that a “bottleneck” in the narrow Kenilworth recreation corridor would create “intractable problems” for locating transit next to freight trains and trails.

 

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Minneapolis Stands Alone in Opposing Southwest Light-Rail Plans

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the March 30, 2014 edition of the Star Tribune:

MINNEAPOLIS STANDS ALONE IN OPPOSING SOUTHWEST LIGHT-RAIL PLANS

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Minneapolis is growing increasingly isolated in the fight over the future of the Southwest Corridor as the light-rail project approaches a crucial showdown.

Minneapolis is growing increasingly isolated in the fight over the future of the Southwest Corridor as the light-rail project approaches a crucial showdown.

An exchange at a meeting of metro leaders last week underscored the growing division between other communities along the route and the state’s largest city, which worries about disruption during construction of light-rail tunnels in the Kenilworth corridor.

“Does the budget include buying people out if they do not want to stay through that?” Peter Wagenius, the policy aide to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, asked at the gathering of officials from cities along the route.

The answer: No special treatment for Minneapolis.

Hopkins City Council Member Cheryl Youakim called the Minneapolis question “odd” and said all communities along the nearly 16-mile route would be affected during construction.

 

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