Highlights of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board meeting
on April 7, 2004
5:00pm — Administration & Finance Committee
Chair: Marie Hauser
Commissioners: Rochelle Berry Graves, Annie Young, Carol Kummer, Walt Dziedzic
* Accepts a bid for half a million dollars to improve the softball fields at Armatage Park.
* Accepts a bid for three-quarters of a million dollars to complete phase 3-a of the Lake of the Isles Park improvements.
* Accepts bid for ~$75,000 for athletic equipment.
* Moves the denial of the installation of a memorial plaque not specifically naming the three students who died in the house fire, but honoring them at an installation ceremony, in Van Cleve Park to the full board for a vote. Policy states no such memorials are allowed in parks. Dziedzic argues for an exception in this case. Joan Menken(?) from the Southeast Como Neighborhood Association also speaks in favor of making this exception, and points out that the memorial plaque itself is general and does not name the students, which allows for some diffusing of the problem with others asking for similar exceptions.
* Approves the receiving of a nomination to name the gold learning center at Gross Golf Course for John Sarna. Moved to full board.
* Approves agreement with SNP Enterprises, LLC (“Tin Fish”) for operation of the Lake Calhoun Concession. Planned opening date is May 15. Moved to full board.
* Approves the spending of the CARAG neighborhood of $26,475 of its NRP funds on improvements to the Bryant Square Park. Moves this to full board. However, committee denies request to maintain 3 additional pedestrian level lights, for which CARAG would spend another $27,000, at a cost to the Park Board of $225 a year. It is against policy. Park Board has made an exception for Bryant Park in the past, but usually sticks it to the direct neighbors of the park to pay these costs. Berry Graves argues for taking on these lights as she personally knows the Bryant Avenue side of the park to be very dark. Scott Engel, CARAG staff person, spoke on behalf of the neighborhood.
* Presentation by Charles Dirks ?? of the Downtown Council about wanting to add a power boat race event to the Aquatennial. This was an event in the not so recent past. They want to bring a national-level power boat race to Minneapolis, which would bring sponsors and national TV coverage. First year would be a small demonstration with local competitors and free spectator access, from the Broadway Bridge to the Plymouth bridge, avoiding areas with residential neighborhoods next to the river. The full event would be a longer stretch of the river, would likely run during the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the Aquatennial. They would like to use Boom Island Park as the race pit and paddock, VIP area, showcase, and so forth.
Berry Graves is concerned about the noise and how long it will last. Three days.
Dziedzic reminisces about other races held in Minneapolis in years gone by and suggests the Downtown Council folks get in touch with the neighborhoods.
Young questions the pollution in the river and the noise problem.
Olson, who despite not even being on this committee is given a chance to hold forth about what a great idea it is, how much he liked the boat races before [how old was he then, I wonder?], thanks the Downtown Council people effusively for coming and making the presentation, talks about a positive attitude with respect to this project, sure it will succeed. Obviously Olson’s mind is already made up and the fix is in.
* Admin and Finance adjourns
5:30pm — Planning Committee
Chair: Bob Fine
Commissioners: Walt Dziedzic, Marie Hauser, John Erwin, Annie Young
* Second action item up is to adopt a resolution recommending the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District abandon their proposed Rule M. Three members of the District are present and given the chance to speak. District talks about how they have cooperated with the Park Board in the past, how much work the Park Board staff has done on this issue, and how the District and the Board have a number of similar goals in preserving the natural resources. Rule M has been in the making for 3 years. It is the opinion of District Sec. Jim Calkins that the sticking point has been politics and lawyers. He felt there was some disrespect from the Park Board [namely Brian Rice, though Jim does not name him] at District meetings. [More on this later.]
Assistant Superintendent Rietkerk blathers about some perceived problems with Rule M.
Comm. Hauser makes some snide remarks about the city is better than the suburbs at taking care of the watershed.
Comm. Olson, despite not even being on this committee, makes acrimonious remarks about how Minneapolis paid for the services the District gave to Minneapolis. Claims the Park Board does everything it can to protect the watershed but is absolutely opposed to Rule M.
District Sec. Jim Calkins answers a question with some good scientific facts which are contrary to various commissioners wild speculations, but as soon as it becomes apparent that what he is saying is reasonable and sound science, Comm. Fine rudely cuts him off, and gives one of his now infamous arrogant lectures on how we do things here.
Comm. Erwin addresses a need for cooperation but believes Rule M is over-reaching.
Comm. Dziedzic says about Rule M: “It’s not political. It’s nuts!” Then he spoke in circumlocution about the 5 million [really?] people who walk around the lakes each year who will be denied that because Rule M will force removal of the paths [it will not as currently proposed]. Says that “Brian Rice says we can’t rebuild the walks if needed, but the Watershed District says you can.”
Comm. Young makes a substitute motion the Park Board continue negotiating with the Watershed District and add some exemptions where needed. Dziedzic is opposed and wants to throw the whole thing out.
Young’s motion fails 3 to 2 (Young, Erwin).
Comm. Fine launches into another arrogant lecture on the Park Board being an older organization, and the Watershed District being an implied bunch of young ignorants having been formed more recently. [How is the age of the organizations at all relevant? Maybe we should ask the Dakota Indians who were here hundreds of years before the Park Board what we should do.] Fine claims that Rule M is nothing more than an attempt by the District to grab control of the lakes and streams on Park Board property.
Olson, still not on this committee, puts in that “we take [better] care of our parks.”
* Planning Committee recesses for the Regular Open Time.
6:15pm — Open Time
* Rod Johnson founder and owner of Midwest Mountaineering describes how his business is struggling and how the Park Board’s $50 an hour fee they charge him to allow customers to try out canoes on their lakes is just too great a cost to bear. He is referred to assistant superintendent Sigglekow.
* Emily Anderson, vice president of the Save Anwatin Woods Organization, previously presented to the Board an environmental learning center to which the Board was favorably disposed. Now she is concerned that the development of 3 townhouse buildings on Xerxes and Washburn Avenues North near Wirth Park and the Eloise Butler Wildlife Sanctuary will adversely affect the health of the trees and other flora there. Wants to get this development on the commissioners’ radar. She is referred to assistant superintendents Rietkerk and Schmidt.
* Arlene Fried (Comm. Olson cannot pronounce her last name despite the numerous appearances she has made here) acknowledges receipt of the Park Board Headquarters building financials, which she had asked for the second or third time at the last meeting. [and for which I asked about in January]
* Steve Nelson asks about the Jordan basketball hoops, why they were removed and doesn’t that seem contrary to the whole purpose of the parks. If there are problems with unruly youth, shouldn’t the Park Police be able to handle it? Referred to assistant superintendent Schmidt.
* Lara Norkus-Crampton from the East Calhoun neighborhood, refers to a letter to the Park Board from the president of the East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) asking that the 32nd Street beach on Lake Calhoun not be closed. She gives a strongly-worded argument that ECCO spent a large amount of money on the tot lot at that beach, specifically because it was a beach, and that the tot lot is widely known and used. She says it costs $13,000 a year to keep a beach open; perhaps the priorities and selection of beaches ought to be revisited.
* Regular meeting recesses to allow the Planning Committee to finish.
Planning Committee resumes.
* Jill Anderson, Park Board staff, gives presentation on a proposed off-road cycling trail project in Wirth Park. She has packed the house with cycling members of Minneapolis Off-road Cycling Advocates (MOCA) and MORC. States a public meeting had 60 people, 15 of which were non-cyclists from the neighborhood. She states this as if it were a good thing. [But I think that having only 25% of the people be from the neighborhood, and the rest likely advocates from MOCA, is hardly flattering.]
A few of the commissioners banter with Anderson, who is an “exchange” staff person from Adelaide, Australia who will be returning there after May 14.
Olson says that he and Commissioner Mason (who is not present at this meeting) met with this group and thinks the project would be “nice asset” to the parks. [Maybe Mason should be allowed to speak for herself?]
Erwin is very supportive of this kind of non-traditional recreation.
Hauser thanks Anderson and MOCA for their work, for showing up, etc. etc. ad nauseam.
* Committee approves an agreement with MOCA and passes it to full board.
* Two items regarding skate parks generate much discussion. First item (4.5) is to approve construction of skates parks in 2004 in Creekview Park (far north edge of Minneapolis) and Armatage Park (far southwestern corner). Second item (4.6) is to approve construction of skate parks in 2004/2005 subject to availability of funding in Bottineau Park, Brackett Park, Elliot Park and Morris Park.
Young makes substitute motion to table 4.5 but it fails. Young questions why the first skate parks are being built at the extreme edges of Minneapolis.
Erwin emphasizes the density of kids in the Central, Phillips, etc. neighborhoods.
Two young skate boarders are sitting next to me. One says he is from the Elliot Park neighborhood. Commissioner discussion includes the idea that urban core parks would probably get more use. Park Board staff (Jill Anderson) says locations were chosen by criteria which respected demand.
Olson, still not on this committee, talks about a public meeting where 28 of the 32 people who showed up were teenagers between ages 13 and 18 [as opposed to teenagers between ages 5 and 10, or 30 and 40, right?].
Dziedzic meanders and mentions how impressed he is with Ms. Anderson. He talks about all the people who visit Bottineau Park who take the bus line which goes right by the park [bus line? cough-cough]
The Armatage neighborhood was initially very opposed to a skate park in Armatage Park. Now, well, no one from the neighborhood is here supporting it.
* 4.5 to approve construction in Creekview and Armatage passes 4 to 1.
* 4.6 to approve construction subject to funding passes 4 to 1.
* Committee hears presentation by Tim Brown, staff, on communications (cell phone) towers on Park Board property. Pictures are shown. Park could receive $10,000 to $15,000 per year, per pole rent. Generally, Park Board policy does not allow this kind of use, but can make exceptions when in best interests.
St. Paul only allows these kinds of towers when they are part of a field lighting tower, and bring each instance to the public.
Dziedzic comments the tower could be share with microwave, etc. He’s thinking about Phyllis Kahn’s proposal to put Internet access in the parks [but doesn’t know the terminology to ask the right question]. Staff answers a very different sort of antenna is used for the latter.
Young thinks the proposal is intriguing but is worried about aesthetics.
* Planning Committee Adjourns.
Olson calls the Committee of the Whole meeting.
* One Agenda Item: the Crown Hydro project
* Assistant superintendent Rietkerk gives an update. Park Board staff has been working on this project for a “few weeks” now. They have an outline for lease terms and he wants to get it approved so that Crown Hydro, LLC can go ahead with getting their license from FERC, which requires they have a lease.
* Erwin wants three things to get his support, and wants staff to communicate this to Crown Hydro: (1) Variable intake valve to allow control of volume of water used, (2) Change amount of water over the falls to guarantee 500 cubic feet a second, up from previous agreement of 300 cubic feet a second, and (3) 40 hours of control per week over the flow during peak park visitor times — control given to Park Board, not Crown Hydro.
* Young states she is a big supporter of renewable energy with no pollution [Young needs some educating on the environmental aspects of hydro power if she thinks it is 100% clean power]. She would prefer a 25 year lease with option to renew for 25 years, instead of the 50 year lease with 50 year renew as proposed.
* Asst. superintendent Rietkerk says the FERC requires “coterminous lease” implying that means it has to be a 50 year lease because the license is for 50 years. He wants approval to proceed with lease so Crown Hydro can get FERC license, and then staff and board can work out details of design and operations agreement later. [Doesn’t this open the Park Board up to a lawsuit liability like the $31 million Nicollet Mall fiasco with La Societe Generale Immobiliere? That is, Crown Hydro gets a lease, but then can’t use the lease because they cannot come to agreeable terms with the Park Board on the design restrictions and operational constraints?]
* Young asks about emergency use of the power generated, to power city water pumps and medical facilities.
* Rietkerk says basically no, that can’t be done because Xcel gets all of the power.
* Young is concerned about the $1.1 [$5.1] million that Crown Hydro will use from the state’s renewable energy fund. The Crown Hydro project will build 3.6 megawatts of power at about $3,000 per kilowatt. Wind power can be built for about $1,000 per kilowatt. Wouldn’t that $1.1 [$5.1] million perhaps be better invested in wind power?
* Public Comment Period
[I am wildly guessing on the names here. Olson could not read many of them from his list, and I had no copy of that list.]
1. Barry Berg, lives overlooking the area, and is also a developer in the area. His points were:
— Millions of dollars have been invested by the Park Board, the city and others in improving this area of the river, aesthetically and otherwise.
— He can’t imagine that there would be NO adverse affects on the area from this project.
— Project flies in the face of the improvements which have been made.
— Much of the investment that he and others made in the area would NOT have been made had this project been known to them.
— It is not a compatible use in an area that has become residential and is no longer industrial.
— There are zoning problems.
— He is opposed to this project.
2. Steven “Derider” [I’m sure I butchered the last name] of 600 South 2nd Street wrote a letter to the president of the Board, and made these points:
— Neighborhood is changing to residential and recreational, and is no longer industrial.
— Project is premature. It is not ready for a vote tonight. The lease is not completely written.
— Zoning is incompatible and would have to be changed before FERC would allow project go ahead. Such a change will not be trivial.
— Data about archeology/excavation is not known and should be know before Park Board votes on this project, not after they have already signed a lease.
— He is opposed to this project.
3. Barbara “Protlett” [another butchered last name, sorry], lives at XXX Portland Ave. Her points were:
— There are fundamental issues not known which should be know before a decision is made by the Park Board.
— Why on the one hand does Crown Hydro say the facility will be underground and not visible, but on the other says it will be a historical interpretive opportunity?
— She is opposed to this project.
4. “Nita Frank” of 117 Portland Avenue. Her points:
— Concerned about altering the Historic Stone Arch Bridge.
— Loss of parking would discourage use of the Mill Ruins Park and riverfront.
— She is opposed to this project.
5. Mary Margaret “McMillan” of 117 Portland Avenue.
— There is a lack of water quality and environmental data for this project.
— Recently moved to this location from the suburbs specifically because of the aesthetics there.
— She is opposed to this project.
6. P. Victor “…??” [completely missed last name] of 132 Bank Street. His points were:
— Renewable energy is important.
— Urges approval of first step if details of design and operation can be worked out.
7. Peter “Gilsford?” of Winslow House, 100 SE 2nd St.(?), had these points:
— Winslow House Condo Assoc has not had a chance to even meet and evaluate this project as they only heard about it recently.
— Talks about the rhythm of the river that residents who frequent the area come to know, and how changing the water flow will greatly alter this, extending the low water season from weeks to months.
— Water flow data needs more analysis before a vote. Board says they have this data [but they haven’t looked at it in this fashion].
— He is opposed to this project.
8. Scott “Ellingbow” of 600 2nd Street South, made these points:
— He only heard about this a week ago. Public knowledge is lacking.
— The falls are a tremendously important part of the downtown neighborhood.
— He is opposed to this project.
9. Tyrone Bujold [spelling?] of 117 Portland, made is case eloquently and passionately:
— Wrote a letter to the Board containing 13 points.
— Has a petition with one hundred twelve signatures opposing project.
— The park is not a factory.
— Does not believe the Stone Arch Bridge can be lengthened in an aesthetically and historically sensitive fashion for the $400,000 figure Crown Hydro provided.
— By Minnesota law, the burden of getting the property rezoned to appropriate zoning will be on the Park Board as the lessor, not Crown Hydro or anyone else.
— Once the lease is signed, they have a foot in the door and it will be difficult to stop the project.
— Is passionately opposed to this project.
10. Mary “Marsden” of 117 Portland made these points:
— North Star Lofts building is on old limestone foundation only a 100 feet from this project. Vibration may be a problem.
— She is for renewable energy, but not this project.
— Project is north worth the risk to building, and limestone tail race.
— Risk to St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the entire Mississippi River.
— She is opposed to this project.
* Olson gives Pete Grills, the smooth-talking lawyer from Crown Hydro 2 minutes to talk. He uses every second and then some to do his best to point by point placate or argue against all objections.
* Asst. superintendent Rietkerk says the comprehensive plan was always to excavate the “fore bay” under the parking lot [yes, in a historically interpretive way] as well as extend the bridge [oh really?] using a design similar to Crown Hydro’s [what design would that be?].
* Fine asks about lease terms. Rietkerk answers lease has some items to be done before the lease is executed, requirements to be met.
* Kummer asks if Park Board would be under same constraints and conditions if it was able to do the comprehensive plan in the future? Rietkerk answers yes, and they are already operating under those rules.
* Kummer says bridge has already been altered to allow Excel Energy plant construction, but is corrected by others that the alteration was done for the lock construction.
* Young asks if specific garden landscaping can be made for ground above powerhouse. Rietkerk says it is underground and out of sight, and that the park is supposed to have an industrial appearance with respect to a period of history, for example, the plank road.
* Hauser asks if Board needs to be concerned with vibrations? Rietkerk says he does not know but assumes they could put some sensors out there to measure. Crown Hydro says no but that they can get some numbers from an installation in New York using the same turbines.
* Dziedzic asks if construction will require sheeting. Crown Hydro says no.
* Dziedzic says he is not ready to vote tonight, that there is a lack of knowledge. He asks what the zoning is. Answer is C-3A, commercial for restaurants, etc. Can Board go ahead with this zoning? Answer is no, it needs change or amendment. Dziedzic repeats he does not want to vote tonight [perhaps the large number of members of the public present who are opposed make him nervous?].
* April 13 is the FERC deadline for Crown Hydro to have the lease to get the license.
* Young asks if Crown Hydro can get an extension on that date. Pete Grills answers possibly.
* Kummer pontificates and suggests that Crown Hydro address the neighbors directly about their concerns.
* Pete Grills says Crown Hydro was going to have a public meeting to talk to the neighbors but that Passover got in the way.
* Olson encourages having these public meetings.
* Young moves to postpone decision to full board on May 5.
* Hauser makes a substitute motion for April 21.
* Olson mentions that Fine will be missing for that meeting.
* Hauser quickly and immediately withdraws her motion! [couldn’t possibly take any chances they might not have a 5 to 4 majority]
* Young’s motion passes, moved to May 5.
* Dziedzic addresses Crown Hydro and suggests talking to east bank residents as well.
* Young moves President Olson and Interim superintendent Gurban sign a letter supporting Crown Hydro in getting an extension from FERC.
* Committee of the Whole Adjourns
Regular Meeting resumes.
* Erwin states that Superintendent Search Committee has completed its task of creating a time line for the superintendent search. It is approved [whatever it says].
* Items from Planning Committee are considered.
* 4.2 Full board takes up the resolution to oppose the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District’s Rule M. [funny how it was already on the full board agenda even before being passed up by the Planning Committee; are they prescient?]
Young makes substitute motion to continue to negotiate and seek exemptions.
Fine is opposed and takes yet another opportunity to lecture everyone on this rule is just about control of park property. Fine dishes a few insults at the District, now that its members have left the audience.
Brian Rice is asked for an opinion, and he takes his usual inflammatory, manipulative tact of trying to rile up the commissioners to oppose something he doesn’t personally like. Rice also dishes a bunch of insults at the District and all but calls them liars, opting instead for the phrase “very disingenuous”.
Young withdraws her motion [I believe, from memory].
* [Something passed here but it doesn’t correlate with 8.1 later.]
* 4.3 skate parks in Creekview and Armatage pass.
* 4.4 skate parks in other parks pass.
* Items from Administration and Finance Committee are considered.
* 7.8 denying memorial plaque in Van Cleve Park.
Dziedzic is for allowing the plaque.
Olson says the University of Minnesota failed to do handle this need appropriately and it should have been their responsibility to their students, but nevertheless is in favor of allowing plaque.
Fine has a problem with it.
Young wants to stick to policy which does not allow it.
* 7.8 passes with 2 opposed, denying permission for plaque in Van Cleve Park.
* 7.9 is to accept nomination of John Sarna as name for gold learning center.
Dziedzic thinks center should be named for John Sarna on opening day next month.
Policy is to wait 2 years after name nomination.
Dziedzic says original suggestion was 13(?) years ago, so waiting period should be considered done.
Name was not accepted in nomination, so rules say that can’t happen. Unless: Dziedzic moves to suspend rules which fails on 5 to 3 vote (requires 6 votes).
Dziedzic moves to table. Passes with 2 opposed. [I think, notes not clear and we were in hour 4 of the meeting by now.]
* 7.10 SNP Enterprises concession at Lake Calhoun passes.
* $300,000 for Webber Park improvements approved.
* $234,000 for Block 40 Park improvements approved.
* 8.1 — Roll Call Vote on opposing Watershed District’s Rule M. Passes 7 to 1, Kummer voting no.
— New Business —
* Fine moves to open 32nd Street beach at Lake Calhoun and “southwest” beach at Lake Harriet [guess he knows what to do when money talks], subject to staffing at $13,800 for 7 day lifeguarding per beach.
* Erwin moves friendly amendment to add Cedar Lake Point Beach. Amendment accepted by Fine.
* Interim superintendent Gurban says “we have not found any more money but two events” help them out: (1) a ruling on scheduling operators of millfoil harvesting equipment gives some flexibility to save money [no overtime pay?] and (2) with an assistant superintendent position and a field services manager position open, there is some money not being spent that was budgeted to be spent. This will allow weekend-only lifeguards.
* Motion is approved.
* Parade Ice Garden lost $30,000 to $35,000 last year due to mechanical problems. Minnesota Wild have a lease to use it for 1 more year beyond this year.
**** 9:00pm Meeting Adjourns ****