The following letter from a number of concerned citizens urging the Park Board to convene a Citizens Advisory Committee for the Lake Calhoun Southshore Parking Lot & Plaza Project was sent to the MPRB Commissioners on April 29, 2009:
An OPEN LETTER to the Minneapolis Park Board
LAKE CALHOUN REGIONAL PARK
RE: SOUTHSHORE PARKING AND PLAZA PROJECT
Richard Road/Berry Road/ West Calhoun Parkway
Project Cost $350,000.00 +
Target Date 2009
This pending project involves the complete demolition of an existing asphalt parking lot (formerly Richfield Road), to be followed by the total reconstruction
of a new parking lot (asphalt/pavers/rain garden), resulting in a substantial reduction of parking stalls (approx 50%), as well as altering its configuration
and location along the southshore of Lake Calhoun.
According to Minneapolis Park Board guidelines, all capital improvement projects require the convening of a Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), as a vehicle for public scrutiny and involvement:
“Citizen’s Advisory Committees are mandated” by MPRB Ord PB 11 (99-101) and “are required when the Park Board proposes to construct or redevelop a park facility.” The CAC follows a more formal, in-depth citizen review process with an appointed chairperson and appointed representatives. Typically, multiple hearings are scheduled and are open to the public. The committee recommendations are forwarded to the MPRB for their consideration. They will either approve, reject or amend the CAC’s recommendations and forward to the Mayor for his signature.
Unfortunately, Park Board staff is mischaracterizing this $350,000.00 capital improvement and reconstruction project as a simple “maintenance” project, thereby evading the required mandate for a Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
In September 2008, Park Bord staff signed an agreement with HKG, a landscape scape design firm, for $47,200.00 “for design development and preparation of construction documents for Phase 1 of the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking
and Plaza project.”
By keeping this agreement under $50,000.00, Park Board staff was able to avoid bringing this agreement to the Commissioners for their review, and initate this project without any public oversight.
By keeping the number of new parking spaces below ten, Park Board staff was able to develop the design plan without bringing it to the City of Minneapolis Planning Department for approval as part of the standard Preliminary Design review process.
It was only because of a public citizen Data Request to disclose MPRB file information that the existence of the Lake Calhoun Southshore Parking and Plaza project was uncovered.
Preliminary drawings (on file) for “Phase II” have also been completed by HKG and appear to include the following amenities: (plaza w/boardwalk and outdoor
seating, kiosk, restrooms, rain gardens, sculpture wall, and vendor “slots.” Specific timing for Phase II and associated costs are not yet known.
This multi-phase project is just one of several presently under consideration by MPRB staff for future development around Lake Calhoun. It should be noted that projects such as these may very well have merit and represent desirable
changes that will improve both the aesthetics and functioning of Lake Calhoun Regional Park. However, the following concerns regarding citizen participation still need to be addressed:
a) Though many concerns were raised regarding this project by members and guests at the January 21, 2009 Lakes District Council meeting, a group representing over 15 neighborhood associations located in and around the Chain of
Lakes, and though requests were made to Commissioners Fine and Nordstrom who were in attendance, to “slow this process down,” It has recently been confirmed that MPRB staff is still intent on moving forward with this project.
SOURCE: Southwest Journal 9 February 2009.
b) These projects should be considered, not in isolation, but more import- antly,within the entire context of the soon to be proposed Lake Calhoun Master Plan. The Southshore project (Phases I-II) encompass two intertwined concepts that need to be reviewed at the same time and before any construction begins.
c) There has been limited opportunity for the public to be directly involved in the design/planning process for the Lake Calhoun Southshore Parking Lot & Plaza Project. The Park Board’s own ordinance and operations hand-book define a very specific planning process which requires interaction and the direct involvement of the public in reviewing this type of project (see “flow chart”).
In October 2007, Commissioner T. Nordstrom was quoted at a Lakes District Council meeting: “the Park Board believes that citizen participation is needed, necessary, and desirable. The trend is toward more transparency, not less.” Unfortunately, since that statement was made, there has been and continues to be projects initiated by Park Board staff with little or no notice to their own commis- sioners, the stewards of our nationally recognized, historic 125 year old park system,
Information was nonetheless brought to the attention of Park Board commissioners by members of the public during “Open Time” at their November 19, 2008 televised meeting. To date, this project has never been on any MPRB meeting agenda. How can you allow park board staff to bid out this $350,000+ project without your review, authorization and formal approval (vote)?
In the interest of openness and transparency, the undersigned are requesting that the MPRB:
a) follow prescribed guidelines and immediately forward this project to the full Board of Commissioners for their review and approval,
b) if and when approved, issue a statement confirming their commitment to establish a Citizens Advisory Committee for the Lake Calhoun Southshore Parking & Plaza Project,
c) defer all proposed work at Lake Calhoun Regional Park until this mandated public review process has been completed.
Thank you for your timely consideration in this matter.
Sally Anson-West Calhoun,
Harvey Ettinger-East Isles,
Jan Prescott-East Isles,
Marissa Lasky-Bryn Mawr,
Kay Anderson-East Calhoun,
Anita Tabb-Lowry Hill,
Beth Kehoe- Lowry Hill,
Rita O’Keefe-Lowry Hill East