Golden Valley City Council approves Bottineau support resolution, appoints new council member

For the second time in six months, the Golden Valley City Council took a roll call vote on the Bottineau Transitway support resolution.

The results were different this time.

The council voted 3-2 during its Dec. 18 meeting to approve a revised resolution of support for the Bottineau Transitway Locally Preferred Alternative.

The vote (with Council Members Paula Pentel and DeDe Scanlon voting no) comes after more than a month of discussion and debate in the wake of Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council asking Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris to reconsider the resolution, which the council voted against 3-2 in June.

When a revised resolution came back nearly six months to the day after being voted down, Council Member Joanie Clausen voted to support it this time.

“Last summer I voted against this,” Clausen said. “The ballgame has changed. There are passionate people on both sides. From my standpoint, I represent both these sides, and I will be voting for this tonight so we can answer the questions and make an informed decision.”

The “Locally Preferred Alternative” is the D-1 alignment, which starts in Brooklyn Park and ends in downtown Minneapolis, crossing through Golden Valley along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad corridor adjacent to the Mary Hills Nature Area and Theodore Wirth Park.

During an explanation as to why she was going to vote against the resolution, Pentel shared what Theodore Wirth Park meant to her. The route is projected to run through part of the 742-acre park, which Golden Valley and Minneapolis share.

“I grew up at 2627 Penn (Ave.) in a poverty-impacted neighborhood,” Pentel said. “I got a bicycle, and I discovered Theodore Wirth Park and I thought I had heaven at my doorstep. The reason I live where I do now is because I am within walking distance of (the park), and I can go over there, and I can enjoy the silent sports, and I can enjoy dark skies, and enjoy the solitude … It was an area that renewed my soul, and helped make me a better person.”

Pentel later that the city’s support of the route would give the Metropolitan Council the opportunity to put a package together and go to the Federal government to get money for two things: a final environmental impact statement and preliminary engineering.

“It’s a very difficult ship to turn, once that ship is going in one direction,” Pentel said. “Once $30 million has been spent, it’s a very difficult boat to turn … There is a decision being made today that is going to start in motion a process for bringing light rail through Golden Valley. We can debate the semantics of it, but that is something I firmly know to be true and believe.”

Council Member DeDe Scanlon said that she could not support the resolution because she did thought the light rail as planned would not serve the majority of people living in Golden Valley.

Harris shared his thoughts before a motion was made to vote on the support resolution.

“If we choose to go forward and approve this resolution tonight, this is not the end,” Harris said. “In my mind, this is the beginning.”

Even if the community comes together and decides the D-1 route is the best possible scenario, Harris said, the project still needs state and federal funding. Future changes in legislative makeup at the state or federal level do not ensure guarantees that anything will happen, Harris said.

“Our predecessors back in 1988 approved a very similar resolution on this same line,” Harris said. “That was 1988, and we’re still here talking about it, so I don’t think there are any guarantees in this.”

Wording in the approved resolution of support states that the city has the right to approve or deny municipal consent following the completion of a draft environmental impact statement and during the preliminary engineering phase. Municipal consent is required from all five cities involved for the project to go forward.

The Hennepin County Transit Improvement Board granted $2.4 million Dec. 19 for early preliminary engineering once the locally preferred alternative route and mode are adopted into the Met Council’s Transportation Policy Plan. The funds were part of nearly $30 million committed to transit projects across the region.

When asked Dec. 19 what happens next, City Planner Joe Hogeboom said the Met Council would vote on whether or not to endorse the D-1 alignment.

“Assuming they vote to approve it, then the project would become eligible for federal funding for preliminary engineering, which is the starting point for design of the project,” Hogeboom told the Post. “The Met Council is expected to vote in January. Closer to home, the Minneapolis Park Board is planning a design workshop for possible stations at either Golden Valley Road or the Chalet area at Theodore Wirth Park. The workshop is planned to take place in February.”

In other actions during its Dec. 18 meeting, the Golden Valley City Council also:

• Appointed long-time Planning Commissioner Steven Schmidgall to the city council seat vacated by former Council Member Mike Freiberg, whose resignation was accepted at the same meeting. Schmidgall was one of five candidates interviewed Dec. 17. He was not present in the council chambers when this was announced shortly after midnight Dec. 19.

According to the city website, Schmidgall has been involved in Golden Valley city government since being appointed to the planning commission in 2005. He has also served as the chair of the Robbinsdale School’s Financial Advisory Council since 2010

Schmidgall has bachelor’s degree in environmental design from Macalester College, an MBA from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and is completing a University of Minnesota post-baccalaureate certificate in health care innovation and design. He is project manager in facilities planning and construction for Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

Other candidate finalists included Larry Fonnest, John Kluchka, Brad Kadue and Rich Baker.

• Unanimously approved a redevelopment plan for the 55 West Redevelopment Project Area and a tax increment financing plan for the Highway 55 TIF District No. 1. The area is at the northeast corner of Highway 55 and Highway 169, with parcels of land north and south of Golden Valley Road stretching east until hitting Boone Avenue.

Final plans for the Tiburon 55 project, a 142-unit market rate apartment project, were also unanimously approved during the Dec. 18 meeting. The proposed apartments were cited as a major factor in the Planning Commission’s approval of the project.

The main objective in developing the plans is to provide safer access at Highway 55 and Decatur Avenue North, and to create a sidewalk system connection 7th Avenue and Golden Valley Road. The Tiburon 55’s developers will install sidewalks at the new facility, but the redevelopment plan depends on a sidewalk system beyond the building site and managing the traffic at an existing ramp to Highway 55 at Decatur Avenue North.

As a Renewal and Renovation District, increments can be collected for up to 15 years, estimated at $3.2 million total.

Pentel praised the use of TIF, describing as a “win-win for the city.”

• Voted 3-1 (Pentel had excused herself from the meeting) to approve a preliminary planned unit development for the 3.9.4. Apartments, a combination six-story, 308-unit market-rate apartment and 118-unit market-rate senior living facility (with memory care and assisted living). If final approval is granted, construction on both buildings could start this spring.

The proposal drew more than 10 comments when a public hearing was opened.

“We have the two apartments behind our houses now, and we hear the dumpsters clang,” said Joanne Fox, who lives near the proposed 3.9.4 site. “They have 12 units. Now you are going to multiply that beyond my conception. We are going to lose a beautiful woods. Our quality of life is going to change dramatically. Our home values have dropped. We are not going to be able to sell our home and replace it with something comparative. I feel bad for the young people, but I would like the city council to use their power for our benefit. You’ve got power, do you have heart?”

David Webb, son of the late restaurant owner of by the same name, presented a list of six reasons why he did not believe the project was suited for the site. Webb manages the Good Day Café adjacent to the site and wants to see the site redeveloped differently.

The council voted 3-1 to approve the preliminary planned unit development, with Scanlon voting against it due to “too many unresolved issues.”

• Unanimously approved a preliminary planned unit development for The Colonnade, a 173-unit market-rate apartment building proposed for the southeast corner of Xenia Avenue and Golden Hills Drive. There were no public comments on the proposal.