Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quicknotes

Season's Greetings to all of you! When I started A Place in Mound, I had no expectations, but I am so glad people have responded positively to the ideas shared here. We have lots to do to make some of the simple things we discuss here a reality. Here are two things I want do the first 6 months of 2013. One is to have an informal meeting so we can meet, and actually talk about Places in Mound, and figure out what we, as citizens, can do. The second is to set a date to have a bike day in Mound, inspired by "Kidical Mass". Let's work to make Mound a place to drive to, not through!

Also, I like many others are currently unemployed. It would be appreciated if you think of people like myself during these times. Let us know if there are ways we can help you or your colleagues at your business.

Mound city hall moving - City council officially voted to move city offices to the Public Safety building after some more parking can be added. I dare the city of Mound to look at this carefully, and consider back in slant on street parking. It appears the meetings will continue to be in the old building, which they are considering naming the "Centennial Building".

Walking to school on December 10 (the Monday after the snowy Sunday) was rough. I have lots to say about it later, but everyone needs to understand the speed limit on streets by the schools when children are present is 20 MPH. My kids and I had no sidewalk options that day, so we walked along Bartlett and Wilshire, and cars went by WAY to fast, and I got into a heated argument with one gentleman.
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These cars were stopped at the stopsign, but many drove by us at dangerous speeds
The committee that put together the recent meeting on Heroin at the Gillespie Center will be hosting another meeting in January. It will be a more general meeting on drug abuse, and will give people a chance to meet in smaller groups with officials. It will be at the Gillespie Center on Thursday, January 31st at 7PM.

At the Planning Commission meeting last month, there was a report from the city staff that the 2nd Mound Magic meeting was just as well attended as the 1st meeting. It was also recorded to be broadcast from the Cable Access. They were pleased at the reactions of the meetings, and are planning to do more in the future. It was also shared that they have been making more of an effort to meet with city business owners. I'm sure this sort of thing has always gone on, but perhaps they are making more of an effort to get out and have conversations. Perhaps they'll take the walk I recently proposed.

Jubilee has set up a website at http://www.moundjubilee.com. You can now sign up for emails, see the specials, and get contact information. One frustration I have, in general, about Mound businesses is the lack of websites many of our businesses have. I know that Celebrate Greater Mound has tried to help to give small local businesses the opportunity for a free website, but those efforts, so far, haven't seem to help much. But it's a good idea... and those efforts need to continue. Many of us use the internet to get information, and if a business doesn't even have basic information available on the web, we will look for other options.

Speaking of CGM, it has just announced it's changing it's name to Westonka Community and Commerce. This is just a name change to reflect the broader business community, and try to include important businesses that aren't necessarily in Mound. It's mission and programming isn't changing. I'm a little reticent to this change, as Mound is the hub of this organization, and until the center of our business hub improves, Mound will continue to be stagnant, but I do believe strongly in this organization and strongly encourage everyone to be a part of it.

The Moonlight Trail Walk is coming up quick, on January 26. Do me a favor, and go like the Facebook page, will you?! And if you want to help, contact Liz. Especially you could help by making luminaries.

Friday, December 7, 2012

We're not Berating the Drummer

This is the third response to the city after my presentation last week. Members and staff had problems with me criticizing (or berating) the city. I try to use a metaphor here with my Jazz Band experience. I hope you will also see my first two responses as well.

When I'm making criticisms of Mound's streets, the way a development was discussed, or about a downtown issue, I usually don't blame a specific person. Issues that are raised here are issues that nearly every city in our county is facing. A lot of what I'm writing about is about the system we've built, use and lived in. People that have been educated, worked and live in the system are doing what they believe to be best, of that I have no doubts. They are working hard, and trying to get by just like the rest of us. If I were in their shoes, and an outsider comes along and starts making criticisms, I imagine I might take it personally.

I'm sorry if people at the city do take it personally, I really do respect them. I'm sure the ideas discussed here often seem outlandish, but I know this system we currently have isn't right.

I've spent my whole adult life working with children, and I know how to be encouraging and educational, without putting down or insulting their behaviors or school work. Positive reinforcement is the best way to get a desired behavior. However, there are times when you just need to be more direct, and point out  mistakes directly. When I, as an educator, point out a problem a student may be making, I focus on the problem, not the student. So when my daughter plays "Away in the Manger" and consistently misses the F#(sharp), I will point the problem, and urge her to remember that note. I don't insult her, or mock her that she keeps making the mistake, and to knock it off. I need to remember she's learning, and if she keeps working on it in earnest, I will respect that.

This can be true in the adult world as well.

I play trombone, and rehearse weekly with an adult jazz band made up of many fine musicians, most better than me. When a soloist it jamming along with the rhythm section, and he's hard to hear because the drummer is playing too loudly, it usually is delicately fixed. Often with, "Hey, lets have Johnny play that solo again, and everyone should be sure to listen to him while he plays because I could barely hear him." No one points the finger at anyone, the issue is brought up in a broad manner, and it usually is fixed if everyone is paying attention.

But that doesn't always work, and drummers being... well... drummers, you need to be more direct with them, and point out the problem. "Hey Sophia, could you bring your volume down a notch or two during that section?" And... assuming we are all adults (and drummers being... well drummers) this will fix the problem too just fine.

(This is all thrown out the window if you are from the East coast however. New Yorkers and their like usually dispensed with the niceties stated earlier, and the drummer will be told off straight away she's playing too loudly, and then her feelings will be hurt. She will then play so softly, you'll barely hear her play the rest of the evening until the New Yorker tells her to grow a spine and hit the darn things. That would be berating.)

Now, I don't know how to play the drums, and I couldn't give specifics to a drummer about how to play soft, but I do know when one of them is playing too loud. If I made a comment, the drummer would normally take the cue (perhaps offer a grumbled opinion about my performance) and play soft. I imagine it would be a lot of hitting the heads lighter,  or in different spot. Perhaps they might hit less drums, or a different head altogether. I'll trust them to make the appropriate adjustments.

This reminds me of a quote from Sandra Steingraber's "Raising Elijah" that I read this last year.
"As soon as you know, you can't not know"
When families that live in Mound try to walk or bike to various places in Mound, we know that they are not entirely safe. When we drive through town on Commerce, and see very few people (if any) and buildings sitting vacant for years, we know there's something wrong.

When I go by Caribou, and can't see all the businesses listed on a sign because it's either too low, or the fence in front of it is too high, and nothing is done to correct it, that seems wrong to me.

At the Mound Magic, Kandis Hanson, Mound's city manager, was telling us about the new street lights installed in downtown Mound. She pointed out that on County Rd 15 in Navarre and Spring Park, there are several street lights that have fallen down, and haven't been replaced. Ever since she said those remarks, I've started to notice the six or seven traffic cones that sit where a light pole used to sit along County Road 15. And the ones that remain standing are clearly deteriorating. Isn't it wrong that those light poles haven't been replaced or fixed?

I had a brief discussion recently with someone who told me how he appreciated the discussions happening here at A Place in Mound. He said it was making him see things in a different way that he had noticed before. I think he's starting to sense something isn't right.


These are things we can't unlearn.

Again, it's not just Mound... it's practically every city out there. It's the system we've created.

I don't know exactly how it's supposed to happen, but the City of Mound is playing too loud, and needs to make an adjustment. It's not personal, and we got time to rehearse yet, but my family is out there and something doesn't feel right. Let the soloist play and lets work together and get out of this system and create a new one to make Mound a Place, while letting Johnny shine.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Learning About MSA Streets

Please be sure to read my first response, and you can also watch the whole presentation and discussion.

Here is my second response to the Mound City Council. During the discussion the Mayor said I was wrong that MSA streets were free. Another council member chastised me for being wrong. 

Get Microsoft Silverlight


I have spent a great deal of time the last couple years trying to educate myself about all the policies and issues involved with basic local government services like streets and financing. My background is in music and education, not municipal administration.

I know how to educate myself but trying to read an engineering manual like the Minnesota Municipal Street Aid manual is daunting, and really unreadable to the average reader. I spent many late nights and more hours than I dare tell my wife trying to read it, the newsletter MNDOT publishes "State Aid Scene", I went to watch a State Aid Variance meeting in Arden Hills, I looked over the State Aid Local Transportation part of the website, I've read minutes and presentation slides from the Advisory Council for Complete Street documentation they are putting together at MNDOT, I have asked questions of County, State, and other engineers because I felt I was being a nuisance to Mound's city engineers.

The mayor's explanation on how MSA streets are funded is that the local residents and city pay for the normal street expenses, similar to those that have been paid in the last few years as our regular city streets have cost us. The state will pay for the extra foundation and width these streets are required to have, to qualify for MSA money. MSA streets are not free for cities.

When I wrote previously about MSA streets and that they were free for the city, I wasn't making it up. I was trying to put pieces together, and share the information I had learned that I believed to be accurate. Getting straight answers on some of these questions is difficult. There are no classes or handy pamphlets on this topic. It's one of those government bureaucratic systems that only those in the system can really understand, and if you don't understand them, well then we should just trust them.

I know for a fact that a neighbor city of Mound has a newly built MSA street paid for by the state, and the local property owners. Actual city costs, I was told, was a qualified 'very small portion'. This was, in part, how I learned that MSA streets are free for cities. Perhaps there's a difference in how the state aid system works between construction of a new street, and a rebuilding of an old street that wasn't apparent to me.

I apologize to you, my readers, as well as the City of Mound, for providing incorrect information about MSA streets.

So what is a guy to do if he's learning about the complicated way to build and finance city streets? What does it say about these 'systems' we've built that are too complicated for an eager, semi-intelligent person to try to figure out? Is it rational to trust a system that is devoted to saving some people a chance to save 30 seconds off their commute, while hurting the neighborhood the street occupies? Is it rational for Mound to rebuild the MSA streets, before taking an honest assessment on how they impact our neighborhoods and the people they serve?

I may not understand the finances of MSA streets, but I understand the impacts they have on neighborhoods. Two slides I shared with the city council, and on my post earlier this week was from a study done in San Francisco detailing the impact of traffic on the neighborhood it goes through. Here is the story and video on that study which gives us more details on the study that was conducted.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Roads are for cars, Streets are for everyone

*If you haven't had the chance yet, I hope that you will consider watching my presentation last week. I spoke for about 15 minutes and the discussion afterward was about 45 minutes. I greatly appreciate the invitation and time there, and look forward to having more conversations with the city soon. Topics were wide and varied, so I will be responding to the issues we discussed over the next week or two.

Thanks to those who have watched, and have been encouraging. I know some people were disappointed by some of the city council comments made, but these are tough issues, and we are at a disadvantage when arguing from an outsiders perspective. We need to be strong, patient, persistent, and even a little tenacious as we make our case, while still being respectful.


During my presentation I repeatedly said one of the issues Mound faces is that it has streets that are built for cars to go fast. While the council talked about this, they repeatedly stated that "roads are for cars". I didn't want to argue terminology, so I didn't attempt to correct it then, but I wanted to dispute this notion in my first response today.

As we've talked about before, there it's a difference between streets and roads. Roads are for connecting places. There is little value on a road, as it usually is passed by. Streets are a place where we live and conduct business. A street captures and adds value to places that surrounds it.
Unfortunately our cities have been built with streets that try to act like roads and encouraging cars to go fast. This not only hurts neighborhoods, they can kill people.


Mound needs to think carefully when they rebuild their MSA streets the next few years. Mound wants streets that are people friendly and where bicyclists and pedestrians can exist along cars driven at a people safe speed. We need to build streets for the next 30 years, not the last 30.


Mound needs to build streets for everyone, not just cars.

After my presentation, one issue the city council brought up was the suggestion that slowing traffic would create congestion. They continued that if there was congestion, then people would choose not to live in and do business in Mound.

Slowing down cars in our neighborhoods is not creating congestion. It would, in fact, would add value to neighborhoods.

We build these big, wide, MSA streets to move cars quickly and efficiently. In Mound, they help people move from the County Rd to their neighborhood street. For people in my neighborhood, we use Bartlett Blvd for this task. See the chart below to see the travel times.


Travel time on Bartlett Blvd from Shoreline to Avon Dr.
25MPH - 48 seconds (+8)
30MPH - 40 seconds (+6)(posted speed limit)
35MPH - 34 seconds

Bartlett Blvd from Shoreline Dr to Avon Dr, a MSA street.

People in my neighborhood can drive faster on Bartlett, and cut 6-8 seconds off their travel time thanks to MSA streets. Are those seconds really worth having if it degrades the neighborhood I drive through?

Let us look at another neighborhood. These times are for someone driving on another MSA street, Tuxedo from Skelly's, past Al and Alma's to Seabury Rd. I'm uncertain what the posted speed limit is on Tuxedo... seems to me it might be 35, so I included 40MPH.

25MPR - 245 seconds - 4 min 15 sec (+41)
30MPR - 204 seconds - 3 min 29 sec (+29)(posted speed limit?)
35MPR - 175 seconds - 2 min 55 sec (+22)(posted speed limit?)
40MPR - 153 seconds - 2 min 33 sec

Tuxedo Blvd from Seabury Rd to Wilshire Blvd, a MSA street.

Building a street where cars can drive 5 MPH less and share the road with people and bicycles could cost the residents of Seabury Rd. 22-41 seconds. Is that congestion? Would someone choose to live someplace else because because their drive to their home is 30 seconds less?

This all comes back to our neighborhoods, and the places people live. What are we, as a city, telling the neighborhoods of Bartlett Blvd and Tuxedo Blvd when we encourage fast cars by their homes?

Look closely at the neighborhoods you drive though the next time you go through. Do you see people? Are the houses there built close to the street, or far away? Do children play in the yard? How would you feel if your child was trying to play there, learn to ride their bike, or go to play at their friends house across the street. Are you comfortable with that?

These results from a study done on three similar streets with different levels of traffic. What value does a city place on a neighborhood when it allows cars to go fast through it? How does a neighborhood value it?

Do we, as a city, feel it's acceptable to hurt the Bartlett,Tuxedo and other neighborhoods, so others who choose to live further off a County Rd, can shave seconds off their commute?

I will contend that there are many of reasons why people choose to live in Mound, and hardly any of them would be because of their fast, wide streets. These streets were built this way because traffic engineers are so focused on moving cars that people are just afterthoughts in their equations. Going 5MPH slower on a neighborhood street is not congestion, and in fact, should be encouraged so everyone who lives in Mound can have a great neighborhood.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Presenting to the Mound City Council

The video from my presentation and the discussion afterward was posted on the LMCC website Thursday. I greatly appreciate the time and discussion we had.

Today I'm just going to share the video, and will have more response to it in the coming weeks.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Or link right to the LMCC website - http://lmcc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=778&meta_id=14831

*Please keep comments respectful. I just removed a comment for calling a council member a name. Thank you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Quicknotes

It was great to see the great crowd out along Auditor's Road for the Mound Tree Lighting ceremony! Be sure to like the Facebook page so you can be alerted to details about next year's tree lighting ceremony!

Also, a number of local churches worked together to have a community Thanksgiving Service Wednesday last week.
mound-goodshepherd143
Combined church choir for the Community Thanksgiving Service
Lots of Holiday events coming up, one to highlight is the Mound Westonka Rotary Pops Singers Annual Luncheon held at the Layfayette Club. You can find details at their website.

Coming up is the Moonlight Trail Night on January 26, from 6-9PM. If you were interested in helping out, we are looking to add more luminaries to the trail. If you have interest in helping out on this part of this great event, please contact Liz Wallis, she would LOVE your help!

News out of Mound City Hall... they have hired a firm to conduct a market study to help determine future Mound development. It can't be denied that having a fresh set of eyes looking at Mound may give us opportunities we haven't seen or discussed before, but of course they are getting these sorts of things right here for free! But the plain truth is that people will expect to hear what they already believe or know, and if the study doesn't fit with what they already know, it will be dismissed. One can find numerous other studies this company has done other cities that are interesting reading, including our friends in Maple Plain.

The Mound City Council is starting their plans in moving city offices to the Public Safety building. There are lots of good reasons for this move, though I wonder if more creativity could be used when looking at what to do with the old facility.

Mound will also start taking applications to fill Senator Elect Osmek council seat.

Last, I've been invited to come and talk to the Mound City Council about our ideas and intent for the city. I appreciate the opportunity and aim to make a couple points about having our city be a place to drive to, not through. I'll share my experiences later this week.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Looking at the big picture

I've been invited to speak at the Mound City Council meeting next week on Nov 27th, so I've been going over a lot of what's been written here so I can briefly explain what A Place in Mound is about, and what we are trying to do.

Look this over, and let me know if I missed something completely obvious. I think there's a lot more I could add to this, but am focused on how to present what we are about, and to keep it brief. ~ GML4

Mission

  • We want Mound to be a place to drive to, not drive through.

Guides

  • Don't look back, look forward
  • There are no solutions, just rational responses
  • Do not wait for help from St. Paul or Washington DC

Idea Priorities

  • Create places of social and financial value
  • Keep it affordable
  • Try short term and experiment

Problems Mound faces

  • Too easy to drive through Mound. One can drive through Mound and not ever think about stopping anywhere along the way.
  • Streets are not people friendly because cars go too fast.
  • No parking signs at Surfside, Downtown Commerce Blvd, and lots of residential areas make places inaccessible  and allow cars to drive by faster.

A Place in Mound Objectives

  • Slow cars down
  • Create places that are resilient

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Inspirations - 3/50 Project

With the Holidays coming up, it is a good time to consider our shopping habits and how they affect our communities. We are all under assault from advertisers about what to buy, where to buy, who to buy for... it gets overwhelming. Some embrace this with all sorts of shopping like on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Lately there has been several notices about a "Local Business Saturday" some organizations are trying to promote.

It's important for our communities to support our local businesses, because they in turn, are supporting us.

Which grocery store is sponsoring a little league team? It isn't Cub, it's Jubilee Foods.

Which restaurant is helping serve cookies and hot chocolate at the Mound Tree Lighting ceremony? It's not Perkins, it's Scotty B's.

Which churches organized the Mound Tree Lighting ceremony and live nativity? It wasn't a super church in Victoria or Chanhassen, it was Mount Olive and Bethel United Methodist.

What hardware store provided candy canes? It wasn't Home Depot, it was Mound True Value.

Which animal hospital organized Dog Days Westonka? It wasn't PetSmart, it was the Westonka Animal Hospital.

It's important to support our local businesses with our shopping habits... not only during the holidays but the whole year. When we support them, they, in turn, will support us.

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Great simple numbers showing the positive effect of shopping locally.
The 3/50 Project makes some great simple points about why it's important to support local businesses as well. The main one being, the money we spend at local businesses is kept local. It goes to the employees that work there, and to the local printers they use, and local distributors they employ.

To make Mound a better place, Mound needs to support it's local businesses. So before you run off to the nearest big box store to go shopping, think local!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Walgreens Financial Implications

I've been meaning to follow up on a previous post that looked at the Walgreens development, and how it affected the property tax revenue from the parcels it will occupy. As I studied it (with my untrained eye) it seemed that the property tax revenue that would be generated from the development would fall short of of the $53,000 that was generated with the old property. I alluded to this post several times afterward, lamenting this finding, as well as the plain fact it was never considered.

It appears I was wrong.

It took the city and county several weeks to figure out what the tax revenue would be, and they issued this statement...
Based on preliminary  information from Hennepin County, estimated tax revenues for the Walgreens development is in the $100K - $105K range which will be an increase over previous uses on the site.   Of this amount, the City of Mound receives a share of this total.  It is important to note that the City of  Mound does not control the assessed values and final tax numbers for the Walgreens development would be determined as part of the County’s annual tax assessment process.
I asked the city why would Walgreens pay over two times the property taxes Mound True Value currently pays, and they couldn't answer that question. Here's the list of properties again that I looked at, and none of them are close to what Walgreens will pay.

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So I apologize for sharing my poor analysis of the situation. I am still learning.

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I still think it's important for cities to consider the question of property tax generation in developments. It is important that the city be able to pay for the services it provides, and all sources of revenue need to be examined more closely.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Psst! Hey Mound... want some candy?!

We live safe lives, inside our home, or inside our car. To try to stay in shape, we drive to the gym, and run on treadmills. Unfortunately, we've allowed cars to dominate our lives so much, that we've made many of our streets unbearable for people. Public health officials studying American's obese point to this lifestyle we have accepted as normal as a significant factor in why so many of us are overweight. The decisions we make as a community about how we get from place to place affect our health. This isn't a just a problem in Mound, this is national. Our whole system is set up to put us in these boxes. If we want this to change, do we wait for orders from Washington DC, or St. Paul, MN? Of course not! To change this around, cities like Mound need to plan and build walkable neighborhoods, and give people real, viable, and accessible options in transportation. The change needs to happen with us.

Mound is finishing up rebuilding much of it's city streets next year. They are fantastic streets for the most part, and were necessary to be done. These are the streets many of us live on, and have recently suffered through the reconstruction of them. Most, I say, were done well. They are attractive, drain storm water more effectively  and are generally pleasant places to walk and bike on.

The next street projects will be it's MSA streets (or stroads) that we have discussed several times. This includes our 'boulevards' like Bartlett, Tuxedo, Wilshire, and Three Points. The difference in these streets is that they are essentially funded and designed by the state. The MSA is a 'system' that rewards cities for building auto dominated streets. The state of Minnesota essentially gives cities like Mound a choice....

Option 1 - Rebuild that crappy neighborhood street like your other streets, where the city and the surrounding neighborhood pay for it.
Option 2 - Rebuild that crappy street using highway design, wider and straighter, so cars can cut 30 seconds out of their commute(ala stroad), and we (the state) will pay for most of it. The part you need to pay for... you can assess the property owners for the honor of living on our 'street'.

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A gift from the state... it makes your neighborhood a worse place, but hey, it's practically free!

Free Stroads!

What kind of choice is that? If you were the city of Mound, would you take the free, bad for the community, drive through street, or does it make the hard choice, and pay for and build streets that create a healthy neighborhood and be a place to drive to?

12-5-12 - Update - The mayor says that MSA streets cost the city and local residents the same as if they were a regular street. The state pays for all the additional width and foundation the streets needs to be qualify to be a MSA street. Watch the video to see the his complete response.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why our streets became stroads

When we were young, we lived on a street one could play on. We rode our bikes, ran back and forth from yard to yard, and played catch and hockey on the street too. We were always told, of course, to watch out for cars. You see a car coming, and you cleared out of the way. We were taught that the street was for cars and we never looked back.
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A nice neighborhood street, Glendale, near Bartlett.
So we grew up, and eventually, we are driving, and that mindset of looking out for cars still sits with us. Streets are for cars. If we're in a car, and you're not, then get out of our way. This author confess to being that way in my past... (though never as bad as this guy).

Look at what we've done to our way of life now. Our schools are now filled with children who bus, or ride in the care with their parents. Our downtown and neighborhoods are now just places to drive through. When Mound residents talk about going to enjoy the Dakota Trail, they talk about driving to the trail, to enjoy their walk on the trail. We clutch tightly to the little hands of our daughters and sons as we walk around the neighborhood and beyond, saying continually "look out, there's a car!"

We, as a society, we have forgotten that our streets are not just for cars, and that legally, cars need to look out for us.
every driver of a vehicle shall (1) exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle or pedestrian upon any roadway
This is a terrible cycle we are in now with our children and the outdoors. When our little ones 'misbehave' on the street, we chide them for their behavior, and we wave apologetically to the car that was forced to slow down because of the child's behavior. Then the child grows up staying away from the street. Unable to go to the neighborhood park, or to their friends house unless they are escorted by an adult. Eventually they get the 'privilege' of a car, and they can drive 'safely' in the car where ever they go.

Meanwhile, cars now can drive by our homes on Bartlett Boulevard unimpeded with people, and get to their destination a whole twenty seconds faster. If a person dares enter their domain, they are often ignored, and cars will wizz by not needing to slow down because they have plenty of room to avoid a collision.

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Bartlett Boulevard - A Stroad in the Shirley Hills neighborhood. What value is added to the city by having streets like this?
Does Mound want streets that has cars driving fast through it, or does it want streets where people will use them?


Monday, November 5, 2012

Stroad - Street or Road

Up until a few years ago, I used the terms street and road interchangeably. I have discovered recently that the work 'road' is generally used to describe a place that allows us to move between places. Try to change the words in 'railroad', or the 'road to Donnelly' to 'rail street' or 'street to Donnelly' and the image that comes to mind changes drastically, or doesn't make any sense.

When we talk about streets, we are talking about the places outside our homes and businesses. It's a place you generally want to go to that has the potential for lots of activity. Streets are where you run into a friend, stop and enjoy some popcorn, or enjoy an event. Streets create value and enhance the area around it. Change the word street in 'Street festival' or 'street car' to road festival and road car, and again, more nonsensical or different pictures come to mind.

So street and road are two different things, and we should try to be more clear about what we are talking about a structure(street) that enhances the area around it and is a place for everyone, or if we are talking about a structure(road) that makes it easier to get to another place.

The problem today is that we try to combine the street and road for many places. Thus, my friend Chuck Marohn came up with the word 'stroad' to describe these places that try to be both a street and a road, but does neither very well.

One example of what I refer to as a stroad is Commerce Boulevard, south of Shoreline Drive. This is the old downtown store fronts that were built in a time when one could park in the street in front of the place you wanted to get to, and generally could safely walk from one side of the street to the other. At some point in the past, 'experts' decided that downtown Mound could be better if on street parking was removed so cars could drive through Mound unimpeded.

Commerce Boulevard, Mound, MN, No on street parking here so cars can drive by fast. Why would a city allow this to happen?
Commerce Blvd, a car dominated area.
The other example we talk about extensively here is Bartlett Boulevard, as well as all the other Boulevards in Mound, like Three Points, and Tuxedo. Bartlett between Wilshire and Shoreline is wide and straight. When one drives down it, you have no reason to slow down to the 30 mph speed limit. To be a walker or biker on this 'street' is terrible experience. When you have cars whizzing by you at 40 mph, you want to get off the street.

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 Bartlett Blvd, a car dominated place.
Here is the sad part about this...'stroads' hurt the places around it. We have talked to many of the businesses along Commerce, and none of them think the street in front of their place of business makes it a better place. Anyone who lives in the Shirley Hills neighborhood can tell you that Bartlett Boulevard doesn't enhance their neighborhood, and in fact, are frustrated with fast cars driving by their home.

Is it rational to continue having, and supporting places like the two stroads I've just talked about? Does it make sense to continue to have places that suck the life out of the businesses and homes around it? How do we, as a city, respond to these circumstances?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Showcase - Mound Tree Lighting Ceremony

Now that Halloween is done, the citizens of Mound, Minnetrista, and Spring Park anxiously await of the upcoming season of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Celebrate Greater Mound! has started preparations for the annual tree lighting ceremony along the Greenway and Auditor’s road. The festivities start at 6:00PM Thursday, November 15.

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Cheery Christmas Lights!
The exciting new feature this year will be a live nativity taking place near the Andrew Sisters Trail. The nativity would be narrated by Bethel United Methodist’s pastor David McBride, and the Christmas story will be acted out by Mound residents. Look for the live nativity to start a few minutes after 6:00PM.

Singing groups from Our Lady of the Lake and the Pop Singers will be there to brighten the evening with holiday cheer and songs that everyone can sign along with while enjoying the coffee, hot chocolate and cookies provided by Caribou and Scotty B’s and Jubilee Foods. If the beverages aren’t enough to keep you warm, you can always head over to the bonfire attended by city staff.

Have you been naughty, or nice this year? Santa Claus will be arriving from the north by the Mound Fire Truck and be available to visit with children, young and old.

Fantastic events like these just don’t happen automatically. This year’s event is being put together by Celebrate Greater Mound!, which includes local businesses, organizations, churches, and individuals. Other fantastic supporters include the Mound-Westonka Cheerleaders, and the Boy Scouts. You can help too sponsoring the event by contacting Celebrate Greater Mound! at info@celebrategreatermound.com

You can find details at the webpage at http://www.moundtreelighting.com/, and follow updates by ‘liking’’ the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/moundtreelighting.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Heroin: Our Community

There will be a great community meeting 7PM tonight at the Gillespie Center in Mound called, Heroin: Our Community. There's been a lot news lately about the drug issues our community is facing, it seems like a good idea to bring some local experts in to talk to parents, and the community at large what exactly the problems are. Sponsors include Mound, Spring Park, Minnetrista, Westonka and Orono schools and others.

I can't be there tonight, but would appreciate it if someone wrote up a quick followup that I could share tomorrow. ~gml4

http://lakerpioneer.com/2012/10/19/forum-speaker-is-expert-on-area-drug-problems/

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Quicknotes


Let me take a moment to thank EVERYONE who sees the value of the discussions we are having here. If you haven't done so, please let me urge you to 'like' our Facebook page, as most of the discussions are taking place there. Even if you don't 'like' it, I believe you can still read the comments, and may still be able to comment.

I understand a lot of what is written here seems to be unorthodox as far as city development goes. A lot of what is written here are not my ideas originally, but come from concepts raised at Strong Towns, Streets.mn, Placemakers, and others who are REAL engineers, planners, and professionals that are WAY smarter, and much better writers than I am. I can't really contribute to their conversations, but what is brought up there really rings true to me, and I am compelled to bring some of those ideas to the place where I live, and help create a place where my children will grow up to be a viable and valued.

If you like what you are reading, PLEASE let me know, and sign up to join "A Place in Mound on the right side of the website. I've only sent one or two emails out to those who have signed up, and have some projects in mind to make Mound a better place. We want you to be a part of it!

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Painting a picture of Downtown Mound's First Priority

We got some questions about a post last week and my response to one inquiry became this post.

I'm still trying to learn, and understand what it means to have a TIF district. I've been under the impression the Auditor's Road area was already a TIF, but haven't queried it further, and maybe someone could educate me on the topic. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a tool that city's use to get developers to redevelop a block. Often when a developer compares the costs of redeveloping an old city block, to just purchasing some cheap land on the edge of town (or Minnetrista), the cheap land is more attractive. Cities (like Mound) often will make the redevelopment of an old block more attractive by artificially lowering property taxes for a set amount of time, like 25 years. A TIF could also put the city in position to essentially give the land to the developer.

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Hula Hoops on the Greenway near Auditor's Road
A Place in Mound wants something built of value, that is revenue generating for the city, and will last for generations.

We can't build something just to build something.

The city is in a fairly powerful position right now. This is valuable land, and developers want it, and want to make money on it. The city needs to leverage it's police power of land use regulation to have a place built that will encourage and attract people to downtown Mound. We are urging Mound city staff and officials to use that power for a better Mound..

... and it needs to start with on-street parking downtown.

Here's a challenge to everyone, both city officials, and regular citizens...

Go to Mound True Value with your child (I'll loan you one of my children if you don't have one) and park your car in the parking lot. Go into True Value, make a small purchase (something you can carry) get a popcorn (share with the child), and then take a walk along Commerce. Depending on your child, you may want to hold her/his hand. Check in with Cal at the barber, and see if he's enjoying all the construction across the street, and see if his customer's use the three only on-street parking spots in front of his store. Cross the street at the Dakota trail, and tell Jayme Clayton at Keystone Chiropractic how much you love her new sign on her building.

Go take a stroll along here

Keep walking south along Commerce and start to imagine Commerce differently. Buy a record or CD from Sean at Tonka Tunes. As you walk by the store fronts, pay attention to how little traffic there actually is on Commerce. Imagine a few cars parked along the curb, and what that would add to the scene. Think about how the cars driving by would be slowing down because instead of having two full lanes to themselves, they would only have one lane in each direction.

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The black car is parked on the street on Commerce next to Press Perfect. Other vehicles had no problem what-so-ever getting by it for the 15 minutes it sat there.

You should stop at Threshold, and ask Thom Flug about the Westonka Pop singers and sneak a few peeks at the Westonka Historical Society displays. Then cross the street at the crosswalk, and stop and admire Tim Blair's work at Perfect Press.

Give this place a visit.

As you walk back toward Mound True Value, consider the trail crossing for a moment. Right now, trail users have to cross four lanes of fast traffic to cross Commerce. Now imagine again some parked cars along the curb, and slower traffic. Now the trail user has only TWO lanes of SLOWER traffic to cross.

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On street parking is allowed on Commerce just a little way south of downtown Mound without problem. 
There is absolutely no need for four lanes of traffic in our downtown. Show the downtown businesses that we already have that we value them. If four lanes of traffic is continued to be allowed along this stretch, we are just continuing to encourage people to drive through Mound

And don't let the fact it's a county road scare you! It's about time Mound took control, and stop being intimidated by Hennepin County. Sure it's going to be a hassle... sure the county is going to tell us "no" first... sure Mound city staff doesn't have the time to deal with this... but this, my friends, is KEY to starting a REAL downtown. It is important and worth fighting to make a change.

THAT is how Mound can start developing a downtown. Create a place that we value, and the business community we already have will be stronger, this will attract developers, and Mound will be in a better position not to have to 'give' Auditor's Road away with a TIF.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inspirations - Porchfest

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Imagine walking around town, and hearing a variety of music as you walked down the street! They have this event in Ithica, NY every year having mostly acoustic bands play on porches and yards in the neighborhood. Looking around on the web, it appears this is also happening in other cities as well.

http://www.porchfest.org/

This reminds me of a day of our first summer here in Mound in 2006. Our neighbor was a musician and had a band. We had heard him rehearse in the basement on occasion  and thought they were pretty good. At one point, his band was setting up in the yard facing Emerald Lake. We inquired, and he shared that his band was going to play for the lake users. Part of us was really intrigued, and excited about hearing this music, though we also had concerns as we had little kids with an early bedtime.

When evening came along, his band started playing, and it was fun. Boaters would hoot and cheer as they boated by. Some stopped to listen. The band only got in a couple songs before the police came, and shut down the fun as clearly someone called to complain about the noise.

I think my wife and I were honestly looking forward to more music, and was disappointed the band had to stop.

Perhaps the city of Mound can look to Porchfest as an example of creating a civic event that highlights it's neighborhoods. I love the idea of being able to stroll around a neighborhood park while a band plays from a nearby porch or yard.... or even taking my neighbors event, and have a series of bands playing on the lake! Boats can stop to listen, or slowly cruise by.

Another idea could be do have a bunch of bands out on properties on Cooks Bay the night of the Spirit of the Lakes fireworks show(it's going to be noisy anyway!). How fun would it be to create an atmosphere to boat from one side of Cooks Bay, to the other, listening to one band in the Highland area, then another on the Island, and then someone else is playing near the Lost Lake Channel.

It's events like this, Dog Days Westonka, and Spirit of the Lakes that make Mound a better Place. Let's find a way to have Porchfest in Mound!





Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mound Magic aftermath

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The Mound city staff shared some interesting information about the past and future of Mound development. I'm not going to dwell on the history here, except to say that it is impressive how Mound had started to refocus its downtown development the last 20 years, and there were many points made that we at "A Place in Mound" liked to hear like looking to build toward the long term, and to be cautious about building a hotel.

It was mentioned a couple times how much the Dakota Trail has increased traffic to downtown Mound the last couple years, referring to it as "Gold" and reminding us that Mound didn't put a dime towards it's construction (thanks Three Rivers Park District). The trail is estimated to have over 400,000 users this last summer. One of the biggest news items out of the meeting was intention of a LOCAL resident to own and operate the restaurant that will be built right next to the trail and Walgreens. It will be a very small building, but is intended to serve meals produced from ingredients found locally. I can report that I've heard the owner has been in discussion to get some of it's produce from Gale Woods Farm, and I'm sure will be reaching out to other local farms. The restaurant is to be call "Dakota Junction".

As has been reported before, the Walgreens people have been really surprised at the interest of this little restaurant  I just wished that Walgreens had made more space for other retail, instead of wasting space with a drive through.

There is still discussion about bringing a senior residence center to downtown, but they are now looking to build it in what they are calling the Langdon District, which is the block west of Commerce, south of the Dakota trail, and north of Our Lady of the Lake. No details about exactly where, or how big this facility would be.

The Auditor's Road development was also talked about briefly and with no real detail. Staff said the city has been approached by two developers. One has plans that include a hotel and restaurant, the other developer is discussing a hotel, restaurant, and Performing Arts Center.

Looking forward, the staff is planning to suggest the City Council conduct a Market Study of Mound. I guess this is where one has an 'expert' come in, analyze Mound's situation, and share information about Mound's ability to increase housing, hotels and retail.

Staff is also proposing that Mound conduct a citizen survey to get input and direction for Mound development. Look for that in the New Year.

There was a lot of discussion about the appearance of Mound, and urging everyone, residents and businesses to improve the appearance of it's properties.

In case you missed last nights event, Kandis Hanson and Sarah Smith will be doing this presentation again on Monday, November 19th at 7pm at Al and Almas.


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Monday, October 22, 2012

I am Positively Proactive


  • My wife and I talked a lot about the post last week where I threw lots of red flags about a potential hotel in downtown Mound. The first thing she says to me after reading it was something like "Don't you want Mound to build anything?!"
  • I've held conversations with two Commerce business owners about rerouting traffic around Auditor's Road so events could be held on the street right in front of their business, and the first they bring up is that it's a county road, and so then it's too hard.
  • I am constantly having GREAT conversations with my neighbors along Bartlett Blvd about the speed of the street, and ways to make it people friendly. They usually think it's enough to consider posting slower sped limits.
  • My family had the wonderful experience Saturday afternoon of dining and shopping along the Alexandria, MN downtown corridor on Broadway. A generally wonderful and friendly family experience... except for the strange walk to visit the "Big Ole" statue and Runestone museum, where we had to maneuver along a block of auto centered businesses, then cross a freeway.
  • We also had some time to spend walking downtown Excelsior, MN this weekend, and am glad to report that it's clearly a busy downtown, with a variety of shopping and eating options, and where I looked, seemed to have occupied 2nd floor businesses.


I told my wife that I want a successful downtown Mound... something that will last longer 10 or 15 or even 50 years. When a business builds in a location, how long will that business stay there? What will happen to that facility after the business moves on? Look at the old McDonalds building in Mound, or the old Country Kitchen in Spring Park? How long did those sit, unused, until someone finally has retrofitted them for dentistry offices? And even though they are dentistry offices now, you look at them, and still know they are old McDonald and Country Kitchen restaurants. Does Mound want more of those?

People in Mound need to STOP being intimidated by Hennepin County. We just need to be smart about it, plan, and make events on Commerce Blvd happen and create on street parking as well. We are just making excuses and being lazy if we think it's too hard. This is our city, the county doesn't care if we have 2 or 4 lanes of traffic... if Maple Plain can have have a 2 lane county road going through it's downtown, we can too. If Mound wants a successful downtown, this is where it needs to start to develop a real downtown... not a hotel.

Commerce Boulevard, Mound, MN, No on street parking here so cars can drive by fast. Why would a city allow this to happen?
Which bring more value to Mound? These buildings, or an old McDonalds?
Mound Boulevards and other MSA streets like Bartlett are just too fast, and posting a speed limit change is not enough. People tend to drive how the road environment suggests the speed, and it sometimes can be confusing. Go look at this post and try to guess the speeds of these streets, then look at the answers. Crazy! Mound is in a GREAT position in the next few years to rebuild our MSA streets. Let's redesign them so they are people friendly, and so cars will respect all users on them... and it's going to take more than posting new signs. It's going to take people to challenge the status quo, and fight for this.

If you're like me, and have found memories of visiting Alexandria, MN, and seeing "Big Ole" down at the end of Broadway, you're going to be disappointed now. They moved him next to the lake, and as I suggested, he's hardly a part of their downtown now.Why would a city put a barrier between it's local icon and it's downtown?

Walking through Excelsior was a nice breath of fresh air. One can stroll from window to window and see interesting and wonderful things. Unique shops, locally owned restaurants, a two lane street you can easily walk along (and cross without a problem). Second floors that have doctor and other professional services that are being used (it was often suggested 2nd floor downtown space wasn't a viable space for the Mound Walgreens to build). It's amazing to think how their buildings are all right next to each other, and have clearly been modified, and retooled for different businesses. There was a 'Vision' for this sort of downtown for Mound, but as that has stalled out, what now? Do we walk away from it because the big recession? Should we just rip that big plaque out of the ground by Lost Lake, and throw it away and let someone park there?

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Picture from the "Mound Vision"

Making Mound a Place takes work, deliberation, and looking to ourselves, and other communities about what we really want for our downtown. I am trying to do it in a positive way and engage Mound as it's about to make some crucial decisions in the next couple years. Better to act in a positive proactive way, than in a negative reactive way a few years from now.

So I apologize if I get or act negatively here from time to time. I truly believe Mound's city staff and officials are smart and thoughtful people, working hard to make Mound a better place. However the Walgreens development shows the city only taking half steps in the correct direction. It's not just happening here in Mound, look at the picture of the Trader Joes in this post, which has the same issue as Walgreens, of building a street fronting building, with the only entrance in the back. As places like the downtowns of Excelsior and Alexandria show, these can be successful places as long as the city sets it up to be successful.

I look forward to seeing some of you tonight at Mound Magic. First one who introduces themselves to me as a reader of this website get's a free drink.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Questionnaire - Mark Regan


On November 6, Mound citizens will be going to the polls to vote for several offiices, including Mound Mayor. Mound Mayor serve two year terms. Mark Hanus and Mark Regan are running for the position.

A Place in Mound sent a questionnaire to the candidates of Mound Mayor. The questions focused on the issues we bring up here regularly like places and streets.

Both candidates responded, and I will share one each day for the next two days in the following randomly selected order.

Saturday - Mark Hanus - His responses
Sunday - Mark Regan

Questions are in bold, Mark Regan's responses in regular type -

What is your favorite “Place” in Mound, and why?
To be honest, I don't have one favorite place. My wife and I really enjoy going to Carbone's, Porta Del Sol and Scotty B's. We also enjoy taking walks around Three Points Blvd and other areas of Mound.
Can you talk about a “Place” in Mound that could use more attention and resources? 
The Mound Harbor District. I believe the area has much potential for retail and/or recreation.
Tell us about a favorite Mound event of yours. 
I really enjoy Spirit of the Lakes and Music in the Park.

What do you think Mound residents can do to help improve Mound? 
Become more involved in city affairs; let their opinions be known. There are a lot of people in this city with great ideas or who have knowledge and experience that could be beneficial to helping the city solve many of its problems. We need to hear from these people.
MSA streets like Three Points Blvd and Tuxedo Blvd are__________. 
a) too slow
b) just fine.
c) too fast.
... in terrible need of repair (re-surfacing). Particularly Three Points Blvd and Bartlett

When looking at commercial and neighborhood developments, and redevelopments, Mound should consider the property tax implications. a) TRUE
a) True
b) False
True, of course. Any development project which has an impact on property taxes should, I believe, enhance property values.

On street parking should be considered for some events on Surfside Park.
a) True
b) False
I feel street parking should be allowed for all community events at Surfside Park

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Questionnaire - Mark Hanus



On November 6, Mound citizens will be going to the polls to vote for several offiices, including Mound Mayor. Mound Mayor serve two year terms. Mark Hanus and Mark Regan are running for the position.

A Place in Mound sent a questionnaire to the candidates of Mound Mayor. The questions focused on the issues we bring up here regularly like places and streets.

Both candidates responded, and I will share one each day for the next two days in the following randomly selected order.

Saturday - Mark Hanus
Sunday - Mark Regan - His responses


Questions are in bold, Mark Hanus's responses in regular type -

What is your favorite “Place” in Mound, and why?

There are several but I would say the docks / pergola area in downtown or the Veterans Memorial next to the parking deck. The serenity and beauty of these two open spaces are something to be proud of. They are impeccably maintained and are always a quiet and peaceful retreat. The mix of nature and downtown is carefully maintained.


Can you talk about a “Place” in Mound that could use more attention and resources? 

Surfside Park parking has been an issue for many years. I know this is of common interest on this website and I wholeheartedly concur. The city has been looking at options for some time now. This is the most heavily used park and needs to be made as convenient and accessible as we can. But we need to create safe options. See below.


Tell us about a favorite Mound event of yours. 


Spirit of the Lakes is not really a Mound event but that would have to be my favorite event that is held in Mound. This not only gives people a way to enjoy their town but also brings people together and builds a sense of community that is so lacking in the world today. I am also always inspired by how many people turn out for the tree lighting in November. This is a great one too. There are many others as well, but these are my favorites.



What do you think Mound residents can do to help improve Mound? 

Become involved, volunteer for community events and city commissions. We usually have trouble getting interested people to volunteer for these functions and boards. The experts say volunteering is one of the most satisfying things in life. Get your friends and neighbors involved too. When a community comes together, good things happen.


MSA streets like Three Points Blvd and Tuxedo Blvd are__________. 
a) too slow
b) just fine.
c) too fast.

If you are referring to speed I would say they are about right. This varies from street to street but generally they are about right. Most people who choose to live in the suburbs still want convenient commuting times. We need to get them to and from their homes safely but quickly. MSA streets are not main thoroughfares. They are feeder streets that funnel people to the small neighborhood streets. Their purpose is between the “main drag” (such as Co Rd 15 and 110) and the small neighborhood streets. If people sense that they are delayed getting home unnecessarily or to their jobs, they will not be as interested in living here.


When looking at commercial and neighborhood developments, and redevelopments, Mound should consider the property tax implications.
a) True
b) False

This requires more than a true or false answer. While increased tax revenue can be a nice byproduct of a development or redevelopment, using this as a primary driver is bad public policy. Over time, this would steer development away from local needs and desires as well as private property rights and more toward anything that would generate higher tax revenues. It would result in shaping development for the wrong reasons. For instance, a 10 story high rise would produce more revenue than a 2 story but it may not fit well in the downtown area, the neighborhood, or community. For instance there could be firefighting implications or other things that could require multi-million dollar equipment purchases that the community would have to make. It also may not be desirous of the citizenry of Mound. The primary purpose of regulating developments is not to maximize tax revenues. It is to protect neighbors, other property owners, and the community as a whole.

We are required by the Met Council to guide all properties in our city to certain uses. We have to do this planning with many other concerns than taxes. Also, many people have the wrong impression as to what the city’s role is. In my opinion, the city should not get involved in private property sales or exchanges. A few people that were opposed to the new Walgreens project felt the city should kill the deal. Our obligation is to help property owners and developers provided it is reasonably consistent with the needs and desires of our community and our building and zoning codes.

Does anyone actually think that it would be appropriate for the city to tell an applicant for a project on his own private property that they cant do it because in the city's opinion, it doesnt raise his taxes enough? This would probably not be defenable in court due to property rights in this country. And if this were proper, why would it not be applied to a homeowner that wants to add on to his or her home? Where would you draw the line? This is not only morally wrong, it is unethical. In the public's eye, this would only be a way to pay for raises within city hall. Even if it were deemed legal, this policy would not fly in Mound or most other cities.

I am very opposed to this concept.


On street parking should be considered for some events on Surfside Park. False
a) True
b) False

I am in full agreement that we need to find parking solutions for Surfside Park. But I am opposed to using on street parking at that location. We have been looking at alternatives for a few years now. It’s a very busy street with challenging conditions.

1. A large number of the people who use the park are children. Loading or unloading children on that busy street is not a safe activity.

2. Driving through this area is very distracting due to both the park activity and the lake itself. Drivers who should be paying attention to the road are often looking at the park and lake instead. This could be a lethal situation when kids are darting around the cars as the load or unload with their families. Keeping the street wide and open is better than having car doors swinging open in the busy traffic lane without warning.

3. All too often as cars come from the west, people drive at higher than posted speeds as you coast down the hill. The police enforce this speed limit pretty aggressively but they can’t be there all the time and speeding is not uncommon.

4. Changing the rules from time to time such as this creates confusion and frustration for the public. We have even found that altering parking in neighborhoods creates a lot of problems and confusion. Changing patterns when the public is used to something usually creates more problems than it solves.

I hope we can all work on viable solutions to this parking issue that would have a large impact. I would love to find and implement a good and substantial solution for this. I don’t think you try to create parking for large events like the festival. Instead you need to create parking for normal use. This is doable. We just need to find the right one.


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update - Hanus intended to answer the Surfside Parking question as false. I incorrectly inputted the wrong answer for the question. My apologies. ~gml4

Friday, October 19, 2012

Auditors Road - Having some forethought

This was just shared the other day, and it's too good to sit on. Strong Town's director, Chuck Marohn gives a great speech about how we used to build cities, and we should return to those methods...


Physical Design & Sustainability - Charles Marohn, Strong Towns from Michigan Municipal League on Vimeo.

The bigger point is that as we look ahead to how we should redevelop downtown Mound, we should be taking a lesson from the past. Experts are fine, and we should hear what they say, but it's Mound residents, that need to decide what is best.

Mound needs to think strategically and build places first and foremost, for the citizens of Mound and MUST look to craft a place for people, otherwise just throw away all those "Metropolitan Council Livable Community Development" grants and awards it's received the last few years away in the trash.

We can't get caught up in the Lake Minnetonka hotel race underway right now. Mound is now experiencing developers selling plans and concepts to redevelop Auditors Road. They are in city hall right now and we are going to hear about them (to some degree) on Monday night.

I am sincerely afraid that the City of Mound could potentially be giving a developer free land and a TIF agreement so it won't have to pay any property taxes for the next 25 years along Auditors Road.

Mound needs to wrap it's head around the fact that it needs to become and act like a place to drive to first. It needs to stop being afraid of dealing with Hennepin County bureaucracy and create some on street parking. Mound needs to stop looking for direction from Wayzata and Excelsior, and just take care of itself, and do what is best for Mound today AND for Mound tomorrow. Mound should be taking care of what it already has along Commerce and it's tax paying property owners. That means building places of value, in aesthetic, functional, and financial means.


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Thursday, October 18, 2012

What if it Fails?

Hotels.

Ever since the prospects of development of Auditors Road has opened up in August, the city seems excited for the prospect of having a hotel being built in Mound. It is brought up with breathless excitement at every city council meeting. Let's think about hotels for a minute....

Reasons why Mound would want a hotel,
- Could be unique business in the area, as the closest hotel (besides the Lafayette Club and the proposed hotels in Excelsior and Wayzata) in the area is in Long Lake.
- Visitors to the area would spend money locally (we hope)
- A place for friends and family to stay

Reasons why a hotel would be a bad development
- Large building in town would be of limited use for local population... it's not a place Mound residents would be staying at.
- Lots of strangers in town, especially on weekends, that might change the environment and culture.
- Limited use building that would be a big eyesore if the hotel business failed.

It's that last point I tend to focus on... what happens to the building if a hotel business fails? It's not likely to turn into a shoe store, or some other retail. Some communities try to change a hotel to apartments, but that can be difficult  and very expensive with the lack of cooking facilities hotel rooms usually lack.

As Mound receives ideas for this development  it needs to think big picture, and long term. The facilities built will last longer than most of us will be around, and we need to set up a downtown that can be successful  for decades and have buildings that are resilient, and can be adaptable to future business.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Whoops - Missing Sidewalk

We've been delaying this whoops, just hoping this was going to be a temporary situation during construction. But it looks like indeed, the City of Mound really doesn't want you to walk here. Which should be so shocking, as the city doesn't really expect anyone to walk to Walgreens when it is finished anyway.
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People shouldn't bother being here.
This sidewalk closing really bothers us. Here we have the city and county showing us what the priorities are, and it's not with people. It's all about having cars drive through Mound, and if you want to walk by here, well, you can take a hike. (literally)

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It's ok! He and his child is in the "Pedestrian Safety Zone".
This is truly very sad. Why can't a pedestrian lane be created here? Here are some reasons we can think of...

  • It's too hard
  • People aren't important
  • Someone was too lazy

If I had a business on either of of this closed sidewalk, we would be upset. If we were a customer who had to walk around this mess, we would be upset. If we ran the city, and the county let this happen on our main commercial road, we would be upset.

This is something else that is not the fault of one person. The developer knew this was going to happen, and the city let them. We should be better than this.

Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Questionnaire - Ray Salazar

On November 6, Mound citizens will be going to the polls to vote for several offiices, including Mound City Council. Mound City Councilors serve four year terms. Danene Provencher, Ray Salazar and Heidi Gesch are running for two seats.

A Place in Mound sent a questionnaire to all the candidates of the Mound City Council. The questions focused on the issues we bring up here regularly like places and streets.

All three candidates responded, and I will share one each day for the next three days in the following randomly selected order.

Monday - Ray Salazar

Questions are in bold, Ray Salazar's responses in regular type -

What is your favorite “Place” in Mound, and why?
My favorite place in Mound is the "Surfside" park it is our "Crown Jewel" of our parks.  My favorite season is Summer and Surfside park is the location of our city Summer activities: music in the park and the Spirit of the Lakes Festival.  Our Surfside park offers: the our Lake, Beach, grassy area for picnics and childrens playing equipment. Surfside park is a great place to play, relax and visit with old friends and make some new friends as well.

Can you talk about a “Place” in Mound that could use more attention and resources? 
One place in our town that may need some attention is the former shoe store accross from Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church on Commerce.  This building has been vacant for years and unfortunately is not the most attractive building. This building is privately held so any improvements and / or new construction would be at the choice of the owner.

Tell us about a favorite Mound event of yours. 
My favorite Season is Summer and my favorite city event is the Spirit of the Lakes Festival! This year the Festival was longer the usual in Celebration of our city's 100 year anniversary our Centenail Celebration.  Many activities were held including a NEW activity: Volks March! Starting at our Mound Green Way ( my second favorite Mound place) offering a 5 k walk with a medalion after completion for the walker. My favorite part / s of the Spirit of the Lakes Festival is both the OUTSTANDING FIREWORKS SHOW ( Best on the Lake) and the GRAND PARADE!

What do you think Mound residents can do to help improve Mound? 
Ther are MANY things we can do for our town. Ask yourself  and / or City Council member what can I do for my town that I live in and raise my children in to be better? You may want to consider volunteering? Volunteering at a Mound City event? Volunteering to help clean up one of our many city parks? Volunteering at the Gillespie center, school or your Church of worship? When you volunteer you give of yourself and your time and labor, the feeling of giving is great! Our Mound Citizens should be PROUD of their town, we are community of great people, we have much to offer!

MSA streets like Three Points Blvd and Tuxedo Blvd are__________. b) just fine.
a) too slow
b) just fine.
c) too fast.
The MSA streets are desigened to move more traffic and / or Emergency vehicles and City vehicles from one part of town to the other.

When looking at commercial and neighborhood developments, and redevelopments, Mound should consider the property tax implications. a) TRUE
a) True
b) False
When property is reconstructed it's use is improved for a bigger and better use which will result in a short period of time a greater tax value helping our city and schools.

On street parking should be considered for some events on Surfside Park. TRUE
a) True
b) False
On street parking by Surfside Park would be convenient. However, Given the amount of traffic and higher vehicle speeds, adding the unique angle of the road at this location that passes Sufside park I feel it is UNSAFE for parking. Parking should only be allowed in isolated cases such as the Centenial Celebration this Summer where a large number of police where present actively directing traffic.

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