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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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Questionnaire - Danene Provencher


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.


Questions are in bold, Danene Provencher's responses in regular type -


What is your favorite “Place” in Mound, and why?
The newly named, Surfside Park. I have fond memories of taking my son when he was small and recently my grandson there. I love to see the community activity, such as picnicking, swimming, volleyball, music and relaxing at the park when I drive by.

Can you talk about a “Place” in Mound that could use more attention and resources? 
If feasible, I am hopeful that the planning commission can help recruit new businesses for the empty buildings where businesses have left.

Tell us about a favorite Mound event of yours. 
The annual Spirit of the Lakes parade. I am fortunate to live on the parade route and admire the community spirit as neighbors and friends join together to enjoy watching the parade and to see the thrill of the children collecting candy and other items. It is also a good way to be introduced to the various candidates running during an election cycle and other community organizations.

What do you think Mound residents can do to help improve Mound? 
Communicate with their elected officials and participate by holding the elected officials accountable for the decisions before them.

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

When looking at commercial and neighborhood developments, and redevelopments, Mound should consider the property tax implications. a) TRUE
a) True
b) False
Decisions should benefit our community, so yes, this makes sense. Other factors to consider for new development would be livable wage, supporting more "mom and pop" shops over multinational corporations to keep the small town atmosphere, keep existing structures instead of clogging landfills and providing annual citizen surveys inquiring on what kind of businesses the community desires.

On street parking should be considered for some events on Surfside Park. TRUE
a) True
b) False
Yes, as long as citizens are respectful of traffic flow

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Questionnaire - Heidi Gesch

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.

Saturday - Heidi Gesch

Questions are in bold, Heidi Gesch's responses in regular type -

What is your favorite "Place" in Mound, and why?
It is tough for me to chose only one favorite "place" in Mound. I prefer to spend time outdoors and have to choose one of the many outdoor attractions in Mound. My husband and I, with our dog Reagan, regularly walk along the Greenway (Andrews Sisters Trail) and continue onto the Dakota Rail Trail either east or west. I choose this "loop" that I walk to be my favorite "place" in Mound. On a short walk we enjoy views of Lake Minnetonka, perennial flowers along the Greenway, the man-made waterfall/stream near the Transit Center, and the wooded area along the Dakota Rail Trail.

Can you talk about a "Place" in Mound that could use more attention and resources?
The Auditors Road area - or district - is important and we look forward to positive development in this area.

Tell us about a favorite Mound event of yours.
The Spirit of the Lakes Festival - For a few days every summer it really illustrates the reason my husband and I so enjoy living in Mound - it still has that small town feel. Spending time at Surfside enjoying music, the parade, neighbors, connecting with the community, and topping it all off with fantastic fireworks.

What do you think Mound residents can do to help improve Mound?
Find opportunities to volunteer in Mound. I think that when we volunteer we take pride in our community. Volunteering at a neighborhood park clean-up, the Spirit of the Lakes Festival, Adopt-a-Greenspace, and WeCab are just a few examples of the many opportunities we have.

Please finish the following sentences and comment if you would like.
MSA streets like Three Points Blvd and Tuxedo Blvd are -- b) just fine.
a) too slow.
b) just right.
c) too fast.
The choices given as answers to this question (too slow, just fine, too fast) imply that it is only addressing the speed of the MSA streets. I feel that the posted speed on these streets is not a problem.

When looking at commercial and neighborhood developments, and redevelopments, Mound should consider the property tax implications.
a) True
b) False
In today's economy, when constantly keeping our eye on the budget, in all areas, I think that one always asks, "How is this financially beneficial or detrimental?" - weighing the pros and cons. However, that is not the only question asked when looking at commercial and neighborhood development and redevelopment.

On street parking should be considered for some events on Surfside Park.
a) True
b) False
I think that their could be a conversation about the safety of allowing on street parking for some events at Surfside Park. I personally have not experienced a problem with the parking at Surfside. I do not mind a short walk from an "off-site" parking location. If parking at the lot at the Depot and the lot near the boat launch is expected to be crowded during a well attended event I would want to make sure that there are ample spaces and/or a drop-off area for people with limited mobility.


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Friday, October 12, 2012

Big Drab Grey Buildings

As we recently looked, neglected buildings can bring down the value of an area and just suck the life out of a block, while it's property owners are rewarded with paying less in property taxes. As we look around, there are other buildings in Mound that, while they are maintained, don't seem to add value to the block they sit on.

I'm speaking specifically about utility buildings.

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Frontier building is the white/off white on the right side of the picture, on Commerce. Clearly our local phone company needs a place, and we love having them a part of the town and local scene, but  what is Frontier telling Mound when the building they built and are using  looks like this?
Frontier has two buildings in Mound, the one pictured above on Commerce, and the other next to Shirley Hills School. Let's focus on the one above for a moment. This building is in a area that has mixed use, some residential but is trending commercial.

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Google Street View, is that the front, or back of the building?
What kind of message is being sent to the neighborhood when a building like this is constructed? I took a walk around this building, and the entrance is on the back side, along with some windows. Frontier, or it's neighbors have allowed trees, bushes and fences on the sides, so they don't have to look at each other. You know what's across the street from this building?

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Langdon Apartments, across the street from the Frontier building.
Apartment buildings. Notice that the apartments put a parking lot between them, and Frontier? Now it should be noted that the Apartment buildings have a lovely view of Langdon Lake on the other side, but not everyone gets to live on that side of the building, do they? Can you imagine if you were considering getting an apartment here, and the stark contrast from one side of the building, to the other?

What does this Frontier building say about the city, and this block?

When a building like this is constructed, it's telling us several things. Putting the backside of the building on the street is telling everyone, you are not invited, please leave us alone. Putting up large grey featureless sides is showing us that they are not concerned with anyone but themselves, and have no intentions of trying to be good neighbors. We walk and drive by this building and pay it no attention as it doesn't create any value to that experience.

Clearly there is a reason for this building, and it's being used, and maintained. We aren't trying to push Frontier out, we just want them to create places that add value to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, this building creates an environment telling everyone who comes to this area to drive through, there's no reason to stop here. We need to insist that buildings built along high traffic volume areas like here need to add value to the street and block they live on.

What kind of environment do these other utility buildings create in their neighborhoods?

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Mound Public works building, and the huge electrical junction off of Shoreline Dr.

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Pond Hockey Arena, while it's not a utility building, it creates the same effect.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quicknotes

So many things going on, we wanted to be sure to share some quick notes about what's happening here and around town. Just remember to gather your unused coats for the WeCAN coat drive!

Many of you I'm sure remember Mama's Happy that was located next to Johns Variety. If you hadn't heard, they moved not too far away to Lyndale at the old Creamery, I guess it used to be called Kathies Finds, or something like that. Mama's happy is having a big event this weekend, and bringing vendors from all over the region to showcase their wares. We hope you go and join them this weekend.

Hilltop Primary School is having their annual Octoberfest this Saturday, 11-3. This is a major fundraiser for the schools PTA with helps the school provide resources for it's students. Lots of games and food will be there, a real family friendly event. Definitely worth your time! And please enjoy a Root Beer Float from the SEAC table.

It was revealed a couple days ago that "School Digger", a website that ranks schools by test scores, found that our own Westonka Schools ranked at the top! Quite an accomplishment of top of Hilltop receiving the Blue Ribbon a couple weeks ago, and Shirley Hills was named a "Reward School" by the Minnesota Department of Education.


The Girl Scouts are celebrating their centennial this year, and it will be ending this Saturday with a big day of service. The project our local troops are taking on is leaf and lawn debris on hard surfaces like streets and driveways. There will be hundreds of Girl Scouts out and about in the region Saturday bagging leaves that are on the streets, in particular around storm drains. It is an effort to stop yard waste from going into the storm drains, and then into the lake. If you see them out there, give them a hand, or thank them for their work!

The Westonka Historical Society is hosting a presentation about the history of Mound schools at Minnetonka Shores (formerly Presbyterians Homes) on Saturday, November 10 at 10AM.

Also, the Mound Tree Lighting Festival is coming up on Thursday, November 15 6-8PM. They are planning to bring back many of your traditional favorites such as hot chocolate, cookies, horse-drawn hayrides, the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Pop Singers and other choirs, a huge bonfire, and other festivities. New this year will be a LIVING NATIVITY, acting out the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the origin of Christmas. You can follow details by liking their Facebook page.

Keep in mind that Mound has two significant events coming up, Heroin: Our Community and Mound Magic - An Update on Mound Community Development.


And if you missed it, the Laker shared news about our website and the discussions happening here last weekend. We greatly appreciate all the encouraging words we have heard from folks.

Let's keep up the great discussions and keep working to have a City of Mound that people will drive to, not drive through.

ACTION! - WeCAN coat drive

Let's not have "A Place in Mound" be just a 'think tank', but be a 'do tank'!

One of my desires with "A Place in Mound" is not to just be a place for talking about Mound, but to be a place where we actually DO things to help Mound be a better place. This is our first call to action in a simple way so we can be "neighbors helping neighbors" as WeCAN's mission states.

I am certain we all have coats and jackets sitting in our closet that are unused, and don't fit. This is an excellent opportunity to donate them to families and people in need.

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With winter coming fast, they are having a big push this month is to collect coats for those who need them. Here is there announcement about ways you can donate coats, or obtain one if you are in need of a winter coat.
WeCAN Winter Coat Drive. Please share the warmth! 
It’s almost winter in Minnesota and no one in the community should be without a coat. 
WeCAN (Western Communities Action Network), a local, non-profit, community service organization, invites you to donate coats that are clean and in good condition. Boots and snow pants also gratefully accepted. 
Children, teen, and adult sizes needed. 
Coats and other winter gear can be dropped off between Friday, October 12th and Monday, October 29th at a number of locations (businesses, churches, schools) in the WeCAN service area. 
Those who need a winter coat, are invited to come to WeCAN on Tuesday, October 30th 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. or Thursday, November 1st 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
Drop off locations include-
Bethel Methodist
Crow River Bank
Christ Lutheran Church
Culvers in Navarre
Gillespie Center
River Valley Church
Shirley Hills School
St. John’s Lutheran
St. Martin’s by the Lake
Good Shepherd Church
Klein Bank (St.Boni)
Mt. Olive Lutheran
Minnetonka Mud
Our Lady of the Lakes Church
WeCAN Office
For additional information please contact the WeCAN office 952-472-0742 (Lisa Floeter)
WeCAN is truly an important organization working hard to make Mound a great place for everyone. If we want Mound to be a great place, it needs to be a place for everyone.

Visit www.wecan-help.org for more information about WeCAN.


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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Showcase - WeCAN


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It is an unfortunate fact that many people struggle day to day with just trying to provide basic necessities for their families. Due to circumstances in life, people find themselves without a job, and then without healthcare. Childcare because a big issue for young, struggling families. Also, in todays auto-centric world, people need to deal with the struggles of trying to get to work with a car (that we count on being insured) that they hope to high heaven doesn't break down, because they won't know what to do then.

Mound is fortunate to have a great organization like WeCAN (Western Communities Action Network) to support people and families with these, and other issues. They will assist families with food needs, transportation issues, people looking for work, and connect people in need with the necessary services and programs to help them get through rough times. As their mission says, it's "Neighbors helping neighbors".

One of it's big efforts this last year is the WeCAB program, which is a supplemental transportation service. It consists of volunteers from the community who will provide short rides to those who cannot drive them self to an appointment. It doesn't replace dial-a-ride, but supplements it, and it's run entirely on volunteers and donations.

We-CAN is a great organization that makes Mound a great place.

Looking ahead - tomorrow we are asking our readers and followers to do something. "A Place in Mound" is not just about talking, but about taking ACTION in simple and easy ways, as well as some harder ways. If you want a change to come about Mound, it's going to require more than just talking about it, or making a statement at the city council, or collecting signatures. It's about finding old coats and bringing them to your local church for the coat drive, finding value in shopping and supporting our local businesses, and engaging city staff and officials in discussions. Tomorrow is about ACTION. ~ GML4

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A system of Property Taxes that don't create value

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A non-place that reduces the value to the area around it. Why is this allowed?
There is a warped sense about how property taxes are assessed. Take the familiar Mound property above. It's an old commercial building on Commerce Blvd across the street from Our Lady of the Lake.

We would judge judge this property one of the worse in Mound downtown properties. It clearly hasn't been used in a long time, the owners don't seem to bother maintaining it. We've remarked before that it seems like the owners are just sitting on it until someone like Walgreens gives them money to walk away from it.

The owners of this property don't live in Mound. The only time they worry about it is when their property taxes are due. Fortunately, as the building deteriorates, their property taxes go down too. If they tried fixing it up, then their property taxes would go up as well, and that of course is the last thing they would want.

Essentially, we have a system that penalizes property owners for improving their property.
This happens because we tax buildings much more heavily than the land under them. These buildings are visited by an official assessor who determines their value. The higher the buildings value, the higher the tax. Under this system, a rational person has every reason to put up crappy buildings that will not be highly assessed, or he has every reason to let his property run down, or build nothing at all. This is a major reason for the current desolation of American towns and cities.
A Place in Mound asks, is it rational to continue a system that rewards property owners for letting this happen? Or is there another way that encourages more productive land use, and produce a higher for all involved.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Park Spotlight - Tyrone Park

Today we look at another park on the island, Tyrone Park. It's just north of Wilshire on Tyrone Lane. It's a beautiful little city park, the kind that anyone would want to live next to and enjoy.
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I well maintain sign. It's nice that it's neighbors take care of this place!
It has most things would would want in a park, including a playground, a big open area, baseball field with backstop, and a basketball court.
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A great playground. There are places here for older kids, and some for younger kids as well.

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Basketball court.
Tyrone Park appears to be walled in on three sides with trees, but if you look closely on the northwest side of the trees, there's a well worn path, that connects the park to Carrick Road on the north side. I don't imagine this was a path the city planned, or maintain, but it's clear that residents on Carrick and it's neighbors use it, and even maintain a small bridge that lets them avoid getting their feet wet in a stormwater rut that runs through the wooded area.
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Bridge on path in wooded area.


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Nice big open field. Emerald Lake is actually on the west side of the trees here.
I believe one could park their car here next to the park on Tyrone, but as this neighborhood has it's streets being reconstructed this summer, I could be wrong. As we've noted in almost every other park we've looked at in Mound, it is very difficult, if not impossible to actually park on the street next to a park.
At "A Place in Mound" we believe it's reasonable for everyone to have access to it's city parks and common spaces whether they decide to walk, bike, or drive.

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A beautiful baseball field.
One item lacking from this park was benches. Besides one picnic table that could've been moved anywhere, there were not places to sit around this park. The playground really should have places for parents to sit while the kids play.
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Someone clearly saw the need for a bench, and has left a plastic chair here for people to use next to the playground.


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The backstop was actually donated by Rotary, another group making Mound a great place!
Tyrone Park is clearly a jewel of a neighborhood park that adds value to this neighborhood. It's inviting, useful, attractive, and clearly makes Mound a better Place!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Well... at least we're not Minnetrista...

Some, in the Highland Road neighborhood in Minnetrista, are not happy.
The Minnetrista City Council approved assessments to 13 properties after the completion of the Highland Road Improvement Project on Oct. 1, but not before three property owners filed appeals....  Out of 13 properties, eight were assessed $11,000, three were assessed $9,000 and two were assessed $1,000.
As my Norwegian farmer uncle would say... "Uff-da".

Let's take a step back and look at what was done.
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The brown is the old Highland Road. Note the hairpin turns that used to force automobiles to slow down.
One major issue was two very sharp hairpin turns on the old Highland Road next to the Dakota Trail. I don't remember driving this road more than once myself, but I recall the very sharp turns here, really slowing down my car. Slower cars mean safer streets, especially around the Dakota Trail crossing.

The other issue was that Highland Road was it terrible condition and needing attention badly. Of course, bad roads also slow down traffic, though they also add significantly to wear and tear of our vehicles.

They clearly spent A LOT of money to straighten out those two hairpin turns, acquiring property and total construction of two short road beds, on top of the rest of the Highland Road construction. The cost for the entire project was $1.75 million dollars. The 13 residents are paying $117 thousand of that, so the city is paying $1.6+ million dollars.

The question you should be asking is, "How can Minnetrista afford to pay $1.6 million dollars for this project?!?!

Well, that comes at the end of the story....
majority of the road reconstruction was funded using state aid money
... ah... so this is a MSA street project. As we've looked at before, Mound is going to be starting a series of reconstruction of it's MSA 'streets' in the next couple years.

Now you should be asking, "What does it mean for Highland to be a MSA street?"

Here are the good things about a MSA street...

  • Street built so cars can get through fast. I imagine cars will be cutting 30 seconds off their commute time.
  • State provides most of the funding for the street construction, so city saves money.
  • Emergency vehicles also probably improve response times because of this construction


Here are some of the problems about having a MSA street...

  • Cars will be going by your home or business fast, the street is not built for pedestrians or bicyclists.
  • Generally people do not like to be on, or around MSA streets. They are not a pleasant place.
  • Your home and business is a place to drive through, not to.


The other problems for the Highland Road project, where cars used to go through the Dakota Trail crossing slow because of those hairpin turns, cars now can just barrel on through, and are essentially being allowed, even encouraged to not worry so much about the trail. It seems like this is making the trail crossing more dangerous.

The city approved the assessments last week, citing ALL the positive comments from other residents about the projects. Of course, most of those people are more concerned about just driving through this neighborhood, than having anything to do with it. And the city loves this, as it gets to improve Highland Road without really having to pay for it. The state of Minnesota is paying for it!

It's not really fair of me to pick on Minnetrista here today. Hundreds of cities in Minnesota accept MSA money to build these streets, including Mound, and why wouldn't they.  Free streets!

The problem is that the MSA streets are mainly built to connect places, and give people opportunities to drive past neighborhoods and businesses at high speeds, usually only cutting seconds off a commute. The cost of them is that they hurt the local scene.

The worst part about this is, the state of Minnesota will give a city millions of dollars so people can cut 30 seconds off a commute time! Millions of dollars for 30 seconds?! Is that 30 seconds THAT important?

We bring up Bartlett Boulevard often here at "A Place in Mound". It's a street/road hybrid for cars that's next to a school, churches and neighborhood and it's a place not safe for children or people. People don't like to walk or bike on it.

Bartlett Boulevard, like it's new counterpart, Highland Road in Minnetrista, brings no value to the place it's built on.

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Mound already suffers from seven miles of MSA streets, including Bartlett Boulevard by Shirley Hills school.
Actually, MSA streets hurt the neighborhood.

Fortunately for Mound, this is a time it could change the direction for it's Boulevards as many of these streets are due to be reconstructed in the next few years, starting with Three Points Boulevard next year.

So what do you want Mound? Do you want to build places to Drive to, or places to Drive through?

Edited - I had originally posted that Minnetrista had spent $160 million, when it was $1.6 million. My apologies.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Showcase - Scarecrow Stomp

Just a friendly reminder that the Scarecrow Stomp is happening tomorrow morning 10-1 during the Mound Farmer's Market and ECFE Stroll-a-thon.

There will be activities for the kids, including Hula Hoops with Sally
Music from The Abiders,

AND LOTS MORE

If you get cold, some nice fire pits to warm yourselves up.

So NO excuses... and come talk to me (I'm helping with the Hula Hoops!)

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Join the Scarecrow family!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Business as Usual

One thing "A Place in Mound" is about is challenging the status quo. Too many ways about our city are done automatically without questioning the basic underlying premises that guide us. The assumptions that are made are part of the reason why cities everywhere in the country are in a tough bind.

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Consolidating police with Orono doesn't cease the budget cuts down the line. Cities need to find a new way to operate in financial times, and it can't be done with only cuts, nor is raising taxes.
Mound can continue to work under the assumptions that have guided us to a place where it's acceptable to eliminate/consolidate/reduce it's own police force, and pretend that it will be all ok.  Mound can continue to think that the major redevelopment on a major intersection is just grand on it's own, even though the city seems unconcerned that it might not break even  in property tax revenue. Mound can continue to develop places (or non-places) that people can value, or not value.

The conversations brought up here and in conversations we have with people nearly everyday highlight how ingrained the status quo is.

When the conversation turns to the speeds on Bartlett and the other highways boulevards most people think Mound just needs to put a police officer out there, or just post lower speed limit signs. With the reconstruction of these streets in the next few years, Mound, and it's neighborhoods, have an opportunity to put design changes that would slow things down, and save money. Instead of doing the same thing so Minnetrista residents can get to the office 15 seconds faster, the City of Mound needs to think differently.

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Highway Bartlett as it goes through the Shirley Hills neighborhood. Does this stroad (street/road hybrid) add any value to this neighborhood?
Whenever I get to share the information about the potential loss of revenue that the city of Mound will experience with the Walgreens development, people make excuses, and talk about the other values the development brings to Mound. We don't deny those. We are more concerned about the fact this issue is never discussed in any development discussion. Mound needs change it up, and incorporate a financial outlook on these development so the whole picture is clear.

City governments are in big financial trouble, and that is only going to continue. Mound can either experiment, and explore new ways of improving itself, or it can continue with Business as Usual.

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