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/