Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is Grandview a neighborhood or a shortcut?

The city of Mound was petitioned recently to consider slowing down traffic on Grandview Boulevard. This is another residential street providing a shortcut through a neighborhood people live on. It gets lots of fast cars going through it, so people don't have to drive through Mound's downtown.

It's good to see residents of Grandview Boulevard asking about ways to improve their street, though I believe it's going to take a lot more than a petition to get the city to take these concerns seriously. Their prevailing (and incorrect) belief is that if we have cars drive slower, then we are creating congestion. As we have discussed before, driving 5 MPH slower adds only seconds when one is driving through someone else's neighborhood.

Unfortunately, Grandview is a MSA street, which means that Mound get's state highway money to pay for the street, but there are strings attached to those funds. The state has guidelines about how MSA streets are to be built, including how wide it has to be, and what the minimum speed limit is (which is 30). There is highway money behind these streets, and so they are meant to have cars drive fast on them.

There is work being done at the state level to incorporate more pedestrian and bike features on these streets, but frankly, the process is slow, and several people that I have spoken with on these matters feel it's little more than lip service. The MSA system that is deeply ingrained in the way we build and manage cities. It's only value is that it cuts seconds off a commute for people driving in cars. The MSA system adds little value to the people who live on Grandview Boulevard.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Good Places in Mound

It has been suggested I come up with a list of positive places for Mound. Here's a quick list and explanations. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Surfside Park and Beach 

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Surfside on a Thursday evening
Easily the most popular park in the city. Public Access for your boat, shelter for your party, concerts, Spirit of the Lake events, beach, playground... it has pretty much everything you'd want despite it's fairly small size.

Mound Caribou
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A convenient meeting place
The place to meet friends and acquaintances. Want to be seen? Hang out here.

Gillespie Center
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The Gillespie Center
This really is a fantastic facility manned by a small staff, and a lot of dedicated volunteers. Wonderful, inexpensive lunches on Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays, concerts, meetings, Memorial Day services, exercise classes. This is not a place just for seniors, there is something for everyone here.

Mound Westonka Schools
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Westonka Schools have been working with Maeve and our family since she was an infant with home visits.
Westonka Schools keeps racking up the awards and acknowledgements. They are safe places for our kids, as well as offering a nurturing and exciting environment for them to learn and grow. The Mound Westonka schools are easily one of Mound's biggest assets.

Gale Woods Farm
Not technically in Mound, but this relatively new addition to the Three River Parks serves Mound and the surrounding area with wonderful activities helping people understand our food system, as well have being a great event center.

Minnetonka Drive In
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My 1964 Dodge Dart (aka - The Kid), which occasionally makes it to the Minnetonka Drive In.
Again, not technically Mound, but a great place in the summer to stop when walking by the trail, or to drive in and eat in the car or one of the picnic tables. Also fun to stop by on Thursday nights when the Slow Strokes meet, and walk around the coolest free car show around. FYI - The Drive In opened for the season just last week!

Dakota Trail
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Not the best part of the trail, but it connects you to some very nice places.
Everyone love the trail that goes through Mound for wonderful bike rides, jogging and walking. The walk along Langdon is very scenic as one heads towards St. Bonifacious. It will be interesting to see how the new "Dakota Junction" restaurant adds to Mound's trail life. Hopefully Mound can utilize the trail more effectively as Downtown redevelops.

Mound Farmers Market and More
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Farmer Market activity on Saturday morning.
Saturday mornings by by the parking ramp, Mound has had a fairly successful Farmer's market for a few years now. Last year they added music every week, which really added to the events.

On a related note, I personally am working on adding kids activities in the Greenway near the Farmer's Market's on Saturday mornings. I'm working on having a Bike Rodeo, some impromptu athletic activities, and other fun ideas. If you are interested in hearing more about what I'm working on, please let me know!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why the silence

At the joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting two weeks ago, the topic of financial impacts of development was discussed at my request. You can see the minutes from the discussion below...

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I have been struggling with this for two weeks. Is it really inappropriate for me, as a sitting member of the Planning Commission, to continue to speak out publicly on this issue? I can understand how city officials don't appreciate being chided for for simply doing their jobs as believe best, but to ask me to stop seems wrong.

When I agreed to stop talking on the point about financial impacts of development, I let myself, and the purpose behind "A Place in Mound", down. I apologize to all of you who have participated in the conversations here.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Quicknotes

- WECAN Omlette Breakfast is this Sunday, 9-noon at the American Legion. Tickets are $9.00 and are available at WeCAN or call 952-472-0742.

- The Mound/Westonka Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) is having a FREE Family Open Gym for families of children of Special Needs at Grandview Middle School on Saturday, 3-5. This council is made up of staff and parents from the school, and are doing great things to help make our school and community a great place for people with disabilities.

- Thursday, Feb 21st at 6:30 another meeting on drug abuse in our community will be taking place called, "Heroin: It's in Our Community". This meeting will be mostly the chance to break out in smaller groups, and get information and have a discussion that may relate directly to your situation. It will be held at the Gillespie Center.

- Westonka Community and Commerce (formerly Celebrate Greater Mound) is having their monthly luncheon Thursday next week at Bethel United Methodist Church at 11:45.

- A unique meeting is happening Monday night at Mound city hall. The Mound Planning Commission (which I sit on) is having a joint meeting with the Mound City Council to discuss a couple of issues. I am looking forward to discussing some of the financial aspects of developments I have written about here a couple times. Unfortunately the idea of discussing "Complete Streets" was not included on the agenda. I was a little slow to suggest the topic, so it's probably my fault, but I intend to keep pushing the issue... especially as we are about to rebuild several of our MSA streets. Look out Three Points Blvd, you're first on the docket!

- Everytime I talk about the Open Mic night at Threshold with someone, their eyes light up. It will be cool to be hanging out in Downtown Mound on Saturday night, starting at 7:30. Please come and enjoy some snacks or drink, and watch our talented youth perform. It will be a fun night!

- It's been a great week, and I've already shared how humbled I have been by Strong towns earlier this week. Here's a video of a speech Chuck Marohn, from Strong Towns, did a few weeks ago. As much as I am uplifted by how he shares my story, the bigger message is important. The message that we can continue to improve and make Mound a great city, a great place.

Please watch this video, not because it has pictures of me in it, but because it's about the possibility of the things we can do together. Especially if you are a Mound city official.

Mission - Flowers on Emerald Drive

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Emerald Drive, between Avon and Glendale Drive. A pleasant place to walk.
This is a place my daughters walk through every day, to and from school. This is Emerald Drive... the part of Emerald Drive you can't drive on. It was originally platted to be a street, but the city, in its wisdom some time ago, decided to just have it be a simple walking path as you can see above. It's fairly short... less than a hundred feet... but it's a safe place for people.

The city does a decent job clearing snow from it. The neighbors take a bit of pride in it, and often clear it before the city gets there. Below someone cleared a path before my daughters headed to school on the day this photo was taken.

It also is marked by four sign posts, or stakes. I suppose they are there to mark the path so a snow plow will know where exactly to go. After a while, my daughters and I started talking about the sign posts, and how they should have signs! We joked about making "No Parking" signs, which lead to "No Running" and "No Licking Ice Cream" and other obnoxious things.

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A pretty place, but those stakes are kind of obnoxious.

The more we talked about it, the more I realized this would be a cool neighborhood beautification project.  My daughter's school "Imagination Fair" (like a Science Fair) was approaching, and my 8 year old, Maeve agreed to make this her project, or mission.

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She takes on the task to give this sign posts some purpose! Let's call her "Agent Maeve"!

So we had a discussion about what kind of signs she wanted to create. She thought about making pictures of snacks and food (I think she was hungry while we were talking) and we talked about making pictures of kitties, stars, rainbows, and finally settled on making pictures of colored flowers.

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Agent Maeve showing off her signs.

She wanted to do blue, green, red and yellow flowers. She created three drafts, and than a final product.

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"I did this!"
   Her father secured the signs firmly to the posts for all to enjoy.

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Maeve showing Mound some love!
 Is this Guerrilla Urbanism? Is Maeve a Tactical Urbanist?

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Maeve showing her work at the Imagination Fair. Great job Sweets! (photo from Kristyn Hewitt)

No matter what, she makes her daddy proud with her efforts to make our neighborhood a better place.

Mission Success!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Curbside Chat Anniversary!

I've actually had this date on my calendar for a couple months now. It was a year ago today when I managed to convince a handful of city officials and a few community members to attend a "Curbside Chat" at the Gillespie Center. A lot of what has happened here at "A Place in Mound" is because of Chuck Marohn's wiliness to take some of his valuable time to come here and share his information.

I am very... very humbled that the small things we are trying to do here are being watched around the region and country. People recognize the need for anything to happen at all to improve our cities, need to happen at the local level. It takes people... ordinary, average people, to create change. The ideas I write about here are not my own. People much smarter, more well written, better articulated and way more persuasive come up with the ideas and concepts to improve cities and our lives, I just try to take them down to a level where Mound can use them, and actually create an environment where people have a choice how to get around in our neighborhoods and city, where their children can play safely, and have a city that is resilient.

I'm sure it was entirely a coincidence that Chuck shared this project with me yesterday. I am honored he shared my story today on the Strong Towns blog, and hope that there are other ordinary folks in other ordinary cities out there with a little bit of gumption to try to make the world a better place.

If you, local Mound citizen, believe in many of the things I write about here, and want to DO something, instead of just complaining, you should join "A Place in Mound" found on the right side of the website. This isn't a place for complaints, this is about learning about Mound, and implementing changes.

I'm sure Chuck won't mind me copying and pasting his post here today.

Today is the one year anniversary of the Mound Curbside Chat. In terms of the nearly 100 speaking events I've done over the past 30 months, it was pretty ordinary; a handful of people gathered at a town hall on a standard, chilly Minnesota weeknight. That being said, what has come out of that event has been anything but ordinary.
I've written what follows as part of a larger initiative we are working on here at Strong Towns, one that I so very much wish I could share today (not quite ready yet, but soon). It is the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of the Mound Chat.
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George Matthew Linkert, IV is just an average resident of an average town. He is married, has two young kids and lives in a modest house in a suburbs. He drives a modest car. Has a modest income. Even his general demeanor is, as they say in Minnesota, quite average.
But despite being anything but extraordinary, George is doing extraordinary things.
I first got to know George as GLM4, the online moniker he uses when he posts comments on the Strong Towns Blog. And, boy, did he ever post comments. In what felt like a continuous stream of questions, comments and inquiries, George pushed and prodded and struggled to reconcile the Strong Towns vision I was sharing with what he saw in his own community.
At times it was painful. At times, beautiful. George’s background is in music -- a far cry from city planning or engineering -- and so very little of our message was in his professional wheelhouse. Yet, he persisted.
Ultimately the public comments turned to personal emails, the personal emails to instant messages and texts. Every now and then we’d have a break though. “Oh, I think I get it now.” He was working really hard.
I was invited by George to come to his city of Mound, MN, and do a Curbside Chat presentation. This is the first time we met in person. He showed me his town, asked my opinion on some specific things he was experiencing and then, after the Chat, he insisted we go out to eat. I remember sitting there thinking, here’s a very nice man, but besides the pleasant conversation, what is going to come of all of this time I am spending?
Little did I know that George would change my entire thinking about what needs to happen to build a nation of strong towns.
Shortly after the Curbside Chat, George started getting more active in his community. He joined his planning commission and became vocal as a volunteer. He started a blog and began consistently writing about the details of growth and development in Mound. Soon he was taking pictures and videos of roads and parking lots and posting them online, generating some good discussion locally. He would organize neighborhood meetings and schedule coffee discussions with others locals. There was even a newspaper article about his activities.
Then George went and made a presentation to the city council that mixed in slides from Strong Towns with snapshots he took of his community. It was a beautiful narrative about how Mound could be so much better and how a different approach -- a Strong Towns approach -- could make it happen. It was the Mound Curbside Chat that only George could make.
This is when it became clear to me what was going on. George Matthew Linkert IV, by all outward appearances a very average person, was driving the agenda in his community. This part time musician and full time dad was filling the intellectual void in the city’s growth and development approach. He was asking the right questions, making the right challenges and using his energy and positive vision to mobilize people for change. He is exactly what Mound needs.
And as I watched him share his message -- our message -- I realized that George was exactly what we needed.
I realized that every city needs a George.
 A special thanks to George Matthew Linkert IV and everyone working to make Mound, MN, a Strong Town. You've inspired us to do more and to work even harder to make our shared vision a reality. We love you guys. If you want to follow what they are doing, head on over to GML4's blog, A Place in Mound. 


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Monday, February 4, 2013

Saturday Night in Downtown Mound!

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Bring your talent and passion to the stage, or sit back and enjoy the show. We are hoping to attract musicians, bands, poets, free-stylers, magicians, and any other live forms of expression. Whether this is your first time on stage, or you are a professional entertainer...your efforts will be respected and appreciated.
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Location: Threshold Performing Arts Center
Cost: $5 cover (under 12 free)
*Drinks and snacks available
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If you are interested in performing, please contact me via personal message on facebook, and we can arrange a time for you to take the stage. Include this information:

-Name of the performer(s) or group
-Type of performance
-If musical, what style or genre (including instruments that will be utilized)
-Level of experience performing live
-Desired length of performance (3-30 minutes)
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*Profits from these events will support the 'Lake Minnetonka Regional Arts Council'

Mission: "To nurture the soul of the community through cultural arts education, outreach, and performance opportunities for all ages and abilities"

Website: http://lmrac.org/LMRAC.html
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See you there!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Walking to school on the coldest day of the year

Just another bitterly cold day in Minnesota. I woke up to my wife telling me that she's pleading for me to drive the children to school  on Facebook.

I was ready for this, and had looked at the weather report before going to bed with said,
 "A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS. THIS WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. WHEN VENTURING OUTDOORS...MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES." 
So I reasoned that as long as they were bundled up properly (as they do every morning I send them off to school) they would be fine. Several of my wife Facebook friends clearly agreed with my wife (and one with me). In the end, I get to make the decision.

So I walked to school with them.

We got ready for school. They were bundled up before I was, so I suggested they could start without me, and I would catch up. I figured they would rather stay with me in the warm house. However Cecelia said, "Ok!" and then told Maeve, "Let's hurry and try to beat him!" And off they went.

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Girls try to take off  without me!
Yes it was cold, but we had appropriate hat, mittens, and footwear.

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It was a rather pretty walk. We heard Chickadees along the way!
We talked about school and selling Girl Scout cookies this weekend.

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Playing with our shadows.
The girl's school has "Imagination Fair" next week... kind of like a Science Fair. Maeve's project will be finished along Emerald Drive (the walking path she is standing on in the picture below). So we talked about that, and imagined what it will look like when it is done.

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Maeve is showing us where her Shirley Hills Imagination Fair project is going to be installed next week. A small neighborhood beautification project she is working on.
The girls were clearly comfortable, and not in a hurry. There was an extremely cold day a week or two ago where I truly worried if it was too cold to send them walking. I had an appointment to drive to shortly after they left, so after a few minutes, I got into my car, and as I was on my way to my appointment, I drove by the school to be sure they successfully got to school. They had not gotten as far as I hoped and appeared to be walking in circles in the Shirley Hills field! So I parked by the school door as they were finally walking up to the door. I asked them if they were ok, and they looked at me like I was crazy. "Yeah, were fine." They said, and walked into the school like it was any other day.

After that, I decided not to worry about these really cold mornings. Especially when the weather forecasters are clearly telling us to be sure to bundle up.

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Yes, this is kind of dangerous. I tried discouraging this for a while last year, but then realized this is one of those time honored kid traditions that they will not be denied. If there is a lesson they will have to learn, they will learn it the hard way.
Not a whole lot of traffic on Bartlett this morning. A couple of cars that were driving too fast as usual, one kind of slowed down as my kids were waiting to cross. The more I think about the way the "Safe Routes to School" program has been implemented in our community, and more shortcomings I see in it. This is something that needs to be addressed.

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Crossing our neighborhood stroad (Bartlett Blvd). 
Getting across the Shirley Hills field, my daughters were still not in a huge hurry. Maeve walked a bit through the playground, Cecelia took us on a tangent to show me something.

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Cecelia showing me her "Construction site" at the playground. 
It was fun to see someone had been playing out here. There was a snowman, and several large snowballs.

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A snow fort on the playground. 
After seeing my daughters into the building, I turned to head by home, and saw a friend parking his car to drop off his preschool aged daughter. She didn't have proper head gear, he was in worse shape, without gloves. He knew we had just walked to school, and he just shook his head, said hi, and hurried into the building.

This all reminds of a guy I knew a few years ago who worked in construction. When Fall was turning to Winter he talked about purposely stay out working a bit longer, not putting on gloves, keeping lighter jackets on, delaying turning on his furnace, and letting his body adjust to the cold. He strongly felt our bodies adjust to these temperatures if we let them. So when it would get even colder, his body was better prepared to work well in that weather.

Even though the school is not letting kids out for recess or Phy ed, my kids are walking every day, and they are used to it. It's clear they enjoy the walk, and it is part of their routine. I am proud of them, and their attitudes about this, and am glad to continue to support their efforts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Educating myself on the "Other point of view"

One 'suggestion' given to me after I gave my presentation to the Mound City Council was that I should read, and research opposing points of view. The suggestion seem to be that perhaps I was only looking at the situation Mound was in with a certain point of view.

This bothered me a lot, and I honestly didn't think it was fair, nor true. However, I vowed to take the Mound City Council's suggestions seriously (as I hoped they took mine seriously), and I took a second look at the both the resources I regularly read, as well as sought out other points of view that I honestly have generally ignored, or dismissed as nonsense.

Ok... time to meet and talk about what to do for Mound. "A Place in Mound" is more than just talking... it's about doing. Let's put some ideas together, collaborate, and make Mound a better place.

Tuesday night, I'm going to be at the Mound Caribou at 7PM with pens, paper and looking to DO something. How about you? Come with ideas, and some gumption.

If you can't be there, let me know and I'll keep you in the loop. This is to be the beginning of a beautiful thing!

I first decided to try to find writers and groups that were contrary to many of my regular read like Atlantic Cities, Strong Towns, and the like that I frequently mention. I didn't find anyone regularly writing scathing articles or deeply analytical criticisms of people friendly streets nor more productive land use. Sometimes someone like Joe Soucheray will write a thoughtful article discussing the crazy bikers, and the wasted space of a bike lane, but it's very infrequent, and in the end, their goals are often the same as mine, they just might have some different priorities. That's great. I have always read pieces like this, and will continue to do so.

I then decided to try to read and understand the "Agenda 21 conspiracy" that I've heard about occasionally over the last few years. I have watched several videos and read much in the last couple months and can safely tell you that the City of Mound will not be accepting International Building Codes nor move everyone off the Island to live in a run down apartment building in downtown. These people are scared that the local government is going to not let you use your land the way you want to, and force you to farm in certain ways, and your lives will be tightly regulated. It's really crazy. The people preaching this nonsense can be the same camp of folks who believe the US Government took part in the 9/11 attacks.

Not sure if this is what was meant by the city council, but trying to be open, I have spent some time the last couple weeks reading updates on the ideas of having a "Private Rapid Transit" (PRT) system of transportation. The idea is an older one, I remember reading about it 10 years ago. There used to be a couple of very vocal local promoters of this idea here in the Twin Cities I read about back then. The main idea (with some variations) is that you may not own a car, but an automated one would come pick you up when you needed one, and the computer driven vehicle might pick up another rider or two, and get you to your destination with little or no guidance from you. It's regained some traffic lately since Google has had some success with their computer driven cars. The concept of PRT however is so grandiose, that I have difficulty seeing it being implemented anytime soon, if ever, considering the political, structural, and financial logistics.

Exhausting any ideas on who else I could read, it occurred to me about a month ago that I really didn't have to read "other points of view" to challenge myself and the things that are written on the webpage. We LIVE in the opposing view! I can simply walk my kids to school Monday morning to appreciate streets built for fast cars, and leaving people like my children as after thoughts. I can drive the posted speed limit of 30 MPH, and have the "opposing point of view" impatiently tailgating me all the way up Tuxedo Blvd wanting to drive 35 MPR(or more). I can take my family for a bike ride to church along Shoreline Dr, and have the "opposing point of view" drive by my wife and children as if we weren't there.

The most ironic piece of all this is...my journey to get to this point of view I hold, all started because I was seeking "an opposing point of view".

I will continue to read and contemplate all views that I think are serious about making Mound a better Place. Whether it the streets, downtown, our neighborhoods, or our parks. These all need attention, and often need "another point of view" as we work to improve them.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Moonlight Trail Walk

The walk is tomorrow night. There will be HUNDREDS of luminaries, and dozens of campfires. You have no excuse! I hope to see you out there. There will be free continuing bus service from Gale Woods, to the Transit Center, to the Minnetonka Drive In.

I will be manning the Westonka Community and Commerce booth from 7:30-8:00 by the Transit Center. Come and say Hi!

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Don't miss the walk!
 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Time for some ACTION!

Here's an opportunity... this property is for sale...

http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/hnp/bfs/3564878004.html

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This property, without question, is one of the most unappealing properties in Mound. I have written about it before, several people commented on it at the Mound Magic meeting last October. City officials said, at the meeting, they have inspected the property, and since there's no code violations, they throw their hands up in the air to say "There's nothing we can do about it!"

I spoke with one of the two owners of the building last Winter. I've been thinking about starting a bicycle business, and this location being a block or two off the Andrew Sister's Trail, and Dakota Trail, seemed like a place to consider. The gentleman I spoke with was pleasant, and talked about how sturdy the building was with it's concrete block construction, and it's view of Lost Lake from the roof, would be a good place to do business. He seemed genuinely interested in a serious discussion, but it was also clear that the place would need a lot of work.

Frankly, the price they are asking on this property ($195,000) seems high. Looking at all the commercial property for sale (and there is a lot of it!) all these old, but still usable builds. Kirby's is asking for $170,000, the Tonka Tunes record store (which, at least, is currently being used) is asking $190,000. The county is listing the Market Value for these properties for much less... generally around $100,000. Some of these buildings are barely being maintained. Why put money into a building, when we've all been expecting some big developer to sweep in, buy it, and tear it down to put in a new building on location.

We should DO something about this.

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So I say, let's do something. Let's take any one of these desolate buildings, and make it a place for a weekend or two this summer. Perhaps during the Spirit of the Lakes weekend, or Dog Days. Assuming it will continue to sit unfilled, let's get one of these land owners to find it in his heart to open up one of their place for local volunteers to come in, and make use of for a weekend that is sure to have lots of visibility and traffic.

Of course this is going to take work. We will have to get our hands dirty, get a permit, spend time making decisions, not take no for an answer... but if we keep our eyes on the goal... imagine the smiles of people seeing an empty building suddenly come to life? Imagine we had a place where people could stop and visit for a bit before, during or after the parade?

What idea's do you have?! What do you say Westonka Community and Commerce? City of Mound officials and staff? Local congregations? Mound Westonka Rotary? Westonka BNI? Mound Masons?

Or how about YOU?!

Comment here, on Facebook, email me, phone me your ideas. The only guidelines are our imagination. Let's take an eyesore, and truly make a Place in Mound!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quicknotes

Our Lady of the Lake School - The Archdiocese has announced the closing Our Lady of the Lake school in Mound. Lots of people are upset about this, and there is a group of families trying to create a new private school in the facility. They are having a rally tonight (Tuesday) at 6:30 to convince church officials to lease out the space. It's important for communities to have choices for their children in education, and with the closing of OLL after Mt. Calvary closed a couple years ago, the local options for our children are very limited. We are fortunate to have the outstanding staff of Mound Westonka schools working for us, but one size doesn't fit all for children. We wish the families of OLL success in their new endeavors. You can find out more about their plans at their website - http://lakeminnetonkaacademy.com/

Drug Abuse meeting - The planned meeting on Drug abuse in our community for next week at the Gillespie Center has been moved to a later date. I had the date, but cannot find my notes, and I will update this webpage as soon as I find it.

Moonlight Trail Walk - It's happening this Saturday, 6-9 at the transit center in Mound. This is one of those events that can only happen because a group of individuals in Mound step up and put it all together, with the support of our local businesses. There will be lots of campfires to warm yourself up, and some fun activities. It's going to be a great event, and I hope you all will be there! http://moonlighttrail.com/

WeCAN has an event coming up -
Enjoy breakfast made to order, and support a great organization which services those in need in the community on Sunday, February 10, 2013, 9:00 a.m.– 12:00 p.m. at the American Legion Post #398, 2333 Wilshire Blvd, Mound MN 55364
Omelet Breakfast cost is $9.00. Tickets available at WeCAN or call 952-472-0742.
Breakfast includes build your own omelet, hash browns, bacon, sausage, biscuits & gravy, milk, juice, coffee & dessert.
Browse through the WeCAN Silent Auction items and find the perfect Valentine’s Day basket for the special people in your life. Themed baskets for Valentines of all ages, wrapped, full of love and good wishes, and ready to give (or keep for yourself).
Proceeds from the breakfast and silent auction will benefit WeCAN, which serves nearly 500 local families each year through programs such as Holiday Adopt-A-Family, the Birthday Shelf, Back-to-School Supply drive, Meals on Wheels , Emergency Assistance, Job Center as well as referrals to other available county and other services.
Western Community Action Network (WeCAN) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit working with low-income individuals and families in our community.

Big kudos to Pastor Michael Michalk of Mt. Olive for spearheading a project to truly make a great place in Mound. Pay attention next time you drive by their church  and you'll notice a small wetland to the west. He, along with the city of Mound and the neighborhood are looking to create a place around the wetland, including cleaning up the invasive species, and perhaps eventually creating a walking path around the wetland. Cool idea!

Congratulations to Mound Evangelical Free for getting their church reopened after the terrible water damage they suffered last summer.

With the election of Senator Osmek to the state senate, Mound city council has an opening. Applications were accepted until last week, and the word was they received 9 applications.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Showcase - Westonka Horticultural Society

When in the midst of Winter, our minds often think about the upcoming Spring and Summer seasons. If you are a gardener, you may already be considering what plants you are going to plant as the ground thaws. Mound is lucky to have a group like the Westonka Horticultural Society in our midst to help us as we plan and grow our flowers and vegetables.

I often note as I walk about our city how much people care for their gardens, and the places near where we live. We have many parks with small flower boxes that the neighborhood attends. The city staff do a great job of caring for the plantings and bushes along County Road 15, keeping them pruned and clearing out garbage that tends to collect there. There is one home along Tuxedo Blvd, where I saw a gentleman nearly every time out in his front yard tending what I think was a vegetable garden that encompassed most of his front yard! I have several neighbors who do such wonderful work and create such beautiful places for those of us walking. There are some who have vegetable gardens, and seem to enjoy showing my daughters their growing produce, and even letting us take some home from time to time!
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A neighborhood shows it cares about it's parks by tending to these flowers.
This last summer, as my kids and I were walking by Carbones on Lynwood and Commerce, I noted this planter pictured below. A closer look revealed it to be a beautiful plant, adding some green and color to the pleasant fountain and brickwork that make up this corner.

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Wetonka Horticultural Society doing it's part to make Mound a better place!
The Westonka Horticultural Society donates this planter,the plantings, and takes time to tend it. (update - The WHS saw the planter empty for several years and approached the commercial realty owner for permission to plant them. They then make a donation to our society.) Since there is no water tap near here (I believe they couldn't use the fountain for some reason(update - the fountain water contains chemicals to keep the fountain clean that they can’t use it for plant water) they actually bring their own water to this planter regularly. Not an easy feat considering the nearest parking is by the Verizon store. Their dedication here is admirable.

The Horticultural Society serves Mound in other various ways, including preparing and assisting with the Community Garden at Bethel Church, and answering questions from anyone (such as novices like me) at the Mound Farmers Market and other community events. Look for more information about their big event of the year on Saturday, March 13. They will be hosting their annual Horticultural Day at the Mound-Westonka High School. (Look forward to their annual plant swap in May)

Thank you Westonka Horticultural Society for helping make Mound a great Place!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The creaking and groaning of code

At our last Planning Commission meeting we had a longer than usual agenda on various topics that I could write at length on. Today I want to briefly point out the absurdity and uselessness of the systems we have built, and are governed by.

One topic we spent a fair amount of time on was the parking determination of the proposed Main Street Covenant church, which is planning to take over a large section of the Stonegate Shopping Center, which currently houses the Dollar Store, Early Chilldhood Education class, and others office and retail. The issue was of parking spots, and whether the Stonegate could handle the influx of church goers using the facility.

So our city's code has a section that identifies the minimum requirements for parking, usually based on square footage. So for the school facility (ECFE), the code requires 76 parking spaces . For for the retail spaces (Dollar Store and Dominos) 43 parking spaces. Banks, offices and the proposed church space had similar numbers... and after adding it all up, the Mound city code suggests that Stonegate should have 203 parking spots.

Stonegate has 137 parking spaces on location.

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Stonegate Shopping Center - Do we really need to worry there's not enough parking spaces here?
Think about it. Does ECFE really need 76 parking spaces?! How often does the Dollar Store need 30 parking spaces?

Then think about all the times you've driven past this location, and how empty the parking lot is.

So during the discussion, we, of course, all realize how absurd this all is, but because our code has these numbers, we have to meet, educate everyone on the issue, laugh politely about it, make up a pretend number  so all the uses of the facility will "fit" and approve the "Parking Determination" for Stonegate, and Main Covenant Church.

And it was pointed out towards the end, there is lots of on street parking on Wilshire and Eden.

The crazy part is... we have this big thick book of city code that is supposed to have the answers for these questions. Since this project (like apparently most projects in Mound) didn't fit nicely and neatly into our code,  we had to essentially ignore it. We talked about it for at least a half hour, and I don't want to think about how much staff time was spent on it for the previous weeks.

I understand the need for transparency, and I can appreciate guidelines like our city code contains. But when simple, common-sense, logical solutions are hung up by the creaking and groaning of out dated city code and the fear of phone calls from folks who complain, we have a problem.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wilshire/Brighton Intersection

We all have witnessed the major street reconstruction around Mound the last few years in our neighborhoods. I appreciate the work done on my home street, and believe a lot of good was done with the reconstruction. There is one issue that became apparent to me last Fall that I need to dwell on today.
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Recently rebuilt Wilshire/Brighton intersection
Brighton Blvd is the neighborhood street on the Island that connects Wilshire to Tuxedo Blvd. It's an old street, initially built for the people that live there. At first glance, it looks like it would be a great street to live on. It goes next to Wychwood Beach/Commons, a public beach near Wilshire, and Swenson Park. It's laid out nicely, following the contours of the hills and meanders around the intial cabins and homes built there.

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Brighton Blvd in red, Wilshire (north side) and Tuxedo (south) in green.

Unfortunately Brighton Blvd is also a shortcut, that connects Wilshire to Tuxedo, and get's lots of use for people wanting to cut through the neighborhood. There is a palatable sense of disrespect for the neighborhood and street users by the automobiles that go through here everyday. Despite the fact it's a narrow street, houses close to it, Swenson Park, sharp turns and people on it, cars drive through too fast. I would've hoped that this could have been improved during the reconstruction of this street last year, possibly with stop signs, paint, police enforcement, and at worse, speed bumps, but I fear it was rebuilt the same way, and could possibly be worse at the intersection I'm about to focus on.

For the last five years, I have walked a group of small children from my house, along Wilshire to Brighton so we could play at Swenson Park. We only did it a couple times a summer, in part, because of the disrespectful traffic on the streets. One of the worst parts about the walk was crossing from Wilshire to get to Brighton. Wilshire has barely tolerable walking shoulders for the most part, with the exception of the bridge, which has sidewalks, but traffic still rushes by making a person feel insignificant. Brighton, is a better street, but the intersection of Wilshire and Brighton was (before reconstruction of Brighton) a nightmare.

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Intersection of Wilshire/Brighton before reconstruction last summer.
Now the city of Mound just invested in rebuilding Brighton, and they changed how this intersection works, the main change is stopping Brighton traffic who are going east. Right before the snow fell last Fall, I walked my daughters out this way for the first time since they finished construction. It appears that there is still little consideration of people (engineers call them pedestrians) on this intersection.

Walking eastbound on Wilshire, to then cross Wilshire to get onto Brighton, now one has to walk onto a turn lane.

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Someone walking eastbound would have to cross here. Where are they supposed to walk?
Walking westbound, on Brighton, to then just walk on to Wilshire, there is no accommodation for people. A person has to hug the curb, while cars coming at you from Wilshire have no need to slow down.

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Walking westward here, note the sidewalk coming to an abrupt end/beginning.
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The same mailboxes from the previous picture. It's clear the priority of this intersection is that cars move fast through here. It feels that there was no consideration of people here. 
The point of all this is that when our city starts reconstruction of the MSA streets in a year, will the focus remain on getting cars to move fast, or will it focus on creating an atmosphere for people, and for a neighborhood the street is on. I worry that this intersection is a sign that people are not a consideration of the engineers rebuilding our streets.