Cottage Grove City Council candidate Q-and-A: Jen PetersonA Q-and-A with Cottage Grove City Council candidate Jen Peterson
What is the biggest issue facing Cottage Grove in the next four years and how would you propose to address it?
The biggest issue I see for Cottage Grove in the next four years is already very apparent as an issue now. I have been hearing this from people for the last few years: There is limited rental housing available for families, seniors and individuals now, and as the city continues to grow, this will only get worse. Our young adults heading out on their own, seniors looking to downsize and growing families alike are having a very hard time finding a place to rent, especially something in the more affordable range. Luxury or upper-end rentals are not available, either.
We need to have more rental housing options across the range of income levels and through the life cycle. Not everybody wants to purchase a home right now. The demand for rentals is increasing all over. Businesses look at the population when considering coming here. We need to have appealing numbers to attract businesses. More businesses means more tax base, more jobs and more retail options to keep or bring spending here.
I am supportive of thoughtful long-term planning and making sure land use and zoning and infrastructure plans are set in a way that will help make it easier to work with housing developers. Being receptive to developers, easy to work with and creative will help in this goal of increasing the number of rental homes. We must be assertively seeking out these development opportunities.
Why are you most qualified/best choice to serve as a member of the Cottage Grove City Council?
I am very qualified to continue to serve as council member because I have been on the council for the past four years. I helped, with my fellow council members and city staff, to guide Cottage Grove through some very tough years and things are looking up. I am a very engaged member of the community and serve as a volunteer in many ways. This includes non-profit board membership with Stone Soup Thrift Shop and the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. I’m also a steering committee member with Cottage Grove Beyond the Yellow Ribbon working on supporting our military families. I also am the site coordinator for Fare For All, and two Washington County committees related to housing and community development. I am well informed on transportation matters and serve on regional committees related to that as well. I am the third generation of my family to live here and the fourth and fifth generation of my family are here as well. I am highly committed to my hometown.
Why has the City Council’s approach the past four years to major issues — like the new City Hall, attracting commercial investment, budgeting and property taxes — been the right one? Or, is there something you would change?
I think the council has taken the right approach on most matters in the last four years. We made some great changes in both staffing and the overall philosophy on business attraction and retention. Teaming up with other local communities for shared services not only helped to save each city some money, but also helped better connect our communities. We made much needed facility improvements and helped put workers on the job at the same time. We also took big steps in being more environmentally sensitive.
Occupation: City Council member
Lived in Cottage Grove: 18 years (was born in city)
Family: Married to husband Tony; three sons, ages 21, 23 and 26, and two daughters, ages 12 and 28; one granddaughter.