2013: The year ahead in south Washington CountyA look at some issues that could make news this year in south Washington County.
By: Staff, South Washington County Bulletin
Last year was shaping up to be a big one for commercial development in Cottage Grove. Instead, a deal to remake the city’s largest commercial vacancy into a multi-tenant retail property fell through.
That has the city looking toward 2013, with officials like Mayor Myron Bailey expressing confidence the city is set to see a flurry of development and redevelopment this year.
“Do I see [developers] coming back with a proposal early (this) year? Yes,” Bailey said in November after the collapse of a developer’s planned purchase and redevelopment of the 68,000-square foot vacant Home Depot building at 7210 East Point Douglas Road.
Developers have already been in contact with the city about that site, Bailey said, and an empty Hollywood Video building at the corner of 80th Street and East Point Douglas is in the process of being redeveloped.
Walmart is another big reason 2013 could be a good year for commercial development in Cottage Grove. Though the retail giant’s proposed store on the Cottage View Drive-In theater site isn’t slated to open until 2014, officials have said its looming presence is likely to drive other developers to the site.
Will commission recommend a charter for Cottage Grove?
Appointed by a Washington County judge last year, Cottage Grove’s new Charter Commission is still wading through the process of deciding whether to write a charter that could change the way the city is governed.
That’s a decision that is expected to come later this year, the commission leaders said in a recent report to Washington County Judge John C. Hoffman. The time-consuming process of writing a proposed charter would then follow.
The commission began the process last year by seeking input from other cities that have undertaken the creation of a charter and then laid out a work plan for how to tackle the process. Now, the 12-person board is working through what, should they decide to put the document before voters, a governing charter for Cottage Grove would look like.
Already, the Commission has made some informal decisions. Should the group put a charter before voters, an electoral ward system won’t be a part of it after commission members determined Cottage Grove’s population doesn’t warrant a system where City Council members represent specific areas of the city.
Other topics put forward in the petition that forced the commission’s formation have not been addressed yet, like more controls on large city bonding projects and voters’ ability to recall elected officials.
Levy renewal possible
South Washington County School District residents may decide a school funding issue later this year.
Currently, District 833 has three operating levies totaling $19.5 million, or $929 per student.
One of the district’s property tax levies, totaling $3.4 million, or $164.38 per student, is scheduled to expire in 2013.
The 2013-14 school year will be the last year it will be in effect if a renewal is not requested this year.
District 833 School Board discussion about whether to renew the levy, amend it or let it fall off the tax rolls will ramp up in coming months.
The district’s other two levies expire in 2014 and 2017.
A levy referendum decision has not been reached, said district Communications Director Barb Brown. Many factors need to be considered including state school funding decisions made in this year’s legislative session, which begins next week.
The District 833 School Board must make a decision on whether or to seek renewal by the end of August. However, board members are hoping to reach a decision earlier than that, Brown said. If a levy renewal is sought, it will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. The board would decide on the levy amount and district residents would give it an up or down vote.
Will St. Paul Park see challengers?
Elections in St. Paul Park are, typically, quiet affairs — an odd-year election means few voters and little attention. In recent years, a lack of opposition has made it even quieter.
St. Paul Park voters will again go to the polls in 2013. But, will anyone run?
City Council members Sandi Dingle and Jeff Swenson, both first elected in 2005, face re-election in November. More than 11 months out, neither have announced their intentions, but both were re-elected to a second term unopposed in 2009.
Fellow council members Jennifer Cheesman and Tim Jones also ran unopposed in 2011. Among current council members, only Mayor Keith Franke ran in a contested race, defeating incumbent former mayor John Hunziker in 2011.
School Board members on Nov. 5 ballot
The big election year of 2012 will be followed by a far less cumbersome ballot in 2013.
The seats of four District 833 School Board members will be on the ballot in November: Marsha Adou, Tracy Brunnette, Laurie Johnson and David Kemper. None of the four has announced re-election plans yet.
In addition, district voters will fill a two-year seat on the board. That election is required to fill out the term of Leslee Boyd, who stepped down mid-term. The board is going to appoint someone to fill the seat until the Nov. 5 election.
The board seats held by Ron Kath and Jim Gelbmann are not on the ballot this year.
Crosswinds school future determined
A decision already delayed at least three times over a few months, the board that operates the Crosswinds integration school in Woodbury will decide in 2013 whether to operate the program for another year or turn it over to South Washington County Schools or another education entity.
The East Metro Integration District School Board has said it cannot financially sustain Crosswinds’ program for grades 6-10. It already plans to turn over a similar program for grades K-5 at the Harambee school in Maplewood.
Crosswinds is attractive to District 833 officials because it’s an attractive and well-maintained facility already located within district boundaries and presents a variety of program options, from becoming a fifth District 833 middle school to hosting choice programs.
The EMID School Board is expected to decide Jan. 23 whether to continue operating Crosswinds for another year, during which time the school’s long-term future would be determined.
New administrator in Newport
For the second time in four years, Newport is searching for a new city administrator in 2013.
Current administrator Brian Anderson, hired by the city in April 2009, will exit for the top job in out-state Faribault later this month, leaving a void atop the staff at Newport City Hall. The city will use the same search firm it used to hire Anderson in the search for his replacement, a move city officials said last month would speed the search.
Still, the process is expected to take up to four months, leaving the city without an administrator as it readies itself to the construction this year of a new park and ride facility on Maxwell Avenue near the confluence of U.S. Highway 61 and Interstate 494.