Land Use Committee
August 29, 2011, Street Car Station
Members Present: Chris Harkness, Linda Hinderscheit, Bill Sylvester and Kim Moon, Chair
Others Present: Mike Maglich, Paul Setter (both of MGM), John Kohler of Semper Development, Jessie Bronk, District 10 Community Organizer, and approximately 21 members of the community.
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 7:02 p.m.
Approval of Minutes: The minutes of the 8-1-2011 meeting were approved.
Chair Report: The last meeting of the Land Use Committee was centered around Java Train’s request for District 10 support for their liquor license application. The D10 Community Council Board voted to support the Java Train’s request at their August 16th meeting.
MGM/Walgreens Development Proposal: John Kohler, architect with Semper Development, presented the most recent revision of the Walgreens site plan for the southwest corner of the Lexington-Larpenteur intersection (current site of MGM Liquors). The previous site plan had been presented to the community and the D10 Community Council Board on May 10, 2010.
The most recent site plan maintains the 25 foot green space setback from Lexington Ave. (not including the sidewalk). However, the building has been moved up to the sidewalk on Larpenteur. John Kohler explained that this was required by City of St. Paul design requirements (“hold the corner”). The square footage of the store has increased from 14,328 square feet in the last plan to 14,820 square feet in the current plan (an increase of 492 square feet). The exterior of the building is primarily brick. There is no tall tower in the current design. The Nine parking stalls were eliminated from the last plan. The current plan does have more than the minimum number of parking stalls now required by the City of St. Paul. Because permeable asphalt needs to be vacuumed in order to remain permeable, rain run-off from the site will instead be diverted to two water detention systems underground, where it will gradually drain into the soil, resulting in less run-off than from the current site. The sidewalks will be rebuilt and will be ADA-compliant.
Plans for the alley are to close it off from the residential area, and there is a turn-around in the site plan. MGM/Semper/Walgreens are working with the city on the required dimensions of the alley turn-around. The alley will need to be vacated by the City of St. Paul. Because residents pay for their own snow removal in alleys in St. Paul, this issue will have to be addressed for the turn-around. One resident suggested that as a goodwill measure that Walgreens pay for the alley to be plowed. Other residents expressed the opinion that they would continue to pay for plowing the alley themselves. Paying for snowplowing in the turnaround will be an item for continued neighborhood discussion. The site plan calls for a wooden fence to border the property, including the alley turn-around. Several residents who share the alley asked that the fence surrounding the turn-around be constructed of brick. There is enough space along the fence for landscaping. Walgreens will be the tenant of future investor(s)/landlord(s) who will buy the property. Walgreens will be responsible for all the upkeep of the property.
The height of the lights will be kept to 20 feet and bulbs will be inside shoebox fixtures, reducing ambient light into the neighborhood. The hours of operation have yet to be determined, but will probably be the same as the current Walgreens just north of Larpenteur. John Kohler reported that they are telling Walgreens that they will need to keep their garbage inside the building.
The developers will be responsible for paying for a traffic study. An independent firm will be contracted to work under the direction of traffic engineers from the City of St. Paul and Ramsey County. Plans are to complete the traffic study in September. The traffic study will be discussed at the next Land Use meeting (October 3, 2011). This meeting will again be held at the Streetcar Station to accommodate community input. The traffic study will look at surrounding intersections as well as ingress/egress to the property. The location of the drive through is of grave concern to the neighborhood. It is located near the ingress/egress to Lexington Ave. Left turns in and out of the commercial property to and from Lexington will be problematic at peak traffic times when traffic routinely backs up past Hoyt. Residents contend that it is very likely that traffic will divert to California Ave. A suggestion was made by a resident to consider traffic control/calming measures for California Ave.
Concern was expressed about the five vacant houses owned by MGM on the northwest corner of California and Lexington. The plan remains for one of the homes to be removed, and garages and driveways built for the remaining four homes. Mike Maglich, of MGM, indicated that they will rehab the homes in order to make them saleable. They will be sold to private homeowners.
The current residential property (backyards of five MGM-owned homes), which will be used for the commercial development, will need to obtain rezoning approval from surrounding residents within 100 feet and the zoning commission. A concern was expressed about this being precedent-setting for the area. This is a concern that has been discussed before through the work of the Lexington-Larpenteur Node Study ad hoc Committee. Councilmember Lee Helgen had indicated that the City looks at each case individually and does not consider precedence. Another resident asked what guarantees the neighborhood has that the design details will actually be implemented. The District 10 Council makes recommendations. The Planning Commission and the City Council write the final conditions. The City of St. Paul takes the recommendations of district councils very seriously.
After the Land Use Committee obtains the information from the traffic study and drafts an action item to go to the Board, the Board and the community will vote on the issue. The earliest this issue could go to the D10 Board is probably November. The Bylaws committee is working to clarify how many community votes MGM gets. Eight MGM representatives voted in the last community vote on this issue in May 2010.
If anyone wishes to comment further, they may do so by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Information will continue to be posted on the District 10 website as it becomes available.
Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 8:32 p.m.
Next meeting: The next Land Use committee meeting will be held at on Monday, October 3, 2011 at the Street Car Station.
Future meetings: October 24, December 5 and January 2.
Minutes recorded by Linda R. Hinderscheit, committee member
These minutes are not official until approved.