Hello, and Welcome! My name is Olga Parsons, and I am the Council Member representing Section 2 (Wards 3 and 4) of Crystal, Minnesota. This website is used to stay connected with the residents in Section 2. I will post information and updates on pertinent issues, and invite citizen feedback and participation. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns! I can be reached by phone, email, or filling out the form below.
Our 2018 Budget focus has been long term planning, and eliminating special assessments and debt. The Parks Master Plan was a big topic of discussion.
We started the Parks Master Plan because we had no clear direction, and no understanding of how much it costs to improve our parks, or even to maintain them. Now we have a clear picture of the costs. Maintenance is our first financial hurdle. Previously, the entire parks department received about $100K for improvements per year- replacement of aged equipment, fences, benches, roofs, etc. The process of thorough inventory revealed that maintenance actually costs over 300K/year. Over the years, our parks have been treading water at best, and will be falling into full decline if we do not provide adequate funds. During our recent budget talks, we have committed to provide at least this funding. The Master Plan outlines our entire wish list for improvements and development, but we are not bound to execute every detail. We can amend as financing dictated. Some ideas are grants, private/public partnership with business and civil groups, and selling unused park space. We will be discussing all the options in the near future. The Parks Department leadership is qualified and motivated to tackle this challenge, and the council is committed to investing in our public assets.
Check out the latest on the Parks Master Plan here.
On Septermber 5, the Council voted on the preliminary levy, and we have agreed on no more than 6% increase.
Adjustments in wages and insurance
Potential addition of another parks maintenance employee, or more capital Parks funding, or leave this off entirely, brining the levy lower.
Police (body cams, two additional officers)
Parks and capital maintenance
It is important to note that Crystal is dramatically different from other cities: we are eliminating hidden fees, debt service payments, and assessments. We want to be transparent and upfront- what you see is what you get on your tax bill. Your tax bill from Crystal is full disclosure. At this time, the budget cannot increase by more than 6%, but can only decrease. The maximum increase amounts to approximately $40 per capita. The amount you pay depends on your property values. Property values have seen a dramatic recovery, especially in our part of town, so residential tax load is increasing. Despite this, the amount you pay can actually go down or remain unchanged. Chances are, however, if you live in the north half of town, you will see an increase.
We are offering an opportunity for public comment on October 3, and also on December 5th, during which time we will have another presentation, and a final vote on the budget.
We are really getting a rail road crossing quiet zone! Construction begins in October, and the trains will sound their last horn sometime at the end of November. Great news for the Holidays, and the overall quality of life in Section 2. Update here.
Bass Lake Road and Hwy 81
We recently acquired a four-plex apartment building near the Bass Lake Road and Hwy 81 intersection. This property was notorious for its unkempt appearance and high crime rate, and was a nuisance to the neighborhood. On October 3rd, we will decide to either tear it down and offer the lot for a single family home construction, or make slight improvements to the parking configuration and put it back on the market. Demolishing the property will make the corner more favorable for a construction of three single family homes, while preserving the building will allow the market to dictate its future, leaving room for one single family home. Area residents greatly favor demolishing the property. Their consensus is that it will cut back crime, beautify the area, and prepare the way for positive development once light rail comes through. The private market can do all these things as well, but having the city take charge appears to guarantee a positive outcome. The price tag is hefty- well over $400,000. This money comes from the Economic Development levy, and we would possibly recoup some of the costs from the sale of the lots. Check out the EDA Work Session packet here, jump to page 130 to see the details. I'm currently taking phone calls and emails from residents with their opinions on the project.
Flashing yellow arrows are being installed at Bass Lake Road and West Broadway; 57th Ave and Broadway; Bass Lake Road and Sherborne Ave; West Broadway and 55th Ave. Flashing yellow arrows are surprisingly expensive, requiring a whole hardware update. Hennepin County and city of Crystal are splitting the cost on this set. Thanks to Public Works for making this a priority!
On a different note, we ask you not to flush "flushable" wipes. We approved a city code regulation "banning" the flushing of wipes. This really is an impossible code to enforce, but it communicates the dangers of these wipes to our infrastructure. Public Works employees actually have to pull them out from the sewer by hand, as they do not disintegrate like toilet paper. Here is a short video from Consumer Reports demonstrating the issue.
Congratulations to Mark Ray for receiving the American Public Works Association 2017 Myron Calkins Young Leader of the Year Award! Residents have reported high levels of satisfaction with Public Works since Mark took the reigns. He is considerate, professional, and deeply committed. We are so lucky to have you in Crystal, Mark. Learn about the award here.
Bass Lake Road Street Scape
Crystal Resident Survey
It's still going on! Give us your feedback here.
Openings on Commissions
We are looking for volunteers! Commissions serve the Council and Community by providing information and guidance on various issues. Please check here for details.
In the Community
Run for Rocco
Order your Crystal flag here.We also have buttons and decals available for low cost. You can pick them up at City Hall.
That's all for now! Thanks for reading!
Planning for the future of Crystal parks is in full swing. Having a plan will equip us to approach parks maintenance and recreation in a methodical and thoughtful manner. We have had several meetings to gather input from residents and other park users, along with a detailed and interactive survey. Parks Open House was held on Tuesday, March 14th, and residents were able to see development ideas for several of our major parks.
Of particular interest to residents in Section 2 is Mac Park. Several diligent neighbors have been advocating for this park for many years. Mac Park has a wealth of potential as a nature preserve, but is in dire need of improvement. We are pleased to have Three Rivers Park District partnering with Crystal on revitalizing this wonderful asset!
We continue to gather input for the Parks Master Plan. Please participate in this important process- your voice will shape the future of our parks! Click here for more information.
EDA Revitalization Plans
Along with parks planning, the Council is focusing on encouraging economic development and beautifying Crystal. Some parts of Crystal appear tired, shabby, and depressed. While the city has little influence on the private market, we can make amendments to our code, improve street conditions, beautify, and promote Crystal as a vibrant and healthy community. To help with this process, we have recently unveiled our new flag. Council Member Elizabeth Dahl has been a champion for the development of a symbol that strongly and positively represents Crystal. The fourteen-pointed star represents our fourteen neighborhoods, and the line represents movement and energy upward. Please read Elizabeth’s post for an in depth introduction of the flag.
During our EDA work session (listen here), we have also identified specific areas of improvement. Some of them are:
- Improve road conditions on 42nd and Douglas Drive, under-ground utilities, work with Almstead’s to improve traffic flow in and out of their parking lot, see if they would considered adding an outdoor patio.
- Beautify Douglas Drive and 36th Ave- that’s an area with healthy development, it just needs a little TLC to make it more attractive and inviting.
- We are currently working on plans to re-structure Bass Lake Road between the proposed LRT station and the Crystal Shopping Center (along Becker Park). There is a possibility of providing incentives to businesses to improve their store-fronts as well. This could be completed by fall of 2017. We’ve received a substantial grant from Hennepin County to fund the project.
These are just a few of the ideas we’re working on! Final plans will not be considered until April or May.
Phase 16 Skyway Street Reconstruction
This is our last phase! Keep an eye on this page for updates. We will be voting on the final assessment amount sometime in April. Here is the most recent letter that was sent out to residents. A Street Reconstruction Completion Celebration will be held on Wednesday, May 10, 6:00pm, at Skyway Park!
Police Body Cams
The process of implementing body cameras is slow and deliberate. At this time we are in the pilot stage, with plans for the department to be fully equipped in 2018. We recently approved the first purchase of cameras to be worn by select Officers. Once this program is fully implemented, the police department will be biannually reviewed by an independent body. The first review will be held in 2019. Click here for more information.
We have had a number of bowling events, the first annual Masquarade Ball, unveiling of the new Crystal Flag, presentation of the first ever Good Neighbor Award (Congratulations Shaun and Heather O'Hara!), Fire Fighters Fighting Hunger, and other wonderful events. Here are a few things on the horizon:
Plant Sale through the Crystal Fund for Community Progress
Click here for more info
Arbor Day and Parks Clean Up
Wednesday, May 3, 6:00pm, Yunkers Park.
Bee Friendly Flower Plant
Saturday, May 6th, 8:00am, Becker Park.
First Music in the Park of the season
Wednesday, May 10th, 7:30pm, Becker Park
Glow in the Dark Golf- Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
May 19th- Details Coming Soon!
Airport Open House
Keep an eye out for details! I hear there will be Fireworks this year.
Crystal Historical Society
The Community Outreach Task Force will be working on setting up a Historical Society. Details coming soon!
Last but not least, take a look at the summer Parks and Rec brochure! It’s my favorite so far, and it’s chock full of wonderful activities.
We are always looking for volunteers to help with events and projects. Sign up here.
Happy Holidays everyone! It's a great time of the year, especially now that the election season is over. We are eager to get to work with the newly elected council members. Click here to see the local results. While the post election transition can be a challenge, we are committed to keeping a sharp focus on keeping Crystal strong, vibrant, and inclusive. Here are some of the issues we've been working on:
2017 Proposed Budget
Click here for the 2017 Budget Presentation, and here for a more detailed layout. A comprehensive presentation will take place during the December 6th Truth in Taxation meeting. The meeting will be at 7:00 pm at City Hall.
Due to the complicated tax distribution formula, your property taxes may or may not go up this year. In many cases, your bill could actually be less! Generally, if your property value has increased, the amount of taxes you pay also increases, although that is not always the case. The residents in Section 2 will most likely see an increase due to the rapidly rising property values. During the housing market crash, this area devalued the most, and in recent years has recovered the most value. This is very good news, but it causes the homeowners to shoulder more of the tax burden. Despite the proposed increase in the levy, Crystal has the lowest per capita tax load among the surrounding cities. We have also cut taxes in other areas by working to reduce Crystal's debt, ending special assessments, and avoiding franchise fees. I am, however, aware of the fact that we must curb the upward trajectory of the tax levy itself. This is a priority, and we must plan now. The council will meet to discuss long-term cost-containment before the end of the year.
The Truth in Taxation hearing is on Tuesday, December 6th, 7:00 pm, at City Hall. Please contact me in advance with any concerns, questions, or suggestions. I will post the presentation here once it is up on the city's website.
Our parks are the backbone of what makes our community safe and strong. We need to have a plan in order to provide a thriving, exciting, and pleasant parks environment, while keeping costs down. The Council has decided to create a master plan for all our parks, and a separate plan for Becker Park. Becker Park is unique due to the proximity of the planned LRT station, and needs an update to make it more usable and safe. Community engagement is essential for this to succeed, and we will invite public input and participation during this process. The final master plan will empower us with a strategic method to approach all future park needs. We will have a repair and replacement schedule for infrastructure, be able to pinpoint areas for improvement, expansion, or replacement, and identify grant opportunities for new amenities. Having this plan will also enable our parks staff and commission volunteers to focus on providing quality service and creative recreation opportunities for our community! For more detailed information click here, (pages 45-104).
Phase 15 and 16 Street Reconstruction
Phase 15 reconstruction of the Twin Oaks neighborhood is finished, with only minor details left to complete. Rain gardens will be installed in the Spring of 2017, along with tree replacement, paving of the final layer of blacktop, and other final adjustments. See this newsletter for more information.
Phase 16 is in the early planning stages. The Council approved a resolution directing city staff to advertise for construction bids in the beginning of 2017. See this memo with the latest information. The next neighborhood meeting will take place mid-January, and will gather input on the proposed construction plans.
Freight Rail Quiet Zones
If all goes according to plan, the Quiet Zones on Douglas Drive and Broadway Ave will be in effect Fall of 2017! Residents overwhelmingly support this project, and I'm incredibly pleased to see it come together. Visit this page for more details.
We recently had a public open house to discuss station design. LRT staff presented us with a potential design for the station, and explained its various elements. All LRT stations are formulaic, but certain variations are allowed to reflect the surrounding community. The proposed composition for Bass Lake Road takes into account Becker Park and the Crystal Airport, with the roof of the station appearing to be a green airplane wing. At this point, these design elements are only ideas, and require input from the residents and city council. In addition, we are discussing the location of the Traction Power Sub-Station (TPSS). The TPSS is basically a very large box that makes the train run. Visual screening for residents on Elmhurst and Hampshire Aves is also under consideration. For more detailed information see this council packet (page 124), and this work session packet (page 36-100). You can listen to our discussion here (starts appx. 43 minutes in), and here (starts appx. 110 minutes in).
In Other News
Council Member Jeff Kolb keeps a regular blog, and has recently covered issues such as what residents can do regarding cars speeding on neighborhood streets, and the future of Crystal airport. Read his entires here.
Check out our Parks and Rec brochure! Their website, Facebook, and Twitter pages are all active, and provide regular information on what's happening.
Winterfest is coming up on Saturday, December 3rd.
The Light of Crystal recently adorned the Community Center trees with Holiday lights! Thanks to them, residents can take joy in a beautiful display of blue sparkling lights on Douglas Drive. We are so grateful! Take a look at this cool video. The Light of Crystal hosts Half Way Happy Hour every month, please join their Facebook page to learn when and where.
That's all for now! Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am always happy to hear from you.
Summer is turning out to be my favorite Council season. So many opportunities to socialize with neighbors, work on projects to better our town, and enjoy the amenities Crystal has to offer. A lot has been going on in the Council world and our community, and it will only get busier. We’re about to go into Budget sessions, and Elections are just around the corner. In this update, I will highlight the central topics for Section 2 and beyond.
Vision and Mission of Crystal
In my Spring update, I wrote about our efforts to create a cohesive vision and goals for Crystal. Here is what we have come up with so far:
Crystal is a city with small-town charm and big city access. Prosperous and fiscally sound, Crystal offers attractive, stable housing, as well as diverse business, cultural and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.
We provide high quality and cost effective municipal services and programs that make Crystal a desirable place to live, work, and play.
Our goals should all coalesce within the vision and mission of the city, creating a recipe for successful growth and stability.
We are proud to have Moody’s Investors Service reaffirm Crystal’s Aa2 bond rating. This means that Crystal has “stable financial operations, very strong reserves, below average debt and pension burden, and manageable fixed costs.” This is great news, and I commend all the hard work of our staff that makes this possible. The Council is further encouraged to strengthen our commitment to a debt-free, fiscally sound future. Moody’s rating shows that we are on the right path!
Budget work sessions are scheduled for August 11, 18, and 25th, with the preliminary Levy vote on September 6th.
Over the last several years, the lackluster health of the Crystal Shopping Center has been a serious concern. Many businesses left, and store fronts were left vacant. Now we are witnessing a tremendous turnaround. The Shopping Center is currently at 95% capacity, an excellent occupancy rate. Take a look at this Sun Post article for a more detailed analysis. Here are a couple of exciting new comers- Planet Fitness will be opening sometime within a year in the space previously filled by Michael’s, and Phoenix Salon Suites will have a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on July 28th. Click here for their Facebook invite. It’s also wonderful to see the de-malling and parking lot transformation of Crystal Gallery Mall. I am excited to see who fills the Old Country Buffet spot!
Crystal Community Outreach Task Force has been busy developing new ways to engage residents in service projects. So far, they have hosted a bee friendly flower plant, with plants donated by Crystal Fund for Community Progress, and developed a more accessible volunteer sign up system. They are also working with our Communications Director to design a new city flag. The Task Force will soon be recruiting more members, so stay tuned and don’t miss your chance to get involved with this exciting group.
During station area planning, Crystal residents identified a need for a pedestrian bridge over Highway 81. Pedestrian traffic is projected to increase four times, and combining it with heavy levels of car traffic could make access to the Bass Lake Road station hazardous. The Council’s Municipal Consent resolution included a request for a pedestrian bridge, and on July 12, 2016, we came to a consensus on the maintenance and ownership terms with Metro Transit. Unfortunately, on July 21, in an unforeseen and sudden action, the Central Management Committee voted NO on including a bridge in the scope of the project. Their reasoning for a No vote appeared to be entirely ignorant of our recent agreement with Metro Transit. This was a regrettable development, as we have worked with a mutual understanding that a bridge would be included. Just two weeks ago the LRT Project Office and City Council and Staff toured local bridges to consider various design possibilities. The discussion was positive, and only the terms and design details were under negotiation. My disappointment with CMC’s action is great- the idea for a bridge came out of the Community Input Sessions organized by the Project Office and Hennepin County. It is disheartening to see the input of our residents brushed aside. I advocated for this bridge to increase pedestrian safety- provide easier access to the Bass Lake Road station, along with the shopping district further west. The bridge was considered an important element to the success of the LRT station, and an overdue relief to the currently unsafe conditions of that intersection. Many months of work, negotiation, and ultimately consensus were negated by the hasty and inexplicable CMC vote on Thursday.
Here is Mayor Jim Adams’ statement on the matter:
I am extremely disappointed by today's CMC action related to the pedestrian bridge in Crystal.
The inclusion of a pedestrian bridge to provide a safe crossing of County Road 81 was a request that came directly from neighborhood residents during our community listening sessions. The city has been working in good faith with Metro Transit for several months on negotiations related to the bridge, and had recently reached an agreement regarding the ownership and maintenance of the bridge. Commissioner Opat had not given any indication of his position on the bridge prior to today's meeting. His public comments today blindsided us and were a betrayal of our shared constituents wishes.
In other Light Rail news, the final Environmental Impact Statement is now available for review, and the Metropolitan Council is taking comments until August 15th. Click here to view the report, and for instructions on submitting your input. If you feel strongly about the pedestrian bridge over Highway 81, please comment on this issue directly to the Met Council, and also let me know what you think.
Canadian Pacific Railroad Quiet Zones
Not surprising, public input has been overwhelmingly in favor of quiet zones at the Douglas Drive and West Broadway crossings. City staff submitted a Quiet Zone Assessment and Notice of Intent to the Federal Railroad Administration, MNDOT-Rail, and Hennepin County. While the Federal agency was approving of the plans, Hennepin county required more extensive safety measures. City Staff have amended the design plans, and are currently seeking approval from the County. Residents in the area will also receive the amended plans, and their input will be solicited. I am in favor of a quiet zone in this area. This is the only non-quiet zone crossing in the 6 miles between Zachary Lane in Plymouth and Humboldt Avenue in Minneapolis. Establishing a quiet zone in Crystal could boost property values, improve business conditions, and at the very least improve our quality of life. This has been an important issue for many residents over the years, especially now with the recent increase of freight traffic. More information will be posted here, and I will work to keep you updated.
Phase 15 and 16 Street Reconstruction
I stopped by to check on the progress of Twin Oaks neighborhood (Phase 15). It was great to see the sidewalk being used by kids on bicycles and rollerblades, and I noted the completed curve on Scott and Wilshire. You can view past and recent updates on this project here.
The Skyway neighborhood (Phase 16) planning is underway. Residents will receive notices in the mail detailing the process, along with important dates of neighborhood meetings and various milestones in the project. It is important to get involved early on, and not wait until the assessment hearing in the Spring of 2017. A Public Improvement Hearing will be held mid-October. Please see this page for more information.
Temporary Health Care Dwellings
For a great write-up on this issue, please read Council Member Kolb’s update. Also check out his May and June update for great coverage of other issues.
This is not an exhaustive list, please forgive me if I miss an event.
Check out their website for a detailed daily schedule.
Music in the Park- Splatter Sisters
Wednesday, July 27, 7pm, at Welcome Park, FREE!
Night to Unite
August 2nd- I’ll be attending as many block parties as I can. So excited to see everyone!
Wet and Wild Water Fun Day
Friday, August 5, 12:30-3pm, $4 per person for a wristband.
This is a great thrill for kids and adults!
St. Raphael Parish Festival
August 5-7th, More info here.
Village Fest- Serenity Village Church
August 11th, 6-10pm, More info here.
Crystal Lions Corn Feed and Antique Car Run
Saturday, August 13, 2pm, Becker Park.
West Metro Fire is recruiting!
With the LRT Municipal Consent far behind us (read more here and here), the Council has been focusing on long range planning. In order to identify tangible goals and achieve them, we have to first establish a vision for the city. Where do we want to go as a community? How do we get there? What is great about Crystal, what do we want to preserve or improve? What works for us, and what doesn’t? These are some of the questions involved in this process, and the discussion so far has been fruitful. Currently, we have identified several areas of focus:
Productive working relationships
The Council and the city manager, along with senior staff, should have a unified vision and maintain a sharp focus on agreed upon goals. We are already blessed with strong leadership both on the Council and among the Staff. We enjoy working together, and strive to cultivate relationships of mutual respect and understanding. This foundation is critical to the overall health of our city- most, if not all, of what we want to accomplish flows from this point. We want to strengthen this foundation further to ensure productivity.
Fiscally stable future
One of the ways in which we can help eliminate wasteful spending is to plan for a debt free future. Debt servicing is costly, and it’s a shame to lose money when, with proper planning, we could put every dollar to good use. In the same vein, we would like to eliminate the use of special assessments for street maintenance and reconstruction. As demonstrated by the recent Phase 15 Public Hearing, special assessments are a difficult burden for our residents. Compared to projects funded through taxes, this method is also more expensive. We need to establish a funding method that ensures an equitable and well-managed future for our neighborhoods.
Engage more residents in community and city projects
Already, Crystal is fortunate to have a vibrant community of service-oriented individuals. Crystal Fund for Community Progress, Light of Crystal, Lions, and other volunteer organizations are doing valuable and excellent work. We would like to encourage and promote this activity. There are many potential volunteer projects organized by the city, but it is necessary for us to establish a better network with existing groups so we don’t take away from, or duplicate, their efforts. This way, there are more opportunities for residents to get involved, and we can be more productive.
Attract more businesses to Crystal
Creating an atmosphere in which local businesses can thrive requires us to address several ongoing issues. The City Code Task Force is already working to update the Code. Ensuring that it is easy for businesses to actually start here is a must. Public safety, maintaining clean and strong neighborhoods with quality homes and curb appeal- these conditions align together to make our community an attractive place for businesses. It also takes a bold marketing strategy to promote our city, and time.
This is an ongoing discussion- we’ve had one work session dedicated to this topic, with more to come. This is a conversation everyone can participate in, and I welcome your input. Please don’t hesitate to call or email me with your thoughts!
In Other News
- We are currently considering establishing quiet zones for the Canadian Pacific railroad crossings at Douglas Drive and West Broadway. Click here for more details.
- A majority of Crystal Council Members signed a letter calling to reform the Met Council. For more information, please read Council Member Kolb’s article here. I was one of the signatories.
- Gene Hackett, our Parks and Recreation Director, has retired after many years in Crystal. We are going to miss her! Read this Sun Post article about her long and rich career with the city.
There are so many things going on this spring! This is an exciting time to get involved.
Arbor Day Park Clean Up
Basset Creek Clean Up
Jail and Bail
Tech Dump Electronics Drop Off
Saturday, May 21, 9am at the Crystal Cove Pool. Paper shredding services provided. Click Here for more information.
Bee friendly flower plant at Becker Park
Planning is in full swing! Check out their website here.
Father’s Day Airport Open House and Fly
Here is their website with more information.
The February 2nd Public Hearing has been rescheduled due to the heavy snow fall. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, February 16th, 7:00pm, in the Council Chambers. This Sun Post article gives more detail.
Speaking of heavy snow fall- Click here for an explanation of snow plowing procedures in Crystal.
LRT Municipal Consent
Here is a great article by Council Member Kolb on Municipal Consent. He details the timeline and general process, and our options. We are currently working on securing the Bass Lake Road pedestrian crossing over Hwy 81, with the pedestrian bridge as a favored option. Joe Bowen of the Sun Post wrote this article summarizing the general feeling on this issue. New designs of the pedestrian bridge were presented to the Council during the January 25th work session. Residents also participated in the LRT Station Design workshop that evening. From the input I have received, I understand that the pedestrian bridge would be a welcome solution to the already snarled intersection. Having the bridge as a viable option is an essential sticking point for me- our residents must have a full range of choices. The next step in the Municipal Consent process is the Open House and Public Hearing on February 2nd. The Open House will be held from 5:30-7:00pm in the Community Room at City Hall. The Public Hearing takes places in the Council Chambers during the 7pm meeting. It is very important for us to hear your opinion on the LRT project, and I hope many of you can make it. I am currently on maternity leave, so I will be watching the meeting from home. Your phone calls and emails are welcome, however! Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions and concerns.
Recap of January 19th Council Meeting
My baby boy, Emanuel David, was born on January 17th. We are both healthy and recovering well. I can't wait for everyone to meet him! For now, we are staying put at home, but I anticipate returning to full time Council work in the next two or three weeks. Here he is just two days old.
I’ve been offline for a while, and need to catch up on some current issues of importance to Section 2. For an excellent December overview, which covers the Budget and Utility Rates, please read Council Member Kolb's update here. Take a look at that stack of reading material! On to my update:
LRT Municipal Consent
We are in the Municipal Consent stage of the LRT project. The Blue Line Open House on Thursday, January 14th, 5:30-7pm, at the Crystal City Hall Community Room. The preliminary design plans of the project will be presented, and community input taken. The City Council will also hold a Public Hearing on February 2, 7:00pm, City Hall, Council Chambers.
Station Area Planning
Community members have been actively participating in the Station Area Planning phase of the project. One of the issues has been the use, and potential improvement, of Becker Park. Residents have singled out Becker Park as one of our most important public assets. The park is in need of updates, and there is significant excitement about the possibilities. Residents and the Council agree that Becker Parks should remain its current size; we now need careful planning and community input to bring out the best in this space. Another issue is the pedestrian crossing over Hwy 81. The current design and traffic conditions of the 81 and Bass Lake Road intersection make it nearly impossible for pedestrians to cross safely. There are several options to improve this intersection and make it more user friendly, including building a pedestrian overpass. Click here to learn more about Municipal Consent and Station Area Planning.
Freight Rail Quiet Zones
City Staff are officially researching the establishment of Quiet Zones at the Canadian Pacific intersections at Douglas Drive and West Broadway. Staff is working directly with SRF (the city's quiet zone consultant), and representatives from Hennepin County, MnDOT-Rail, Federal Railroad Administration, and Canadian Pacific railroad. A meeting was recently held on the actual rail crossings to review the options. This issue will be discussed in more detail at a work session in approximately one to two months.
New Tenant at the Crystal Shopping Center
Robbinsdale School District plans to open an educational facility at the Crystal Shopping Center. This facility will be geared towards children with disabilities and adult learners. The leased space will be 42,000 square feet in the south two- thirds of the west building. Most of the space is currently vacant, with the Dollar Tree and Pro Nails Salon moving to another unit within the Shopping Center. Both the Council and Paster Properties feel that this is a positive step for the area- expanding the Shopping Center’s use by serving the community, and bringing in more consumers for established businesses. The proposed opening date for the school is July 2016.
City Code Review Task Force
City Code Review Task Force is making great progress! This Sun Post article gives a good overview of their work.
Looking for Commissioners
We are recruiting volunteers for our Commissions! Click here for more information.
I am due to have my third baby at the end of January, and will be on a semi-official maternity leave for approximately 6 weeks. In the meantime, I will be watching the council meetings and listening to the work sessions. My plan is to come back as soon as possible, with baby in tow.
A detailed summary of each Council Meeting is now available in this handy format:
Upcoming Community Events
Light of Crystal Half Way Happy Hour
Friday, January 15th, 5:30pm, Buffalo Wild Wings
Quad Community Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Bowling Fundraiser
Fundraiser to benefit our local Service Members and Veterans.
Sunday, January 31
Sign up at Doyle's Bowling & Lounge begins at 10:30 a.m.
Bowling begins at 11:00 a.m.
(includes 3 games, shoes & lunch)
In September, we've had the Public Works Grand Opening, voting on the preliminary Levy, Run for Rocco, and Council members bagging groceries at Cub, among many other things. I'll provide an update on the biggest issues currently at play.
On September 1st, the council voted to set the preliminary Levy at a 3% increase. This means that the increase cannot exceed 3% when we vote on the final Levy in December. Please see my last post for background. The EDA Levy was also increased by 3%. The EDA is a separate entity, and has its own budget and Levy. As I’ve stated before, I would like to continue working with staff to find ways of lowering this number for the final December vote. Council Member Kolb talks about the Budget process in his council recap here.
METRO Blue Line Extension
The plans for the Blue Line Light Rail are progressing. On Monday, September 28th, community members met to identify strengths and weaknesses of the area immediately surrounding the proposed LRT station. The meeting was very well attended, and residents provided thoughtful and insightful input. For many years, The LRT project has been planned and managed by groups outside of our community, but the people who really matter are Crystal residents. We know and love Crystal, and our opinions are essential to any plans that these groups may have. The Federal Transit Administration, Hennepin County, Met Council, the Counties Transit Improvement Board, and MNDot are all very powerful entities, and our own community may seem lost in the shuffle. It’s essential that we are present to advocate on behalf of our city. There is also a myriad of committees- Mayor Adams and I are members of the Corridor Management Committee and the Steering Committee. We also have the Crystal Community and Business Advisory Committees, and the Community Working Group. The CWG is focused on managing the plans for the area immediately surrounding the proposed station, and is made up of residents, council members (Julie Deshler and myself), and city staff. All these committees are active for the purpose of bringing the community's interests to the table. Here is a link to all the committees involved, and the dates on which they meet: METRO Blue Line Committees.
One specific LRT issue that the Council recently resolved is the West Broadway “S Curve” intersection at 48th Avenue. This intersection will not be functional as is if Light Rail is built, and we had to negotiate with the County to find an appropriate solution. We did not want the burden of remediation alone, as the County suggested, but we did arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. You can see the proposed layout here. Hennepin County is responsible for construction, and will continue to maintain West Broadway as a County road.
Future Meetings and Opportunities to participate:
Please give your feedback on the LRT station by filling out this survey. In the Seach window at the top left corner type "Crystal", and you will be directed to the appropriate section.
The next community Open House will be on Monday, October 19, 5:00–7:30 p.m. at the Crystal Community Center. This meeting will provide information on the results of the Environmental Analysis. Click here for more details.
Many residents in Section 2 have expressed a desire for creating Quiet Zones at train intersections, specifically at Douglas Drive. City Staff are currently researching the details of this project. The Federal Government regulates all laws pertaining to freight rail, but the financial burden of establishing Quiet Zones falls directly on local communities. Here is some basic information on what is involved in this process. This is a lengthy and expensive project, and often times, cities may receive County or State funds to make it possible. You can contact our County Commissioner Mike Opat, and State Representatives Lyndon Carlson and Ann Rest, and let them know that this is important for your quality of life as a Crystal resident.
Click Here to contact Commissioner Opat
Click Here to contact Representative Carlson
Click Here to contact Representative Rest
Twin Oaks Reconstruction
On October 1st, the City held an informational meeting for those in the Twin Oaks Neighborhood. Earlier, Julie Deshler and I door knocked on Wilshire Ave to inform residents that a sidewalk was proposed for their street. During the open house, residents were polled on their preference regarding the sidewalk. The jury on it is still out, so there is plenty of time for residents to weigh in. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your opinion on this issue.
A Public Hearing will take place on Tuesday, October 6th, 7:00pm, at City Hall. This is another opportunity for residents to give their input on this project.
The Council recently came to a consensus on how to improve the function of our Commissions. This conversation spanned the entire summer, and I am confident that we have reached a good conclusion. Here are the changes that we hope to implement:
- Move to annual recruitment and interview process for commissions.
- The whole Council interviews candidates.
- We will be working with the City Code Review Task Force to move Commissions from the Code to Resolutions.
- Implement annual orientation for Commissioners.
- Formalize expectations of Commissions, with a work plan and annual reporting- There will be a whole work session on this soon.
- Require biennial review of Commissions.
- Increase City Staff presence during Commission meetings.
I feel that these changes will put Commissions on the forefront of Council priorities, improve communication and our ability to work more cohesively.
City Code Review Task Force
I recently attended a City Code Review Task Force meeting. The caliber of work was impressive, and I am looking forward to discussing their ideas with the whole Council! I am pleased to see diversity of background and opinion in this group, and feel confident that their proposals are made with careful deliberation. Simplifying the City Code is one of our top priorities, and we cannot do this without the work of our volunteers. Thank you to all who have stepped up to this challenging task!
Council Member Kolb wrote a recap of this event. You can read it here.
Here is what's coming up in Crystal!
Crystal Shopping Center’s Halloween Event
Click Here for the Facebook Event Page
Fourth Annual Herzing from the Heart- Healthy Halloween Fun
Light of Crystal Half Way Happy Hour
Thursday October 15th at El Loro, 5:00pm.
Are you interested in getting to know your Crystal neighbors? You are invited to this casual and fun social gathering!
Click Here for the Facebook Event Page.
That's all for now! As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns!