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Parks Master Plan

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.

Community

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

Minnesota State Band

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. 

http://www.crystalairportopenhouse.com/

 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. 

 

 

 

 

butterflySummer 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:

Proposed Vision

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.

Proposed Mission

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. 

Fiscal Matters

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. 

Local Business

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!

Community Engagement

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.

Council Members Elizabeth Dahl and Julie Deshler planting flowers for bees
Council Members Elizabeth Dahl and Julie Deshler planting flowers for bees

Light Rail

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. 

Happy bridge tourists on a Metro Transit bus
Happy bridge tourists on a Metro Transit bus
One of the pedestrian bridges on our tour
One of the pedestrian bridges on our tour

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.

Looking at Twin Oaks Park from Scott Ave N
Scott and Wilshire curve
Scott and Wilshire curve
Scott Ave N to be completed
Scott Ave N to be completed

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. 

Community Events

This is not an exhaustive list, please forgive me if I miss an event.

Crystal Frolics

Check out their website for a detailed daily schedule.

Frolics2016

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!

http://wmfrd.org/

Firerecruiting

bloomWith 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.

Community Events

There are so many things going on this spring! This is an exciting time to get involved.

Arbor Day Park Clean Up

Arbor-Day

 

 

 

 

 

Basset Creek Clean Up

Bassetcreekcleanup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jail and Bail

JailandBail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

BeeFlowerPlantatBeckerPark

 

 

 

 

 

Crystal Frolics

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.