Town Hall Forum Q&A

The following are answers to questions from residents during Town Hall Forums conducted in October, 2018. 

What's happening with the Community Center? What are the plans for the current building? What about senior programming?

  • While a new community center is still under consideration, future plans no longer focus exclusively on a partnership with the YMCA. In November 2018, the City Council decided to research other options while keeping the door open for future conversations with the YMCA.
  • The City Council expressed a preference to build a new community center on the northwest side of Bloomington Civic Plaza. It is anticipated that senior programming offered at Creekside would be incorporated into the new community center.    
  • The City is investigating alternatives for constructing and operating a community center. A market research survey provided information on the types of programs and activities that residents would like to see in a new facility. Staff are developing a menu of services, offerings and amenities, as well as researching costs associated with constructing and operating the facility. The City Council is expected to make a decision on next steps by the end of first quarter 2019.

What’s happening with the Minnesota River Valley State Trail project and why is the City supporting it?

  • Authorized by the State Legislature in 1969, the City has long supported the MRVST. It is acknowledged in several adopted City plans.
  • The 13-mile segment through Bloomington is one of the last segments needed to complete the trail from Fort Snelling State Park to LeSueur, MN.
  • The trail will provide accessible access to the Minnesota River Valley in Bloomington, giving a broad range of users the chance to enjoy one of the City’s most unique assets.
  • On November 5, 2018, the City Council authorized execution of a cooperative agreement with the State allowing the DNR to construct the State Trail on City-owned land in the river valley.
  • The State (DNR) has completed plans for the trail and is in the process of reviewing construction bids for the first phase of the trail (Lyndale to Old Cedar Ave bridge).
  • The DNR anticipates beginning construction of the trail in 2019 on City-owned land between Lyndale Ave and the Xcel transmission line.
  • Minnesota River Valley State Trail

What are the future plans for Hyland Greens?

Hyland Greens will be managed and operated by the City of Bloomington for the near future.  

What is the plan for Normandale Lake?

This project is directed by the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District. They have drawn down the lake drawn to the level that they are holding it for the winter. This will allow the frost to freeze Curly-leaf Pondweed turions (fancy word for weed seeds). The September rains that refilled the pond did not impact the overall schedule of the first phase. 

The next steps include spot treatment of the Curly-leaf Pondweed and the alum treatment. The exact timing of these will be determined once the effectiveness of the freeze out is evaluated next spring.

What is the plan for 494?

MnDOT is looking at preliminary design and the associated environmental reviews from the airport to Highway 169. MnDOT seeks to improve the reliability of the average rush hour trip, improve safety, construct managed lanes and improve the drainage systems to reduce localized flooding.

What steps are being taken to expand mass transit?

Bloomington is working with Metro Transit along the Orange line (which recently received its funding) including developing a 98th Street Station Area Plan and improvements in the Penn American District. The City also teamed with Metro Transit to make neighborhood improvements, such as adding sidewalk and a concrete pad along Chicago Avenue. (Metro Transit provided the shelter)

The City continues to work with transit providers in the South Loop and are excited for the upgrade to the MOA Transit Station, which is the top transportation hub in the state and serves more than 5,000 people a day.

What improvements are planned for City facilities? BIG? Dog parks? Warming houses?

  • $1.5 million in improvements at BIG will start in April 2019.  The improvements include locker room upgrades, ADA seating, and a remodel to the front entrance.
  • Bloomington has long wanted a dog park on the east side but suitable land has been difficult to find. The search for land will continue in order to provide this community amenity to east side residents.
  • Several warming houses are in need of reconstruction and are listed on the City’s CIP. The buildings at Running Park and Westwood Park are on the current CIP for replacement in 2023. The buildings cost approximately $1.3 million each, with the most likely funding source being Charter Bonds.  

What is the City doing to prevent coyote attacks?

The City is alerting residents when attacks occur and informing residents on how to haze the animal. There is a map marking where coyote attacks/sighting have taken place in the last several years.

Living with coyotes is the new norm in Bloomington. The problem exists in neighboring communities and will not be going away. Residents should adopt new practices to protect their pets. (Accompanying them outdoors, carrying noise makers while on walks, etc.)

Are there plans to revitalize the intersection of Old Cedar Avenue and Old Shakopee Road?

The City Council identified the intersection of Old Cedar Avenue and Old Shakopee Road as a neighborhood commercial priority area for enhancement. Staff has had conversations with property owners in the area and with developers who are interested in the area. While private property owners will ultimately decide what happens on their property, the City is looking at ways to encourage and facilitate redevelopment or enhancement. No formal applications have been received as of November 2018.

Hennepin County is also looking at roadway improvements at the intersection to help traffic flow. The opening of the Long Meadow Bridge bike and pedestrian trail and the extension of a trail from that bridge to the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes trails will highly benefit the area.

What is the City doing to attract more small businesses, breweries, etc.?

While the private market makes decisions on whether or not to open a business, the City plays a role by making sure City Codes are in place to allow desired uses and reduce burdens for businesses to open.

The City recently amended City Code to allow new development applications to be approved quicker and with fewer meetings. The City is drafting Code amendments for consideration to make restaurants permitted uses rather than conditional uses, avoiding public hearings altogether. The City is also looking at Code amendments and potential City Charter changes to allow breweries, distilleries, taprooms and cocktail rooms.

What is the City doing about vacant commercial buildings?

Two vacant commercial buildings were recently demolished at the corner of American Boulevard and Knox Avenue, making way for an HRA assisted redevelopment called Penn American Phase III. Staff has strongly encouraged private entities to acquire the vacant former gas station at 90th Street and Penn Avenue as well as the vacant former oil change facility near France Avenue and Old Shakopee Road. 

What is the City doing to offer more affordable housing throughout the City?

Adding affordable housing is one of the City Council’s key strategic priorities and many efforts are underway. The Bloomington HRA is leading the charge by assisting various affordable housing developments. 

  • Earlier this year, 32 affordably priced units opened at Palacio del Sol, 9101 Old Cedar Avenue. 
  • In 2018, the City approved the construction of 42 affordable units (108 Place Apts.) at 108th St. west of France Avenue, 43 affordable units (Penn  Place Phase II) at Penn Avenue north of 102nd Street, and 40 affordable units as part of the 402 unit BCS III development in South Loop. 
  • The City is currently reviewing a proposal to add 50 additional affordable units as part of the 248 unit Penn American III development in the Penn American District. 
  • In all, there are 334 affordable units currently at various stages in the development pipeline.

The City is also focused on preserving existing affordable housing, often called Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing or NOAH. A work group consisting of housing developers, housing advocates, community leaders and City staff has been meeting regularly to work on the issue. 

In 2018, the City adopted a fair housing policy and a 90-day tenant protection ordinance. City staff is currently working on a comprehensive affordable housing ordinance.

What is the City doing to combat the Emerald Ash Borer?

The City is working to reduce the impact of EAB by removing 8200 public ash trees over 20 years. Implementation began in 2014 with 632 trees removed so far. The goal for removals in 2018 is 400. This removal activity is expected to increase over the next five years peaking at 800 annually for three years 2023-2025.

To ensure future tree canopy cover, Parks and Recreation Maintenance is planting an equal number of trees in Bloomington parks. Greater diversity is key to the future resiliency of Bloomington’s urban forest, so the 300 new trees planted in 2018 came from a mix of 20 different varieties.

Is anything being done to improve street lighting?

Engineering reviews residential street light requests based on a number of criteria including spacing of existing facilities and to ensure intersections are lit.

What are we doing to make bike friendly roads? Are new bike lanes being used?

For each construction project that Engineering undertakes, there is a completed Complete Streets checklist. This reviews existing conditions, demand for facilities, reviews other plans and policies (like the Alternative Transportation plan) and looks for connections from other jurisdictions. Engineering also takes bicycle and pedestrian counts every year which show that new bike lanes are being used.

How does staffing of police at MOA work?

Lodging and liquor taxes supplement funding for police at MOA. MOA also pays for officers at an overtime rate during peak times and for events. 

Will there ever be weekly recycling or curbside organics?

The garbage and recycling program is set for the next few years. Council will be reviewing options when they discuss a future contract between the end of 2019 and 2020. City staff will analyze and present options regarding recycling and organics waste to Council at that time.

What about outlawing plastic bags at stores/charging for plastic bags?

The City of Bloomington has a Sustainability Commission that sets annual work plan goals and priorities regarding Sustainability. This is not on the 2019 draft work plan but is a topic on their radar and may be considered in the future.

Why are some parking lots for City parks, such as Dred Scott Playfield, cleared of snow during winter?

There are several reasons City parks' parking lots are plowed in winter:

  • Not all parks close for the winter.
  • Access for emergency vehicles (Police, Fire, EMS) may be needed.
  • Access to private cell towers and phone equipment facilities is needed.
  • Concession businesses at Dred Scott (batting cage and putt-putt golf) remain open.
  • Some lots are used for park-and-ride services.
  • Storm drains along curbs need to be cleared in order to function.