St. Paul Spotlight’s News page is a great place to find out about meetings and events going on in St. Paul neighborhoods. At this time, our focus is on what’s happening with St. Paul’s local district councils.

If you know of any events in your neighborhood which you believe to be of general interest to others, please let us know.

You can reach us:
Telephone or text: (651) 321-8078
Email: info@stpaulspotlight.com

St. Paul City Elections 2021

Tuesday, November 2, 2021, is election day for the city of St. Paul.  Voters will choose a mayor, school board representatives, and decide whether or not to amend our City Charter to implement rent control. 

The polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm.  To locate your polling location, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website.

For information about the 8 candidates who filed for mayor, see: August 15, 2021, Pioneer Press article.

For information about the school board candidates and issues, see: October 31, 2021, Pioneer Press article.

For information about the St. Paul city rent control ballot issue, see: October 28, 2021, Pioneer Press article.

Civil Fines Charter Amendment Defeated

The Charter Commission defeated the City Council’s request to give our City Council the power to impose fines of up to $2000 for any violation of any ordinance.  On October 18, 2021, the Commission voted against the proposed charter amendment with 6 members in favor and 7 members opposed.  This was the City Council’s second defeat in its effort to grant itself authority to impose fines for any ordinance violation.

See the Pioneer Press October 19, 2021, news article.

 

City Civil Fines

The City is seeking a proposed charter Amendment to allow it to issue “administrative citations” for violations of any city code.  “Administrative citation” is a way of saying the City would impose monetary fines through a process controlled by the City which would preclude the oversight of a Ramsey County judge.

Why is the City doing this?

The City claims that it needs a faster way of gaining compliance with its code violations.  It also claims that issuance of a “civil fine” instead of a criminal misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor, will avoid subjecting residents to the distress that results from criminal citations which can be barriers for obtaining employment or housing.

What Would This Change?

Fine Limit Will Double:
$2000 “Administrative” Fine vs $1000 Misdemeanor

It appears that this “tool” is another means to generate more City revenue.  In fact, with a limit of $2000 per violation for any city ordinance it could generate much more revenue.

The current system that attaches misdemeanor penalties to city code violations limits the fine to $1000, the maximum fine for a misdemeanor.  In contrast, the City proposes to raise its new civil fine limit to $2000 per violation.

What the City Does Not Say

The City fails to explain how much easier it will be to collect its larger fines.

Claiming its “civil” fine would reduce the negative impacts associated with a criminal record, the City fails to point out all of the procedural rights its administrative process would take away from our citizens. Its proposed “city managed” civil process strips away important legal safeguards that protect anyone charged with a misdemeanor.

City Controls the Administrative Fact Finding Process

To prosecute its administrative citations, the City would create a “City managed enforcement system.” (See the City’s Administrative Citations materials. ) Unlike misdemeanor violations, there would be no oversight by a Ramsey County District Court judge.

The City claims that its hearings will be held by a “neutral hearing officer.” The “City managed” process is likely to involve a city employee as the fact finding hearing officer. Its current legislative hearing officer is an example of how this could work.

No Right to a Jury Trial

While the City touts its proposed “civil fine” as somehow superior to a criminal fine imposed by a misdemeanor, it neglects to point out that its civil administrative process takes away the citizen’s right to a jury trial—the right to have one’s guilt or innocence decided by a jury of peers.

Standard of Proof:
Greater Weight of Evidence vs Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

There is a higher standard of proof applied to the prosecution of criminal offenses.  The City needs to prove a misdemeanor “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

This proposed civil administrative fine would be subject to a much lower standard of proof known as the “preponderance of the evidence.” Preponderance means the greater weight of the evidence, where 51% vs 49% satisfies the City’s burden of proof.

No Right for Indigent Defendant to Have Counsel Appointed

In criminal proceedings the court will appoint an attorney to represent someone who cannot afford to pay for legal counsel.  The City’s proposed administrative citation will not provide that same protection to an indigent person who has been cited for violating an ordinance.

A “Timely” Process

The City claims that this “administrative citation” would provide a tool to gain “timely” compliance with ordinances.

As shown by the City’s Procedures Map, the final say in its “City managed” fact finding process, lies with the City Council.  Will the council have time to do anything more than rubber stamp the earlier city findings? Council meetings are once per week.  They often have long agendas and limit citizens to 2 or 3 minutes.

The only remedy for anyone aggrieved by the City Council’s decision, will be to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals.  Most people will simply pay the fine, since the attorney fees and cost of any appeal would very likely exceed the $2000 fine limit.

Bypassing the current misdemeanor system would allow city council to arbitrarily assess fines as high as $2000 per incident for violation of ANY ordinance. Undoubtedly, it will require a whole new layer of bureaucracy and likely another cabinet member for our city’s mayor.

In this case, the City Council wears more than one hat: They sit as the legislative body that enacts the ordinance.  Then they sit in a judicial capacity to decide whether there has been a violation of the ordinance. This fact finding process lacks the checks and balances ordinarily provided by the separation of powers.

Penalty Power Revisited

This isn’t a new idea, but rather a renewed effort that failed in 2019, when the City Council could not get the required unanimous vote of all 7 members.  Unlike most ordinances, in order to amend our City Charter by ordinance, state law requires that all 7 council members support the ordinance.

Roxy Dry Cleaners

The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) hearing on 235 Cleveland S was rescheduled to go forward on:

Monday, April 5, 2021 at 3:00 pm

According to the (BZA) April 5 Agenda, it is meeting to consider 3 variances proposed for a site plan to develop 235 Cleveland South (Cleveland & St. Clair). 

The deadline to submit public comments to the BZA is 2 pm on the Friday preceding its Monday meeting.  In this case:

Friday, April 2, 2021, at 2 pm

Comments should be submitted to:  DSI-ZoningReview@stpaul.gov

Please send a copy of your comments to:  matthew.graybar@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Submitted comments should include your name and address for the public record.

According to the Mac-Grove Community Council (MGCC), any comments previously submitted to the MGCC or its Housing and Land Use (HLU) committee are NOT forwarded or provided to the Zoning Board.  To make sure that your views are communicated to the BZA, you should send your comments directly to them via the above email addresses.

The public may monitor this April 5  BZA meeting remotely via Microsoft Teams at:

Click here to join the meeting

Or join by phone: (612) 315-7905, Conference ID: 813 720 482#

 

The developer, Jeremy T. Exley, Web Developments, LLC, is proposing to replace the Roxy Dry Cleaners station at 235 Cleveland South with a 5 story mixed use commercial/residential project.

Exley is planning to construct a 5 story 54.8 foot building with commercial space at the ground level and 4 stories of apartments (23 units). The proposed development will require 3 variances for parking, height, and floor area ratio (FAR).  For more details see the:

The developer’s project plans and zoning variance application

The developer’s presentation slides

The DSI Notice

The prior BZA March 22, 2021, Meeting Agenda

The current BZA April 5, 2021, Meeting Agenda

 

Minnoco Station Randolph & Snelling

On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, at 6:30 pm, the Highland District Council (HDC) will host a public meeting to discuss a site plan proposed to develop the southwest corner of Randolph & Snelling. The developer, Oppidan Investment Co., is proposing to replace the Minnoco service station at 485 S Snelling with a mixed use project.

Oppidan is planning to construct a 5 story, 110 unit building, requiring a conditional use permit to accommodate its 66 foot height.  For more details see the flyer which has the meeting agenda and the Zoom log in meeting ID and passcode.

Oppidan’s Project Plans

Recording of the January 13 Zoom meeting

South bound lane Mississippi River Blvd Closed
MGCC board approved permanent closure of Mississippi River Road South

At the September 10, 2020, MGCC board meeting, the board voted to approve a resolution of the MGCC Transportation committee that the temporary closure of the Mississippi River Blvd (MRB) south lane (due to the Covid-19 pandemic) be made permanent. The plan is to dedicate the south bound lane to bicycle traffic.

The newly elected MGCC board of directors passed the resolution with 16 votes in favor, 2 abstentions and one vote against it.

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