April 12, 2011 Community Development Committee Agenda & March Minutes (draft)

AGENDA SNG Community Development Committee Matthews Center, 2318 29th Av. S. April 12, 2011

 7:00      Introductions and approval of minutes from the March meeting.

7:15     Seward Commons Development

Seward Redesign has asked for time on the agenda to discuss a potential partnership with CommonBond Communities for a Phase II development at the Seward Commons (formerly Bystrom Bros.) site.

Seward Redesign purchased the 4-acre Bystrom Brothers site in June 2009 with the intension to redevelop the site primarily for housing.  The community was involved in a master planning effort at a culmination of the Franklin Vision process in early 2009.  A copy of this plan can be found at www.redesigninc.org <http://www.redesigninc.org/>  or call or stop by the Redesign offices to receive a hard copy.  The first type of use called out in this plan is senior housing and that is what is being proposed to be developed in this partnership with CommonBond.

Redesign has been meeting with prospective developers over the past few months and was pleased to connect with CommonBond just a few weeks ago and learn of their potential interest in the site.  CommonBond has a strong relationship with the Seward Community through their role as property managers for the Seward Towers East and West.  They have an excellent reputation throughout the Twin Cities and significant experience developing senior housing.

8:00     Updates: Seward Redesign SNG Housing Coordinator Franklin Avenue Parking Concerns

8:15     Other Business

8:30   Adjourn.  (The Park staff lock the outside doors at 9 p.m. so all attendees must exit).

 Draft Minutes, Community Development Committee, March 8, 2011

Present: Charlie Hoffman (Committee Chair), Sheldon Mains (SNG Board President), Mary Blitzer, Ken Webb, Ben Walen, Albert Rysavy, Marilyn Garber, Mark Ostrom, Steve Hirsch and Frederica Scobey (representing 2653 37th Av. S.), Kathy Brom, Trina Wicklatz Greger, Carrie Anne Johnson (from East Phillips), Joyce Hanson, Cam Gordon, Bob Hain, Scott Henderson, Doug Wise (SNG Housing Program Coordinator), Katya Pilling (Seward Redesign), and Bernie Waibel (minutes).

Introductions were made and minutes of the February meeting were approved.

 Katya reported on the Redesign-organized Bringing Neighbors Together celebration tentatively planned for April 15 at Seward Towers East.  The event will be pot-luck with activities including learning about East African cultures, languages, history, etc..

Redesign is working with Transit for Livable Communities (TLC) and the Sibley Bike Depot to develop a Seward Bike Center.  The Depot will provide educational programming and affordable bicycles to extend bicycling transportation to more under-served communities, including the East African population.  Katya reported that East African women have indicated a real desire to learn the rules of the road and to ride.

Katya thanked the Committee and SNG for supporting Redesign's successful funding application in the amount of $40K for a Franklin Avenue Improvement Program.  That program will make individual awards to individual businesses. ________________

Steve Hirsch addressed concerns expressed at the last meeting concerning criminal activity alleged to be occurring at the building which he manages, 2653 37th Avenue South.  Steve stated unequivocally that there is no criminal activity of which he or his reputable tenants, including Sandy Green Realty are aware.

Steve said that most of the building is being used for storage by small contractors and that he's trying to keep the users small in size with no heavy industrial use.  Currently, he's having talks with the Seward Coop for the leasing of storage space.

A neighboring resident stated that the parking lot on the north of the building is not zoned for long term or overnight storage of cars or equipment and that it's use is solely intended for employee parking. However, old cars belonging to Scott Henderson are being stored on the lot.  Steve said that he'd signed a lease with Scott so that Scott could get his vehicles off the streets of the neighborhood  (e.g., E 25th Street and 33rd Avenue).  Another speaker said that the neighborhood hadn't found working with Scott pleasant and that when the April lease is up, where will Scott put his vehicles?

The first neighbor complained that on at least one occasion people were waiting outside the building with their lights off -what was going on? Are Scott's cars used for temporary storage of contraband items?  On occasion she's seen boxes taken from the trunks of stored cars and placed in the trunks of waiting cars.

Steve said that he'd called Shun Tillman of the Third Precinct and that there hasn't been one police call to the address.  Two neighbors said that they'd called 911 on different occasions but that no police came.  Charlie urged the neighbors to call nonetheless so that a history of complaints could be built on the property -making that particular wheel squeaky. Charlie said that if problems do occur as reported at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., this is a quiet time for the police and if mention is made of 'suspicious activity' outside a commercial building, a police visit is sure to occur. No business or building owner wants a break-in or other trouble.

Scott stated that he is not involved in any manner of criminal activity and that he feels persecuted.  Neighbors wanted him to remove his cars from neighborhood streets and now that he's done so, he's being attacked for parking them in a parking lot in an industrial area -out of one fire and into another.  Scott also protested the behavior of the complaining neighbor when he was plowing snow from the lot this winter.  She jumped him and wouldn't let him explain what he was doing.  The unfounded accusations about criminal behavior are just more of the same irresponsible vitriol.

The original complainant said that the sidewalks haven't been shoveled this winter and that the wooden fence presents a place for an attacker to hide.   Sheldon advised calling the City's 311 number to report this problem.

There was a discussion about Scott's old Tri-State Bearing building and neighbors cautiously complimented Scott on the early improvements there. Much remains to be done though as the debris emerges day by day from the snow piles.  Now there's a futon bed on the boulevard though Scott pledged to remove it.

Charlie queried Scott as to where all the items would go at both the 25th Street and the 37th Avenue sites when the lease is up on 37th Avenue in mid-April.  Scott said that it wasn't clear at this time though some will go to the transfer station.

Scott was queried about redirecting the use of the Tri-State building -what are his future plans?  Scott said that with the difficult economy a repurposing wasn't guaranteed.  He has talked with Katya of Seward Redesign about possible scenarios.

A neighbor stated that she didn't object to the use of the old Tri-State building as a commercial one with customers coming and going.  She does object to the use of the streets as a junkyard for cars filled with garbage and spare parts.

Charlie started bringing the discussion to a close by saying that if the cars reappear, Cam's office will be very involved in reversing the move. Cam's aide Robin knows the history of the site very well and has worked assiduously with City department heads to bring City pressure to bear. It's simply not a viable option for Scott to bring the cars back into the neighborhood. If there continue to be problems, neighbors must report the activity to Cam's office, which now has the close attention of City Zoning.

Charlie summed up the allegations regarding illicit activities at the 37th Avenue building by saying that the allegations are unfounded.   If there are illegal activities, 911 should be called. ____________________________

There are two NRP home improvement programs which aid Seward residents, the Seward Revolving Loan Fund and the Seward Interest Subsidy Program. Doug reported that the Seward Revolving Loan Fund has had good success but the Seward Interest Subsidy Program has had very little usage.  To improve the leverage or reach of the NRP funding, both programs are designed to be used in conjunction with the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency's (MHFA) "Minnesota Fix-up Fund".  The MHFA and Seward Revolving Loan Fund programs involve interest-bearing loans which are repaid over time by the homeowner.

The Minnesota Fix-up Fund uses a ceiling on an applicant's income which is 80% of the area "Metro Median Income" (MMI).  For one person, that income limit is $47K ($47,000), for a two-person household, the limit is $54K, for three people, $60K, etc..   The interest rate is 5.99% with a maximum loan of $35K payable over a maximum 20 years.  All types of home improvements, including additions are eligible.

The Seward Revolving Loan Fund has the same income limits as the MHFA Fix-up Fund (80% of MMI).  The interest rate is set at 3.99% with a maximum loan of $12K payable over ten years.  Eligible repairs are those required by basic housing codes such as leaking plumbing pipes or dangerous electrical wiring; energy improvements; exterior repairs; and mechanical and electrical improvements.  The amount of funding which has been used to date under this program is $41K of an available $162K.

The Seward Interest Subsidy Fund is a program which like the Revolving Loan Fund, is intended to lower the costs of overall borrowing for a homeowner by blending a lower NRP rate with a MHFA loan's higher rate. The Seward Interest Subsidy Fund has the same income limits as the MHFA Fix-up Fund and Seward Revolving Loan Fund  (80% of MMI).  The interest rate subsidy is set at 3.99% with a maximum loan of $12K payable over ten years.  Eligible repairs are those required by basic housing codes such as leaking plumbing pipes or dangerous electrical wiring; energy improvements; exterior repairs; and mechanical and electrical improvements.  The amount of funding used under this program has been only $236.00 of an available $19K.

There was a discussion as to how to re-tune the Interest Subsidy Program to be more usable.

Motion: Moved that the maximum loan approved under the Interest Subsidy Program be raised from the current $12,000 to $20,000 and that the term of the loan be extended from the current ten years to fifteen years.  Sheldon moved and Bob seconded.  Passed unanimously with Cam and Katya abstaining.

Motion:  Eligible improvements allowed under the Interest Subsidy Program currently include code required repairs, exterior, energy and mechanical and electrical improvements.  Moved that eligible improvements be expanded to include all improvements including additions, allowed under the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Fixup Fund (the state-administered pool of money which is leveraged by the Interest Subdsidy Program).  The revision would make the programs consistent.  Sheldon moved and Ben seconded.  Bob, Cam and Katya abstained.  Passed with no nays.

Doug reported that the sum of $54K which had been held back by NRP officials from Seward's promised allotment, would now be released to the neighborhood.  Doug recommended that the sum be temporarily allocated to the Revolving Loan Fund coffers.

Motion:  As a house-keeping measure, the amount of $54,000 which has been released to the neighborhood from the City should be placed in the Seward NRP Home Improvement Revolving Loan Fund.  Doug moved and Bob seconded. Cam and Katya abstained, and the motion passed with no nays. __________________

Sheldon reported that Redesign has purchased the lot at 3010 E. 26th Street, on which a deteriorated duplex once stood.  The lot will be redeveloped with housing.  A single-family property a block to the west on E. 26th is on the market, though its very deteriorated condition makes it a poor candidate for for-profit rehabilitation.  Is there a way to use some of the NRP funds to help bring about new construction on these two properties?  A discussion took place with two philosophical positions emerging.  Are NRP funds to be used to help the most deteriorated properties and spur new construction, or are the funds supposed to help the poorest residents and prevent their displacement? __________________

The new Franklin Avenue Parking Plan which calls for a maximum parking time of 90 minutes on Seward's "main street" has been approved by both the Seward Civic and Commerce Association (SCCA) and the SNG Board.  Cam reported that the measure had also been approved by the City and Minneapolis Public Works is now scheduling the installation of new parking signs.  The measure is designed to promote turnover of parking spots by reducing long-term parking by employees from area businesses, and students and employees of the colleges and hospitals to the north.

Two homeowners who live near Franklin asked whether a study had been performed to determine the traffic effects on residential areas to the south of Franklin Avenue.  A homeowner who lives on 25th Avenue reported that at 6:40 a.m., her street is half-filled with parked cars.  By 8 a.m. there are no available parking spots and when a spot does become available, it's quickly taken.

This homeowner reported that the homeowners on a street can request the City to give their street a "Parking Critical Status".  However, homeowners would then be required to buy parking stickers for $25 per vehicle and $10 per vehicle for guests' vehicles.  This would shift the cost of parking restrictions on Franklin to nearby homeowners.

As a business owner on Franklin Avenue (Hoffman Guitars) Charlie defended the new parking plan saying that his business requires frequent turnover of spots -his business is a destination one where customers often come from afar; stay a short time and then leave in their vehicles.  A resident of Seward stated that a 90 minute parking limit is too short for one adult with an infant or toddler.

No motions were offered or resolution suggested.

Meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.
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