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So. Mpls. residents successfully nix new streetlights

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: January 29, 2013 - 4:52 PM

A group of South Minneapolis residents scored a victory at City Hall Tuesday by successfully fighting a proposal to charge them for new streetlights on Penn. Avenue.

The $600,000 plan to install new pedestrian streetlights as part of a broader reconstruction of Penn. Ave. between MN-62 and 54th Street raised the ire of neighbors who would have had to foot the bill through assessments.

Those residents brought their concerns to the city's transportation and public works committee meeting Tuesday, adding that the city was charging too much to redo the road.

The street repairs got the committee's approval, but council member Betsy Hodges led an effort to scuttle the streetlight project. Because of a 2009 streetlight policy, the city must include new lights in any street reconstruction project -- unless residents opt out.

The lantern-style lights proposed for Penn. were much shorter than traditional roadway lights so they provide visibility to pedestrians. The photo (at right) shows a lantern-style light on the left and a taller "shoebox" light on the right. The plan was to install both on Penn. Ave.

When the city mailed petition forms to local residents, only 69 percent said by October that they opposed the lights (just short of the 70 percent threshold). Non-respondents counted as "yes" vote. As of Jan. 18, however, 70.4 percent said they oppose them.

That was enough to convince the committee to kill the lights, the first time that has happened since the policy went into effect (four others successfuly went through).

"I want to thank the folks who not only are here today but who have organized over time," said Hodges, who represents the area. "It is one of the best examples I have of how well city process works."

Hodges introduced a motion, which passed, instructing city staff to review the petition portion of the streetlight policy, as well as the types of properties that can be assessed.

Residents will still have to pay up for the street repairs, which will cost $2.39 per square foot for non-residential properties and $.80 for residential properties.

One resident, John Rekstad, said that will cost him $8,000 for his house on Penn. Ave. Most of the frustration was directed at the petition process, however.

"That petition process, with the 70 percent threshold -- non-respondents counting as a yes vote -- doesn't sound like America to me," said Steve Binenstock.

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