Edina really is an exceptional city, residents say

But redevelopment creates tension for some.

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Neighbors expressed their displeasure with the construction of a large house on Oaklawn Avenue in Edina in 2007. Redevelopment, especially the increasing size of single-family homes, remains a concern for Edina residents.

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Ask Edina residents what the most serious issue facing their city is and their most frequent response is … “nothing.”

That’s right, nothing.

Those people are what Decision Resources President Bill Morris calls community “boosters.” When his firm surveyed Edina residents in July and gave them the chance to hammer away at their city with whatever criticism they wanted, 34 percent said they couldn’t think of a single serious issue that faced the city.

That’s extraordinary, Morris told the City Council last week. The next-highest “nothing” response among area cities is 25 percent, he said, and in most cities only about 6 percent can’t find a bone to pick with their hometown.

Edina surveys residents every two years, as a way for the council to track the opinions of their city’s silent majority. While this year’s survey showed that residents are less likely to rate their quality of life as “excellent” than they did two years ago — 73 percent did this year, vs. 90 percent in 2011 — 99 percent still said life was good or excellent in Edina.

A hint at why that superior rating faded was in the 10 percent of residents who said housing teardowns are the most serious issue facing the city. Morris said those people were more likely to call their quality of life good rather than excellent.

The only city services that residents were lukewarm about were the quality and taste of drinking water and street repair. Eighty-four percent said they would like better drinking water, and 47 percent they would like better street repair.

The survey showed growing concerns about juvenile crime and speeding, but 22 percent of residents could think of no serious safety concerns. Some 72 percent said there isn’t an area in the city where they would feel unsafe walking at night.

Survey results show a population that generally feels financially secure, is willing to pay more property taxes if they think it’s warranted, is pleased with government services and feels more empowered than residents in any metro city that Morris surveys. A large majority of people — 79 percent — said they intend to live in Edina for over 10 more years.

“The overarching theme here is that the city is still regarded as a special place,” Morris said. The only other city in the area with such high ratings is St. Louis Park, he said.

Other survey findings include:

• 84 percent of residents said they felt they could influence city affairs, which Morris said is “15 points higher than any other community.”

• Edina schools are a huge draw. “Good schools” was the top reason for moving to the city, and was cited by 35 percent of residents. Asked what city feature should be preserved for the future, respondents mentioned Edina High School second-most frequently.

• Almost half of residents said they thought their property taxes are “about average,” 40 percent said they are somewhat or very high. Almost two-thirds of respondents said they’d support a tax increase if it was needed to maintain city services at their current level.

• 93 percent said the city services they get in return for property taxes are good or excellent. Morris said that was the highest satisfaction ranking with city services in the region.

• Though redevelopment has been a controversial subject in Edina, 75 percent of residents said they supported continued redevelopment. The most common objection cited by the 18 percent who opposed redevelopment was “houses are too large.”

The telephone survey involved 400 randomly selected households, with a nonresponse rate of almost 4 percent.

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