West metro cities learn the fate of their state funding requests

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2014 - 3:47 PM

Excelsior, Plymouth and Wayzata are trying to decide what to do next after their requests were rejected.

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A walker in Excelsior Commons Park. Renovations to the Commons didn’t make it into the 2014 state bonding bill.

Photo: Star Tribune file,

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There’s always next year.

That’s the strategy some west metro cities are adopting for the 2015 legislative session after they failed to get projects and policies in state bills this year.

Though Edina won bonding money for its planned veterans memorial, west metro cities were largely excluded from the final bonding bill. The few exceptions included St. David’s Center in Minnetonka, which got $3.75 million to expand and renovate its campus, and the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, which got $2 million for maintenance work.

And after three years of appealing to policymakers, Maple Grove officials got their request in the state tax bill related to redeveloping hundreds of acres of gravel pits.

Here’s what cities requested:

 

Excelsior

This year saw Excelsior’s first state bonding bill request, asking for $5 million for its park, the Commons. But it didn’t make the cut.

The city proposal would have funded improvements to its lakeside 13-acre park and adjoining historic port. It’s an area the city says is a regional recreational asset used by thousands of Twin Cities visitors for free each year that should be supported regionally, not just by the town of 2,100.

The City Council is slated to discuss on July 7 what to do next after the proposal failed.

One option: Go to voters this fall to ask for a new food and beverage sales tax that would generate $5 million over 25 years for the makeover, which the city had discussed doing earlier this year.

The city wants to replace a vintage band shell and bathhouse that date to the 1950s and 1960s with a new band shell, bathrooms, lake walk, concessions stands like the Tin Fish at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, and other improvements.

“The facilities [at the Commons] are incredibly inadequate,” City Manager Kristi Luger said. “This community deserves better facilities that showcase who we are.”

The Commons draws thousands of visitors each year, including more than 15,000 people who flock there for the city’s free July 4th events. Luger said the city is saving for the improvements, but it will take much longer to do. By Aug. 22, the city needs to decide whether to put the question to voters this fall; even if voters approve the tax, the city would still need to return to the Capitol for state approval of the tax.

 

Maple Grove

In Maple Grove, the third time was the charm.

This year, the city’s third request to establish a tax-increment financing, or TIF, district was approved in the tax bill. That means the city can start planning for redevelopment in a former gravel mining area.

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  • Maple Grove won its quest for legislative support to redevelop this sand and gravel pit near the Arbor Lakes shopping center.

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