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Mpls. Council wants developers to pony up for parks; declines to ban couches on porches.

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT
  • Star Tribune
  • April 15, 2009 - 12:22 PM

Despite a plea from the parents of a student killed in a fire that started in porch furniture, Minneapolis declined Friday to ban outdoor upholstered furniture.

The City Council rejected 9-4 a proposal from Council Member Diane Hofstede that would have declared upholstered furniture and mattresses in yards and on porches to be a nuisance. It also passed a new fee on developers that would go toward improving parks.

The council rejected the furniture ban despite an appeal, read by Hofstede, from Jim and Margaret Speckien of Vadnais Heights. Their 19-year-old daughter, Amanda, and two other students were killed in a 2003 Dinkytown-area house fire.

The parents' letter said that after the students went to bed, ash ignited the fire on a porch with an upholstered chair and couch."It breaks our hearts to see couches on these open porches, and there are many," the letter said.

But council members who voted against the measure said the city's nuisance ordinance appeared to already allow inspectors to act when such items pose hazards.

Hofstede, Samuels, Paul Ostrow and Barbara Johnson supported the proposal. It was opposed by Cam Gordon, Robert Lilligren, Lisa Goodman, Elizabeth Glidden, Gary Schiff, Ralph Remington, Scott Benson, Sandra Colvin Roy and Betsy Hodges.

Fee to benefit parks

Also, the council adopted a new ordinance requiring developers to contribute either land or money toward park development when they undertake a project.

Approval came with two caveats. First, the new law won't take effect until the Park and Recreation Board, which sought the new funding, passes an identical ordinance. Second, the law won't take effect until at least 2011.

"I think it's great," said Tom Nordyke, president of the Park Board, who added that he expected the board to take up its own ordinance in early May. "We'll have the resources to address the expanding population and density."

The plan requires that any park funded with the developer fee conform to long-range plans and that there be enough money to operate the new park.

The council narrowly amended the measure on a proposal by Benson to require that the fees be used in a neighborhood no farther than a half-mile from the development. Original language would have allowed use of the money up to 2 miles away.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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