Only 38 percent of people who live in Woodbury feel “strong ties” to their neighborhood and to the city as a whole, a new survey shows. The findings were assembled for review at a City Council workshop last week.

The responses are similar to those of a survey taken in 2015, which set off alarm bells and moved up civic engagement as a priority for the city. Both results represent a backslide from what pollsters learned in 2013, when 56 percent reported strong ties to both city and neighborhood.

Put differently, the 2013 survey yielded only 9 percent who felt no strong ties to either neighborhood or city, but that figure rose to 42 percent and 39 percent in the subsequent surveys.

This year’s findings were based on 32 percent of surveys returned to the city out of 1,500 mailed out.

Ratings of overall quality of life remained high, with only slight slippage. The number of residents rating it excellent or good went from 97 percent in 2013 to 92 percent this year.

Pollsters also reported that residents do not support a tax increase, even if it’s just to maintain services at the current level.

The survey was conducted by the National Research Center, a Colorado firm that does similar work for cities nationally.

David Peterson


Wetland sanctuary projects to debut soon

Two new features in the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary, a boardwalk and parking lot, are nearing completion.

The boardwalk will provide visitors with a path from East Lake Park in the Lakes of Radisson to the regional trail along Lexington Avenue, according to the city.

Work also will wrap up in coming weeks on the parking lot, which will serve as a trailhead for the boardwalk and eventually a proposed nature center.

The wetland sanctuary is a 500-acre swath of land that the city is working to restore to its original state. Blaine officials say that clearing out invasive species by cutting down trees and applying herbicides will allow rare and endangered native plants to flourish.

The site is a key part of Blaine’s open space management plan, and the hope is that nature lovers will be able to enjoy a diverse array of flora and fauna in a city booming with development.But the project has drawn some neighborhood pushback.

A controversial clear-cutting in January came under fire for the city’s failure to tell neighbors how much tree loss the wetland restoration work would involve. It sparked heated community gatherings, as well as apologies from several council members.

City leaders decided earlier this month to spend up to $100,000 to replace some of the felled trees near houses located on the edge of the wetland sanctuary.

Hannah Covington


Appeals court rejects school ballot argument

The District 834 school board didn’t mislead voters with ballot language that promised improvements to schools just months before voting to close three of them, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has decided.

The court last week affirmed an August 2016 ruling in Washington County District Court that arrived at the same conclusion.

Reacting to the appellate court ruling by Judge Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks, Superintendent Denise Pontrelli said: “We are pleased with the decision and cannot improve on the Court of Appeals’ well-articulated opinion.”

Stillwater parent Melissa Douglas, in her court petition, said district officials misled voters into thinking they were paying for improvements for all elementary schools when they promoted a $97.5 million bond referendum in 2015.

Voters passed the referendum, which included a major expansion of Stillwater Area High School, but parents at the three elementary schools that now have closed said the district had used “bait and switch” tactics.

Douglas said that the appellate court ruling gives “school boards ... broad discretion to direct school facility funds to any purpose without a public process or voter consent.”

Kevin Giles


Tolzmann named policy and planning head

Elizabeth Tolzmann, assistant Bloomington city manager, has been named director of policy and planning for Ramsey County.

Tolzmann, who lives in St. Paul, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Before she worked for Bloomington, she was a workplace culture specialist for the Hennepin County Public Works Department and a community engagement coordinator for Brooklyn Park.

“Her unique experience and regional background in public administration and community engagement is a valuable and timely addition” to Ramsey County, its leaders and residents, said County Manager Julie Kleinschmidt.


Coon Rapids

Discounted emerald ash treatment available

Coon Rapids residents fighting emerald ash borer can now receive a discount on chemical injections to treat infected trees.

A contractor will be offering a discounted rate through the city’s emerald ash borer Injection Projection. YTS Cos. is charging $6 per inch of trunk diameter. Interested residents can contact YTS at 612-331-1133 or find a contractor on the city’s website.

Hannah Covington


CityPlace to celebrate its opening

With all retailers now open at Woodbury’s CityPlace, the 100-acre development built by Elion Partners will celebrate with a public concert and festival from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday.

CityPlace is at Radio Drive and Interstate 94, a site once occupied by the long-empty State Farm headquarters. That building was razed in early 2016 and construction began soon after.

Anchor tenant Whole Foods Market recently opened, as did 16 other businesses. The development includes a 116-room Residence Inn by Marriott, Spire Credit Union and TRIA Orthopaedic Center.

Kevin Giles