Tensions remain high in an upscale Blaine neighborhood where felled trees lining a wetland have sparked three months of heated debate, resulting in the decision to let a new committee make replanting decisions.

Tempers again flared at a recent meeting on what to do about the controversial January clear cutting, which came near dozens of homes. City staffers brought forward ideas for replanting, triggering several heated exchanges between residents, city officials and members of the Natural Resources Conservation Board.

Staffers pitched landscaping options around a planned maintenance access point, but neighbors made clear that they wanted the access point moved. One man yelled, "Get it out of our neighborhood!"

Residents also said they want more extensive replanting, especially as a buffer behind the homes.

City officials say removing the trees was part of restoration work in an area known as the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary, a 500-acre site considered a key piece of the city's open space management plan. The site is west of Lexington Avenue and north of 109th Avenue.

Neighbors have been critical of the city's communication about the restoration work and have expressed concerns about how the cutting will affect their privacy and home values.

City Council Members Dave Clark and Julie Jeppson proposed the committee to make decisions on replanting. They said it would include two Natural Resources Conservation Board members, two City Council members, the mayor and six residents from the impacted area.

The hope is to begin meeting in the next month, Jeppson said.

"Even though this started from something negative, I really hope this committee will turn into something positive for Blaine," she said.

Hannah covington

Coon Rapids

Food trucks may be headed for Coon Rapids

Food trucks soon may be allowed to sell their fare in Coon Rapids, a change that city officials are considering after an uptick in inquiries from prospective merchants.

The decision would involve tweaking city code, which regulates transient and itinerant merchants.

At a March 28 work session, city staffers proposed allowing food trucks in residential, office, commercial, port and industrial zoning districts with permission from affected property owners.

Staffers cited an increase in interested businesses reaching out to the city, including an inquiry from Alloy Brewing, scheduled to become the city's first brewery and taproom when it opens later this year.

Staffers now are working on finalizing the code change, and the item could come back for City Council consideration as early as next month, said City Clerk Joan Lenzmeier.

In Anoka County, food trucks must obtain a food service license from the county or state before applying for a city license.

Hannah covington


Fund to begin work to save affordable units

A metro-wide initiative will begin buying affordable housing units this summer in an effort to keep them affordable.

The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund launched the NOAH Impact Fund last fall, with the goal of reversing the trend of affordable housing being snatched up by investors to redevelop into higher-end rentals that price out low-income residents.

The Impact Fund had aimed to raise $25 million to save 1,000 affordable units most at risk of being converted into higher-end rentals in the seven-county metro area. But it wound up raising $32 million, with $3 million of that coming from Hennepin County, the lead investor.

While the threat to affordable housing exists across the state and region, Hennepin County has about half the metro area's affordable rentals and 30 percent of all rentals in Minnesota.

Past efforts to expand affordable housing have focused on building more such units to combat its growing scarcity in the Twin Cities' tight rental market. But communities continue to see a net loss in affordable housing when existing units go upscale.



City seeks help in 'planting a forest' at park

Roseville is putting out a call for 60 volunteers — all ages welcome — to help plant thousands of plant and tree seedlings in a single city park on Saturday, April 15.

The city aims to plant more than 2,000 seedlings at Langton Lake Park, rain or shine, starting at 10 a.m.

For two years city staffers and volunteers have sought to remove nonnative plants and trees from the parks and substitute native plants, partly for wildlife habitat. The goal is a more open "woodland understory and shrub layer."

Volunteer coordinator Kelly O'Brien is the person to check with at kelly.obrien@cityofroseville.com, or 651-792-7028.

The park is at 1894 County Road C.

David Peterson