The Richfield City Council voted last week to raise the sales age of tobacco in the city to 21, joining several other metro suburbs and Minnesota cities that have done so in the past year.
The council unanimously adopted the amendment raising the sales age, ratifying its approval last month of the first reading of the amendment.
It prohibits the sale of tobacco and related items, including vape pens such as Juuls, to anyone under age 21. It also eliminates penalties if someone underage is found buying, using or possessing tobacco products.
The city’s Advisory Board of Health, as well as the anti-smoking coalition Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, supported the amendment. Richfield has 22 licensed tobacco vendors.
“It’s great that we have so many folks interested in the future of our kids,” said Council Member Edwina Garcia before the vote.
Council Member Simon Trautmann, though supportive of the amendment, said he predicts that small businesses that sell e-cigarettes “are going to be eliminated” in the next five years.
Richfield is the 10th city in the state to raise the sales age to 21. Edina was the first to do so last year, and St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth and other suburbs followed soon after.
Minneapolis voted to raise the sales age of tobacco to 21 in May.
Wagner to leave council seat in July
City Council Member Tony Wagner has announced that he will resign his Second Ward seat in July because he is moving outside the ward.
Wagner, who has represented the northeastern part of the city for four terms, said he is moving to a new home in Minnetonka to be closer to his children’s elementary school.
The City Council will decide at Monday’s meeting whether to fill the vacancy by special election or appointment. Some members recently expressed reservations about holding a special election, due to the length of the election process.
Wagner said he has no plans for now to run for any local office, though he said he will continue to stay involved in the community.
“I’m proud that we’ve done quite a few things to continue to make Minnetonka one of the best places to live in the metro and the country,” he said.
City signals support for affordable complex
St. Anthony officials are showing early support for an affordable housing proposal taking shape next door to the city’s shuttered mobile park.
Since initial plans for the 70-unit, $18.7 million project were unveiled last month, City Council members have signaled their unanimous support for $1 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) to help fund it.
“I’m not always very supportive of TIF, but I definitely am in this case,” Council Member Hal Gray said at a May 22 meeting.
Nonprofit developer Aeon wants to build income-restricted apartments at 2401 Lowry Av. NE., with a mix of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units. Aeon officials say the apartments would be affordable to those who earn 60 percent or less of the area median income.
The recent City Council vote means St. Anthony is endorsing Aeon’s application to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency for low-income housing tax credits. Part of that application includes the city’s TIF commitment.
The four-story, L-shaped building is being proposed for a site next door to the location of the former Lowry Grove mobile home park. The controversial sale of Lowry Grove to a developer in 2016, and its closing in 2017, has drawn fierce pushback from displaced residents and neighbors. Market-rate apartments, senior housing and an assisted-living facility are planned for the now-vacant site, prompting an outcry for more affordable housing to replace what was lost.
Aeon expects to submit a formal land use application for the project later this year, depending on funding. Should the proposal win city approval in the coming months, the complex could open as early as 2020.
Food bank gets $18 million from state
Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s largest food banks, is getting an $18 million boost in state funding from the bonding bill recently signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.
The nonprofit, which is moving its headquarters to Brooklyn Park from Maplewood, will use the funds for a $50 million overhaul of its distribution facility. The additional space will accommodate more volunteers, food donations and refrigeration capacity for the food bank’s growing emphasis on fresh fare, officials said.
Second Harvest officials say that about 57 percent of the food it distributes is fresh.
Officials said they hope to finish the new facility by early 2020.
Board reappoints Mavis as county surveyor
Hennepin County Surveyor Chris Mavis was reappointed last week to a four-year term by the County Board, effective in July.
Mavis, a licensed land surveyor, has been the county surveyor since 2014 and is currently president of the Minnesota Society of Professional Surveyors. Since beginning his career in 1990 in Brainerd, he has held surveying positions with Washington County, Inver Grove Heights and a couple private companies.
He serves on several Hennepin County committees and the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Survey Technical Workshop planning committee.
Mavis received a geography degree from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in geographic information science from the University of Minnesota.
State law requires county boards to appoint a surveyor for their respective counties.