The St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale city councils gave final approval last week to tobacco restrictions, extending the wave of new smoking regulations across the western suburbs.

In St. Louis Park, the City Council voted unanimously Monday to ban flavored tobacco products. The ban includes all forms of tobacco that are candy- or fruit-flavored, but not menthol or mint products.

The new rule will go into effect on May 1, giving tobacco retailers time to sell their remaining stock of flavored products. St. Louis Park raised the tobacco sales age to 21 earlier this year.

In Robbinsdale, the City Council voted to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products to adult-only tobacco shops. They also set a minimum price for packages of four cigars at $2.60 per cigar. Robbinsdale’s new law goes into effect April 1.

Miguel Otárola

Hennepin County

More than 1,000 trees transplanted this fall

Hennepin County foresters worked with partners and volunteers this fall to transplant more than 1,000 trees from the county’s gravel-bed nursery to sites in 17 cities.

More than 500 trees were planted along county roads and at county facilities and libraries to enhance the tree canopy and replace ash trees lost to the emerald ash borer.

Fruit tree orchards were planted at two schools and a park with the help of students and community volunteers. The fruit from the orchards will be donated to people in need.

About 345 trees also were planted on three conservation easements as part of ongoing efforts to restore ecosystems.

Crews from the county’s Sentencing to Service program, which gives low-risk offenders a chance to work off their sentences rather than go to jail or pay a fine, helped with the plantings. Using trees from the gravel-bed nursery and working with partners and volunteers saved the county at least $170,000 this year.

David Chanen

Board approves solid waste plan for 2018-23


The state requires metro counties to prepare master plans every six years that identify strategies to meet the state’s goal of zero waste landfilled by 2030.

Hennepin County has made steady progress toward that goal, diverting 82 percent of waste from landfills in 2016. That rate is on par with national leaders. The plan addresses at least one area for improvement: diverting from the trash organic materials such as food and non-recyclable paper by proposing requirements for cities and certain businesses, increasing local capacity to manage organics and working to prevent food waste.

David Chanen

County offers funds to fight invasive species

Local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, institutions and companies in Hennepin County may apply for funding to implement projects that prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Funding in the last year was used to expand inspections at public accesses, empower volunteers to conduct monitoring and early detection efforts, install boat cleaning stations, research management methods and pathways of spread and increase education and outreach.

Applications for funding are due by Jan. 12. For more information, contact Tony Brough at or 612-348-4378.

David Chanen


Two housing programs receive funding

The Metropolitan Council awarded grants to two housing programs in Minnetonka earlier this month, including a future development along the proposed Southwest light-rail line.

The funding, known as Livable Communities grants, was awarded to programs for building or preserving affordable housing across the metro area. The Met Council gave about $2.4 million to projects in Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Mounds View, St. Paul and Waconia.

In Minnetonka, $210,000 will go to The Mariner, a mixed-income development project near a station for the proposed light-rail line extension. The complex includes 246 units, 55 of them classified as affordable.

The Met Council also awarded $67,500 to Minnetonka-based West Hennepin Affordable Housing Land Trust to buy, improve and resell four homes in 12 cities across the west metro.

The council hopes the grants will create 307 units of new or rehabilitated affordable housing.

Miguel Otárola

Brooklyn Park

Tater Daze may be moved

The summer festival that pays homage to Brooklyn Park’s potato history may be on the move — again.

Organizers of Tater Daze, an annual gathering first held in 1964, are proposing to move the event from Noble Sports Park to the city’s Community Activity Center, 5600 85th Av. N.

It would be the latest in a string of moves and changes over the event’s long history. The festival’s planning committee says the community center offers a more centralized location and a good alternative in case bad weather should strike.

But at a City Council meeting Monday, some council members expressed reservations about the move and raised concerns about parking and pedestrians crossing busy 85th Avenue to get there.

City staffers are currently working on site layout possibilities. Many of the activities — including the inflatables, bingo, food vendors and stage entertainment — would move to the community center. Others, such as the Spud Run 5K and parade, would remain at the Noble Sports Park site for at least one more year.

Council Member Rich Gates said he still had concerns because the event had been held in the same area before.

“It was here before and didn’t make it,” he said. “It was a bomb.”

The event, sponsored by the city, has cost on average $57,000 annually in recent years.

Hannah Covington