Million-dollar-idea winner faces bureaucratic snag on sanctuary building

Tracy Sides was ecstatic last month when her idea to open an “Urban Oasis” food hub was selected as this year’s winner of the the St. Paul Foundation’s Forever St. Paul Challenge.

With several partners, she’d proposed turning parts of an empty building in the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary into a food center, with a commercial kitchen, classrooms and food processing co-op.

But, as is often the case when dealing with bureaucracies, Sides is running into some glitches for her million-dollar idea.

The Pioneer Press reports that rules governing the nature sanctuary preclude its use for a business. So now, says the paper, Sides must “negotiate with the city of St. Paul and the Metropolitan Council to see exactly how much of her dream can be built.”

But Sides, whose idea was chosen from nearly 1,000 other applicants in the contest, is undeterred:

“This is part of the natural planning process,” she said. “It gets complicated when there are a lot of shareholders.”

And the world of officialdom seems to have some wiggle room available here. Brad Meyer of the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department, said:

“It’s very early in the process, and there are still a large number of variables, including the Met Council use restrictions, that need to be reviewed and discussed by the key stakeholders.”

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