This coverage is made possible by a grant from The Saint Paul Foundation.

New downtown Lunds store prompts questions about resident notification

On paper, this looked like a slam-dunk. Lunds was seeking approval of an off-sale liquor license for its about-to-be finished grocery store in downtown Minneapolis.

The approval of the license turned out to be a slam-dunk, but it was notification of the neighbors, or lack of it, that caused a flap. 

“I’m very supportive of this location,” said City Council Member Lisa Goodman, who has in the past questioned the system by which neighbors are notified that someone has applied for a license.

City Inspector Philip Schliesman was ready, quickly producing a map showing where notification cards had been sent. He also explained that the ordinance requires notification of residents within 300 feet from the door of an applicant.

“That’s what the ordinance says,” Schliesman told the City Council Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee. He said he is careful to include everyone within 300 feet but he doesn’t go farther than 300 feet.  Or, for that matter, stop short of 300 feet.

Goodman was not pleased.  She pointed out that the city had contacted the University of St. Thomas parking ramp and the Minneapolis Community Technical College. No one lives at either location. At least we don’t think anyone lives at either location.

At the same time, the city ignored 20-plus floors of residents at the Laurel Village Apartments across the street from the Hennepin Avenue front door of the grocery store but more than 300 feet from the separate back-door entrance to the liquor store.

“I’m not saying you are wrong,” said Goodman. “I’m saying we should probably change the ordinance.”

And that is the option she intends to explore. After the meeting, Goodman said she would ask the inspections staff to study the notification rules spelled out in the ordinance and see what changes are needed to expand public awareness of a license application.

City seeks help watering trees

Last year, 5,589 trees were planted along Minneapolis boulevards and in city parks, and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board made available another 1,508 young trees for residents to purchase for their yards.

All of those trees could be in trouble this summer, along with those planted in the last three years, if property owners don’t take time to water them, according to a report by the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Council.

“We have grown very proficient at allowing Mother Nature to take care of the trees,” Peggy Booth of the Advisory Commission told members of the committee on Monday.

“We are still suffering from drought conditions, despite the rain and drizzle of the last few days,” said Booth, pointing out that it will cost a property owner $3 a year to water a tree on a weekly basis. “We need to remember that trees are a public investment.”

Last autumn was the driest in the history of climate records, according to the tree report.

The report details other threats to the urban forest. Last year, the emerald ash borer claimed 177 Minneapolis trees, compared with 78 trees in 2010.

And then there was the North Side tornado, which hit almost a year ago and claimed 2,600 public trees. This year, 3,100 trees will be planted along the boulevards of the Northside.  The Park Board waters trees as they are planted but depends on property owners to take over that job.

Look for a campaign featuring “Elmer Elm” to encourage residents to drag out the hose and give the trees a drink during the drought.

Remember, Arbor Week in Minnesota runs May 14 to 18.

Two Cities blog, which covers Minneapolis and St. Paul City Halls, is made possible in part by grants from The Saint Paul Foundation and the Carolyn Foundation.

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