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Northfield City Council Meeting - December 4, 2012

December 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm
By Jane McWilliams

Location of Skateboard Park: With the unanimous votes approving the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board’s recommendation to designate Riverside Park as the location for a skateboard park and to allocate $30,000 to match the funds approved by the PRAB, a major chapter in this long story came to a close.

There were many citizens attending the meeting. Several people who live at Village on the Cannon, a residence for people 55 and over, spoke in opposition, noting the dangers caused by location skateboard activity in proximity to vulnerable adults. Others raised concerns about noise. VOC resident Nancy Peterson said the PRAB committee had not accepted invitations to the VOC homes to experience “what we’re experiencing on a regular basis.” 

Fearing the council might approve the alternate recommendation, Old Memorial Park, Heidi Cole said the skate board park shouldn’t be located in a residential neighborhood where the noise is a problem. If the kids want to be part of the community “they shouldn’t force themselves where people don’t want them. It will be divisive, rather than helpful.” Jerri Hurlbutt added that there are safety issues for skateboarders because of lack of traffic control on certain streets. In addition, it is not equally accessible from other parts of town. She asked that the council take Old Memorial Park off the list.

Skateboard Coalition member Frank Meyer thanked all involved with the decision, and said the coalition fully endorses the Riverside Park recommendation. The temporary location was an experiment, and became a community gathering place where older users and younger kids with parents enjoyed using the facility. Noise on a fully developed concrete park would create only as much sound as the conversation of two adults. With the $23,000 coalition funds and the PRAB allocation along with potential grants, we are well on the way to making it happen. 

Kathryn Summa suggested that everyone has aged in the 16 years since the city adopted the skateboard ordinance. The original middle school skateboarders are now out of college! She asked the council to honor the well thought out recommendation. Jon Denison reminded the group that in the master plan, both Riverside and Old Memorial Parks are community, not neighborhood parks. 

After a number of supportive comments about the work of the PRAB, the collaborative role of the Skateboard Coalition and the intense interest in the issue of citizens, the council took the vote. Councilor Suzie Nakasian’s motion to remove Old Memorial Park failed for lack of a second.

There was a strong commitment on the council to provide additional funds, but no clear information about where these might be obtained. “We’d like to kick start this hard” said Councilor Jessica Peterson White. Finally, they voted to dedicate $30,000 to match the money allocated from the park fund and asked the staff in January to bring options for where those funds might be drawn. 

Transit Hub:  With Mayor Mary Rossing casting the lone vote against it, the council approved a motion recommending to the Federal Transit Authority and the Minnesota Department of Transportation that the Q Block site be the location for the future Northfield Transit Hub. This action is necessary for the city to receive the grant to be used to prepare the site clean up. This may also later make the city eligible for funding for a structure. Councilor Erica Zweifel noted that the city should recognize how far they have come since the original consideration of Laurel Court. This decision “orphans: the trailhead” by eliminating both Laurel Court and Babcock Park as sites for this purpose. She promised to keep Mill Towns Trailhead on the city’s agenda.  Mayor Rossing agreed that Babcock is the better site, opening up more possibilities in the future. 

Other Actions:

Attorney Fees: Although there were concerns about their high hourly rate, in compliance with his severance agreement, the council approved payment of Attorney Fees for former City Administrator Al Roder in the Lansing matter.

Approved the 2013 levies and budget and the gas and utility franchise ordinance (contract Xcel Energy).

Rezoned property at 1001 Division Street from Residential District to Neighborhood Floating District to allow the owner, Alisa Leonard, to use a portion of the existing space as a studio for music, theater and art lessons.

Sent back a proposed Recreation Agreement with the hospital board because of concerns about ambiguous language.

Approved a motion to pursue standard term limits on boards and commissions so that members serve three consecutive three-year terms. In discussion, some councilors indicated that the motion seemed overly broad, and wanted to focus it more narrowly on the Arts and Culture Commission. Councilors Nakasian, Peterson White and Mayor Rossing voting against the measure. Term limit changes will require changes in the ordinance code, according to Mr. Madigan.

Affirmed with Councilor Ivan Imm voting no):  The position reorganization and hiring process proposed by City Administrator Tim Madigan.

Mr. Madigan announced that there would be a reception for outgoing members of the council at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, December 11, prior to the council’s last meeting of 2012.

The meeting adjourned at 10:28 p.m.

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