City Council Meeting Recap – August 19, 2014

I attended the Crystal city council meeting and first work session on August 12, 2014.

The first work session was rather uneventful- the city presented some of the bids for the new Public Works facility, but didn’t have final costs calculated yet.  Bids apparently came in under what they were expecting, but since that has been a moving target, that’s really not saying much.  I continue to wonder how a garage can cost $8- $10 million dollars, and continue to have concerns about how this project has been handled from start to finish.  I’ll remind everyone again that we don’t yet know (unless it was decided at the budget meeting yesterday) how we will pay for this project, which seems irresponsible to me.  Instead of setting a budget and figuring out what we could afford, we worked backwards and decided what we wanted, and decided to worry about how much it will cost later.

After that the council members gave their liaison updates.  Each council member is the liaison to one or more committees or commissions and they periodically update other members on what is going on in those groups.

The council meeting was next and this was the first time in the newly remodeled council chambers. I was underwhelmed. The cost for this project was $200,000.  It does look fancy, but I’m really not convinced after seeing the results that this was money well spent. I actually think it’s harder to see what is going on from the audience than under the old setup.  Maybe it will grow on me, but the cost sure does seem excessive.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek kicked off the meeting with a presentation on what’s going on in the Sheriff’s department.

Next, the council recognized a number of members of the police department:

  • Reserve Captain Michelle Brenna, who is retiring from the Police Reserves
  • Lieutenant Dave Oyaas, who is retiring from the Police Department
  • The Crystal Police Explorers, who received a number of awards at a national competition recently

We had a new appointee to the Human Rights Commission, a new appointee to the Employee Review Board, and a transfer of a liquor license to a new owner.

The council also voted on the Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve a variance for the sign for Liquor Liquidators, which I wrote about here.  The measure passed.

After the council meeting there was a second work session to discuss pending litigation, which was closed to the public under attorney client privilege.

Crystal Planning Commission Recap – August 11, 2014

The Crystal Planning Commission met Monday after skipping the meeting in July.  We are scheduled to meet monthly, but if there are no items on the agenda the meetings are canceled.

There were two items on the agenda- considering a variance for a sign for Liquor Liquidators and considering a conditional use permit for a planned U-Haul store.

The sign for Liquor Liquidators was the first item on the agenda.  Liquor Liquidators is a rather unique commercial property in Crystal because it has residential property on both sides of it.  The store was originally a Tom Thumb back in the 60s.  It sat vacant for a while, and was turned into a liquor store a few years ago.  The owner was looking for a variance to allow the sign to be located 1 foot from the property line (bordering the street) instead of 10 feet.

Code requires a 50 foot setback from residential properties, and because there are residential properties on either side, the sign can only be placed in a narrow part of the middle of the property.  A 10 foot setback from the street would require the sign to be in the middle of the parking lot.  I visited the property before the meeting and saw first hand that a variance was needed.  City staff recommended approval and the variance passed unanimously.

The U-Haul CUP was a different story.  A business owner wants to open a store in Lamplighter Square (the strip mall where Crystal Café is located).  Part of the business would include the ability to reserve a U-Haul truck.  The zoning for the property does not allow vehicle rental, but the owner was requesting the ability to keep one truck (or trailer) on sight.  As long as the amount of space taken up by the rental truck is within the limits set by code, rental can be allowed as a conditional use in that zone.

The proposed use generated several questions by the commissioners, with many expressing concern about the project.  Unfortunately the applicant did not attend the meeting.  The applicant also failed to provide the city staff with some of the information that they requested.  I was in favor of granting the conditional use provided we kept a close eye on the property to make sure that the business did not exceed the one truck limit.  However, there was little appetite for this approach among the other commissioners.  We ultimately decided to vote to continue the discussion to our next meeting, which would give the applicant time to provide the additional documentation, and to attend and answer questions personally.

I voted in favor of the motion to continue, which passed unanimously.

My general approach when it comes to conditional use permits is to assume the applicant is innocent until proven guilty- meaning I am generally inclined to support a conditional use (as long as the use is reasonable and legal) until an infraction is committed.  In this case, the lack of complete information from the applicant made me comfortable voting to continue the discussion until later.

After a quick update on a few topics we covered last month the meeting adjourned.

Statement on Primary Election Results

CRYSTAL, August 12, 2014 – Crystal Planning Commissioner Jeff Kolb today issued the following statement on the results of the primary election:

“I am humbled to have received the support of so many Crystal residents in the Primary Election, earning over 57% of the vote.  I think the results clearly show that the people of Crystal are looking for a change in their representation.” Kolb said.

“I personally knocked on 685 doors during the primary, and I am looking forward to meeting many more Crystal residents over the next few months as I try to earn their votes in November,” Kolb concluded.

Kolb is a small business owner, a board member with the Crystal Business Association, and currently serves as the Planning Commissioner for Ward 2, where he has been a leading voice for making Crystal more business friendly by eliminating unnecessary red tape at city hall.  His wife Erin is Vice Chair of Crystal’s Parks and Recreation commission.  Jeff and Erin live in Crystal’s Brownwood neighborhood at Douglas Drive and 38th Avenue North with their son James.

To learn more about Jeff Kolb for Crystal City Council Ward 2, please visit or call 612-314-5652.

Prepared and paid for by the Kolb for Crystal Committee, PO Box 28373, Crystal, MN 55428