Four people vying to succeed Council Member Betsy Hodges representing one of the city's most affluent wards discussed development and other local issues at a forum Thursday night.
The forum, sponsored by the Southwest Journal, featured community organizer Matt Perry, UnitedHealth product development manager Linea Palmisano former Best Buy human resources chief Missy Durant and Bob Reuer, a sewer and drain specialist. All are DFLers except Reuer, an independent.
Palmisano won the DFL endorsement this spring, but appears to have stiff challengers in Perry and Durant. Hodges has represented Ward 13, which covers the southwest corner of the city, since 2005.
Among the issues likely only being discussed in Ward 13? The teardown of existing houses to make way for McMansions, which some fear is ruining the character of the area.
Several candidates also endorsed more small area planning similar to that in the Linden Hills neighborhood following controversial proposals last year. That plan concluded that new building heights should generally not exceed three stories.
Here are the candidates' answers to two questions:
How do we balance the city's goal of increasing density while respecting existing neighborhood character?
Palmisano said that she envisions density along transit corridors, in Shoreham Yards and "places mostly downtown." When projects occur in the neighborhoods, she said there should be a planning process with community engagement to determine "what can we say yes to? Because then that question isn’t yes or no, it’s about how.”
Perry said he sees the "biggest explosion of growth happening in downtown Minneapolis." In a "built environment" like Ward 13, he said there should be a process where residents are engaged and considering the effect development will have on transportation. Perry also advocated changing zoning to encourage "mother-in-law" accessory units on properties as a form of "micro-density."
Durant said density and transit go together, pointing to the Metropolitan Council's 2030 plan for the area. "We need to create the density around those transit nodes so it’s not random," she said. She said others should follow the work of the Linden Hills small area plan "to say here’s what we want our neighborhood to look like, here’s how we blend apartments, condos and single family homes.”
Reuer said development is pleasing along Hiawatha Avenue, the site of the light rail line, but "do we really want stuff basically covering up our homes?" He said he believes in density, since it allows residents to get around easier, but he has concerns.
What are the most pressing issues in Ward 13?
Palmisano said she hears about property taxes, education and safety. She said the area needs to consider the best ways to replace tear-down homes "in a better way for the area around it. She also expressed concerns about the health and environmental effects of the RNAV plan to consolidate airplane routes over South Minneapolis.
Perry said property taxes cannot increase as they have over the last decade. “The teardowns that are occurring across our ward, which I think is almost unique to ward 13, with the replacement of oversized homes…[are] very much on people’s minds," Perry said. He also said the airplane noise issues is a major one for the ward.
Durant observed that Brett Buckner, a candidate in North Minneapolis, is confronting an entirely separate set of issues in his council race. She said council members need to consider the totality of the city. “If we want lower taxes, we have to make sure other parts of the city are thriving and growing like our neighborhood," Durant said.
Reuer said taxes are a major issue for ward residents, as well as people needing flood insurance.
Pictured: Perry, Palmisano, Durant and Reuer