Solar energy systems are now formally allowed throughout Minnetonka, including at schools and churches, following a city code change the City Council approved on Nov. 14.
The measure expands where solar energy systems can be installed in the city, which already allowed them in commercial and residential areas but had yet to formalize commercial uses. The update also allows the systems to be mounted on the ground of non-residential parking lots.
City staff reviewed similar ordinances from cities including St. Louis Park, Apple Valley and Bloomington, according to a staff report.
The city "wants to make sure that we're current with where the technology is going, and what's permissible," said Andrew Wittenborg, Minnetonka communications and marketing manager.
City Council could have two open seats
The Rosemount City Council may still have two vacant seats after the November election, depending on what a former council member decides to do.
The council, comprising four council members and the mayor, has one open spot after Council Member Jeff Weisensel was elected mayor. He will vacate his at-large position when he's sworn in next year.
A second vacancy is possible after former Council Member Tammy Block resigned, citing an incident with someone she called a "political extremist" and city police at her home. She said she no longer believed she could serve as an unbiased leader.
Block had filed to run for re-election to the four-year seat but resigned in September. It was too late to remove her name from the ballot, and she ended up winning enough votes to be re-elected. She did not return a call for comment, and Weisensel said other council members don't know what she plans to do.
If Block does not choose to fill the seat she won, Rosemount could hold a special election for the two seats as soon as April 2023 or appoint someone to fill Weisensel's seat — which has two years remaining — and hold a special election for Block's seat, Weisensel said.
He said the council hadn't yet met with city staff or the city attorney about the process.
"We'll deal with the uncertainty as it unfolds," Weisensel said.
Union Depot celebrated
Ramsey County leaders will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Union Depot restoration at the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony on Saturday.
The county completed restoration of downtown St. Paul's historic train station in 2012 at a cost of $243 million, and it became an events center with more than 1 million annual visitors before the COVID-19 pandemic. County and regional leaders have also been working for years to develop new transit lines to connect the depot with the rest of the Twin Cities.
The free anniversary celebration starts at 3 p.m. in the historic waiting room and will include live music, crafts, the tree lighting and a screening of the holiday film "Elf." Attendees will receive free commemorative stickers, postcards, posters, ornaments and challenge coins.
The event is part of Union Depot's Hub for the Holidays — a series of events including a European Christmas Market and the North Pole Express, a short train ride to visit Santa and his elves.