May 2013 Meeting

Our meeting started with further discussion of Thrive MSP 2040 started last month. One of the issues that came up was regional planning for groundwater (aquifers), and our minutes reflect this astute observation: "[Marckel] noted that one of their questions is – who is in charge of it?" This is something that the legislature is working on as well, particularly Peter Fischer, trying to get better communication and cooperation between the half dozen or so different agencies with some kind of authority over water.

In the business items portion, we dealt with successive motions regarding the Kingswood SRF. This is a somewhat unique situation in that the owner of the site has approached the Metropolitan Council with a proposal to sell the property, so we have a property that could be a good addition to the regional parks system that nobody knew would ever be available suddenly coming up for sale with a first offer to the Met Council, so things are happening on a much accelerated timeline compared to our usual considerations for such things.

The first item in that sequence was the system policy plan amendment to include the site as a future Special Recreation Feature, which we recommended for public hearing back in February. The results of the public hearing process came back positive, so we continued our discussion of the amendment. Much of the discussion focused on whether or not their would be an actual "learning center" structure built on the site. Procedurally, this is actually premature, as any decisions about that sort of thing would be discussed during the Development Master Plan process, not adding a site to the system policy plan nor in an Acquisition Master Plan, but some members felt it was a critical question to whether the site could adequately serve the stated intended purpose as a SRF focused on water quality and conservation. Three Rivers Park District staff responded that if one was not built, then the plan would be for any indoor learning to take place at nearby Gale Woods Farm and students then shuttled over to Kingswood for the outdoor portions (the park district operates a shuttle bus for such things). Additionally, it is being considered whether the site should be developed as an all-outdoor facility, with much of the contents of a learning center structure, just placed outside instead, since that would be consistent with the aims of getting people outdoors as much as possible. Existing picnic shelters are planned to be kept, so could provide supplemental weather shelter to such a plan. Ultimately we passed the amendment as it stood, with one abstention. As shown in the minutes, "Schmidt abstained because she feels we don’t have a good definition of what is a 'special use feature'." Commissioner Schmidt is certainly right on that point - we should come up with a clearer definition for such things in the process of revising the policy plan language for that later this year and into 2014.

Once the amendment was passed, we considered the Acquisition Master Plan for the site. This is a fairly straightforward step outlining the boundaries of parcels to be acquired and costs of doing so. I asked a couple of clarification questions about items shown, all minor. For instance, the map shows a DNR easement on a "parcel" that's actually in the lake. Apparently a past survey had categorized it as wetland but land, so an easement was purchased, but now it's considered lake, and thus not an ownable parcel. The joys of old land surveys! This was approved as well, making way for the final item.

Now that we had approved a system amendment and an acquisition master plan, Three Rivers Park District was eligible to request funds for the actual acquisition of the site, in the form of an Acquisition Opportunity Fund Grant request. The one oddity here is that there's a possibility of another funding source (Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars allocated by the LCCMR) taking care of part of the acquisition, but that hasn't been decided yet, so we were asked to approve two potential scenarios, with the amount needed either with or without the LCCMR funding. Both options are consistent with funding policies for such grants, so were both approved pending the results of the LCCMR decision to choose which one would take effect in the final grant.

Two more business items dealt with features outside of my district, so I won't go into detail of them here.

Full minutes

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