The Wayzata City Council reviewed legislative priorities with an emphasis on its appetite for a food and beverage, and local option sales tax.
Both items require a resolution by the council, likely to come in January if the council moves forward, before being submitted to the state legislature by Jan. 31.
Deputy City Manager Aurora Yager presented the details of what both taxes could provide to the city in terms of revenue, based on 2019 data. She clarified that the revenue would likely be higher based on several factors including inflation.
Local Option Sales Tax
A half-percent Local Option Sales Tax would generate about $815,000 with more than 77 percent of that revenue coming from non-residents. LOST can only be used to fund capital projects with a limit of five at a time.
The tax cannot be applied to tax exempt purchases such as food and clothing, or to purchases that already carry a special tax such as vehicles and housing.
To adopt this sales tax, it needs legislative approval. The city must detail how the funds would be spent and demonstrate what the capital projects’ economic benefits would be to residents, businesses and visitors.
If approved by the legislature, the council would need to reaffirm the resolution before putting it on the ballot in the form of a referendum. Voters have the opportunity to vote on each capital project individually. The council then passes an ordinance to put the tax into effect.
Once the funding outlined by the city is met it can no longer collect on LOST unless it returns to the legislature.
Yager said the most common rates for LOST are 0.5 percent or 1 percent. While cities may pursue five capital projects at a time, she noted that LOST is often used for one larger project, such as a park or event center. The projects do not need to be imminent or immediate either.
Yager included five capital projects that could benefit from LOST: Klapprich Park improvements, wayfinding park signage, Beach and Shaver park improvements, the Nature Center and the Eastman Ln. trailand boardwalk. Each of these is slated for 2024 or later. The total cost for these projects is about $2.3 million. LOST could fully fund these projects in less than three years.
Food and Beverage Tax
A food and beverage tax would raise less funding but a larger portion of the revenue would come in from non-residents. Based on 2019 data, the tax would raise $357,000 annually with about 90 percent coming from non-residents.
Unlike LOST, a food and beverage tax can be used to pay for operational expenses as well as capital projects.
The city needs to detail the uses and benefits of the tax in its proposal to the state legislature just like with the LOST, but it does not require a referendum approved by voters unless required by the legislature.
“To us this is much more appealing because it is a much more flexible use,” Yager said. “It still tends to be used more for capital projects.”
City Manager Jeff Dahl said business owners he has spoken with understand why the city may want to implement a food and beverage tax.
Councilor Alex Plechash said he would need to be convinced that adopting either tax would result in lowering the tax burden on Wayzata residents, rather than being more money to spend.
“That case would have to be made pretty strongly,” he said.
Mayor Johanna Mouton and councilors Molly MacDonald and Jeff Buchanan agreed that the food and beverage tax is the more appealing option of the two proposed.
Watch for more information and discussion to come forward on this topic. Stay tuned to Wayzata.com, your Wayzata food and beverage tax leader.
First responders and law enforcement officers are difficult to come by in 2022 with fewer recruits and more competition between departments.
Wayzata is experiencing this just like the rest of the nation, with the fire and police departments needing to be creative to meet the needs of the community. Meanwhile budget demands weigh heavy and the landscape of public safety continues to evolve.
Fire Chief Kevin Klapprich and Police Chief Marc Schultz discussed the challenges their departments are faced with and what they are doing to keep Wayzata safe.
Chief Schultz has heard of the perception that crime is on the rise in Wayzata. While there has been an uptick in certain types of incidents across the state, Wayzata remains on par with where it has been in recent years.
Traffic complaints were among the categories to see the most significant increase in 2022. This can be attributed with more construction finishing, the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic easing and the Panoway attracting more visitors. Some may believe the Panoway is a catalyst for driving overall criminal incidents upward, but Schultz said that would be oversimplifying the facts.
“To attribute that to the Panoway is a bit unfair,” he said. “I don’t think we can attribute it to just one thing. It’s bringing a lot of people who may not have visited us before to our town. A lot of different elements changed at the same time.”
Schultz referred to the pandemic keeping people isolated from each other and inspiring more outdoor seating at restaurants. Meanwhile the nationwide turmoil stemming from the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis may have encouraged people to seek activities outside of Minnesota’s most populous city.
Graffiti, property damage and thefts from vehicles were also among the more notable upward trends in calls, along with some vehicle thefts. Violent crimes, including carjackings which have become more prevalent in the Minneapolis metro were largely not seen in Wayzata though.
“In a lot of the perceptions that the public sees is what they see in the media,” Schultz said. “It doesn’t mean we’re immune to those trends. Those are indicators that trends are changing and we certainly have to deal with that.”
The police department is currently staffed with 15 sworn officers. Increased traffic, particularly from visitors, puts an added strain on the officers on duty. They cannot be everywhere at once as Schultz notes. That is why the department is constantly looking into new ways of policing. Not as a replacement for boots on the ground, but to enhance its ability to cover the community.
Automated license plate readers
One of those force multipliers is a newly implemented system of automated license plate readers. A pilot program in Wayzata started in just the last two weeks with the installation of readers which capture still images of license plates, automatically reporting if a vehicle law enforcement is looking for, such as a stolen vehicle or an owner with a warrant, enters Wayzata. Officers will be immediately notified if such a vehicle passes by the reader. This information can also be shared with other departments within the system.
Schultz said the system has already proven useful.
“We had a catalytic converter stolen off a car in broad daylight last week,” he said. “We got a still photo of the suspect vehicle and that has helped the investigation.”
The investigation is still open but the results are encouraging so far. Schultz hopes to see more readers installed by the end of the year.
Wayzata’s K9 unit
Speaking of force multipliers, the force added a K-9 unit this earlier this year. Loki, the K-9 officer, has proven to be more trustworthy than his namesake, giving the department an additional officer.
“If you have an officer responding to a scene and that officer is a K-9 unit, now you have two officers for some extra backup,” Schultz said. “That also allows us to help neighboring agencies if they need assistance.”
Police Department is a full time union shop
The chief looks forward to adding more officers to his roster after the council approves funding for more positions for 2023. The council is expected to move on this item by the end of the year. Once positions are opened up, Schultz know the challenge is only beginning.
“Gone are the days where we can just sit back and have applicants come to us,” he said. “We’re going out to state and regional career fairs. We’re reaching out to folks and not being so reactive to hiring opportunities. We want to be proactive. I liken it to the NCAA football recruiting style. We want to invest in them right away.”
Officers will be paid about $31 to $42 per hour in 2023 with market adjustments of 3 percent scheduled for the following years through 2025. They are hired as part of the Minnesota Labor Union.
Short fire crew
To put it simply, the Wayzata Fire Department is short on firefighters. This tracks with departments nationwide, but the department needs more firefighters and more support overall.
There are 23 firefighters in the department which is seven short of being fully staffed. Chief Klapprich estimates it has been about 10 years since the department has had a full staff and even then there may have been an opening.
Klapprich has been with the department for 44 years. His father Paul, who also served as chief, was in the department for 49 years. Kurt Klapprich, the chief’s brother, is an assistant chief and has been with the department for 40 years.
Needless to say, the Klapprich family has been instrumental in keeping the Wayzata Fire Department going and consequently keeping the community safe. Yet, due to budget constraints at the city level, Klapprich has not been hired as a full-time fire chief. You will not hear him complain. In fact, he said he feels lucky to work for the people he does.
“I don’t want trouble between the firemen and their boss,” he said. “All I can do is give them the info on ‘Here’s what I’m spending.’”
“At some point they’re not going to have a choice,” Klapprich added, referring to the decision to hire a full-time fire chief. I’m not saying I will see it. You might not see it. Personally, I think at some point there are going to have to be duty crews. It might go as far as full-time people.”
The chief reported he spends an average of 26 hours on administration per week, which does not include responding to fires, training or holding meetings.
“That 26 hours is basically keeping us floating,” he said. “With a full-time guy here there’d be a number of other things that could happen.”
Deputy City Manager Aurora Yager confirmed during a city council workshop that those hours are “just to meet the basic administrative and management duties of the position.” She also explained the need for a full-time fire chief as recommended by a 2021 department study.
Klapprich understands firefighting is a major commitment and the commitment to training might be daunting for some. The first year is the hardest in terms of training and getting up to speed. Beyond that, firefighters continue to train weekly.
Part time but on duty 24/7/365
The commitment goes beyond what happens in the fire station or on scene. Wayzata’s firefighters leave their jobs and families to respond to calls. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year, including holidays.
The department responds to about 370 calls per year, many of which last at least a few hours. Chief Klapprich is usually at every call, and at least 9 people will respond to a call and often up to 12. That means half of the department is tied up with a call. Firefighters occasionally have overlapping calls as well, meaning they are called to another incident while already responding to something.
Klapprich said the department is getting the job done right now, but he understands how fragile the situation could be. There are as many as five firefighters who are eligible to retire with full pensions at any time. He has one person on military leave and another on medical leave.
Fire Department is part time & not union
Firefighter benefits, as described on the city’s official website, include a wage of $12 per hour for responding to calls, training and meetings. They receive a pension which pays out at a lump sum at the minimum age of 50 and a $15,000 basic life insurance policy, which the city pays for.
With a fully staffed fire department, Klapprich could see another two fire trucks hitting the streets for a call, increasing the speed at which a fire is quelled and the overall reach of the department should multiple incidents happen concurrently. The fire department does not have a union at this time.
New ladder truck on order
Speaking of fire trucks, the city council approved a purchase agreement with MacQueen Emergency for a new ladder truck on Nov. 1. The current ladder truck in use has been with the department since about 2003. According to Klapprich, the department has been seeking a new ladder truck for at least five years.
The ladder truck is a crucial component to effectively fighting a fire. It increases the speed at which firefighters can douse a fire with gallons of water by about four times, Klapprich said. Additionally water can be sprayed from above which can be more advantageous in some situations.
The estimated cost for a new ladder truck is about $1.5 million.
Even with the purchase agreement in place, Klapprich expects it to be another two years or more before the new ladder truck is here, due to waiting lists in the aftermath of supply shortages.
Each candidate was given the opportunity to present an opening statement. They highlighted their varied experiences and an overview of their approach to serving on the council.
Hickman described himself as pragmatic, vowing to take a “methodical and balanced,” approach. MacDonald leaned on her upbringing in the community and how she brought a “different perspective” to the council. Parkhill and Stockton, both Planning Commission members, had different overarching issues atop their lists. Parkhill said he prioritizes smaller development. Stockton wants to be proactive on crime, traffic, noise and congestion.
A variety of issues were addressed during the hour-long forum, but one of the most overarching issues was development and the pressures of growth. Each candidate expressed concern over maintaining the charm of a small community. MacDonald and Stockton agreed the voice of residents is important while developing.
Q: How can the city deal with residential and developer pressure while maintaining charm?
Stockton: “What we need to do is look at the experience of the residents. “We can achieve balance from focusing on the user experience.”
MacDonald: “We have a high growth rate here in our city. There’s a public process — I intend to oversee that process and ensure transparency, listen and be accessible. I encourage residents to keep using their voice.”
When asked about the preliminary property tax levy of 10.59-percent, which was recently passed at council, Parkhill said the city must explore new revenue sources. The city’s budget is about $19 million.
Q: What are your thoughts on the preliminary property tax increase of 10.59-percent recommended for Wayzata?
Parkhill: “There’s tremendous pressure on our budget,” he said. “(Revenue) sources we have now are property taxes. Alternatives are the Muni and liquor store, stormwater, the marina and cable. We need to come up with different ideas. I’m not a huge proponent of taxes at all. But there are times we need to cover our costs.”
Hickman: “We are very fortunate we have a triple ‘A’ bond rating and an affluent community. We give our fair share to Hennepin County. We are an outflow city to the balance of this state. It is a privileged place to be in. We could do a little more fundraising for the police department. I wish we could do better and take some burden off the taxpayers.”
In Stockton’s response she references the addition of two police officers as one of the reasons for the proposed increase.
Stockton: “Public safety has become an increasing concern. While we do have a strong ratio of police to residents, there is an increase in activity on our main streets. These are trends we don’t want to set into habit of mind. These activities need to be curtailed.”
Johnson asked the candidates to choose from one of four topics to speak on related to the corridor study: land use and development, transportation, road safety or public realm and streetscapes. All four chose land use and development and all four referenced development near County Road 101.
Q: State your vision for land use and development.
Stockton: “We need to reclaim the 101 and Wayzata Blvd. We’re a small town. We need to connect upper to lower Wayzata through efficient traffic and walkability.”
MacDonald: “Safety is of the utmost importance. We need examine that area and come up with a plan for resident safety. The access entry points there are terrifying. If we come up with a good, solid plan we can go to the county and ask that they address these safety issues prior to their plan which is 2030 I believe.”
Hickman: “That is an important corner coming off Central Ave. into the heart of city as you approach superior,” he said. “That is the last opportunity to make your best impression of the city when entering from that side. This project needs to be developed correctly and smoothly so it’s balanced.”
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges facing businesses, and what role should the city council have in supporting businesses?
Hickman: “The traffic that is attracted to the city is not really interested in the retail sector and it’s suffering. If we add more and more retail its going to be competing. I’m in favor of a half a percent sales tax because most of the sales tax is going to be paid for by visitors.”
MacDonald: “Parking has been an issue for my business and the businesses I have spoken to. I’d like to refute and state for the record that the Wayzata businesses are thriving. We’re all having record years.”
Q: What measures would you support if any to support affordable housing needs?
Parkhill: “(Accessory dwelling units), we looked at doing those in various districts in the community. That would allow some affordable housing. I think as they build along Wayzata Blvd. there absolutely needs to be some affordable housing requirements.”
Stockton: “Affordable housing in Wayzata is a tough nut to crack because we are a destination location and values are very high. As we develop the upper part of Wayzata along Colonial Sq. and Wayzata Blvd. and the 101, over time these are areas we can do that. Ask developers to portion off part of their development to suit this need.”
Q: What is your view on a permit process for short-term rentals?
MacDonald: “We need to wait for it to become an issue. We shouldn’t be in the business of solving problems that aren’t an issue yet.”
Hickman: “I spend time in Scottsdale, Ariz. during the winter. Thirty-percent of the properties in Scottsdale are short-term rentals. They’re not owner occupied. I don’t think we want a community like that. Your community is built on people with a soul.”
Q: Wayzata is considering installing rooftop solar panels on city buildings. What additionalenvironmental actions should Wayzata consider?
Parkhill: “We approved one solar energy variance last year. It’s kind of in a trial phase. We didn’t think it was going to look that nice. They’re coming out with really good ones though that can be hidden. The best thing we can do is continue to wait until these solar panels are aesthetically pleasing at least for places that are noticable. Solar is the wave of the future.”
Hickman: “I’ve had solar panels — 34 of them — for five years. I live in a 6,000 square-foot house and my electric bill averages $12 a month. It’s time we started considering this. They’re very efficient. They’re getting more inexpensive daily.”
Q: What steps would you take towards advancing racial diversity and equity in the city government and community?
Hickman: “You have to teach diversity very young and teach acceptance because I tell you what, 40-percent of the population of Minnesota will be people of color in 40 years. We better get prepared and we better get used to it.”
MacDonald: “I think the Panoway has helped with this situation quite a bit. It has offered people accessibility to the lake. I feel connected to the community. It’s the most diversity I’ve seen in my entire life in Wayzata.”
In closing statements, the themes of working together, calculated approaches to growth and balancing the needs of residents and developers were central to each candidate.
MacDonald touted her life-long residency in Wayzata having grown up in the community and started a business here. She spoke to considering the past when preparing for the future.
“I live in a 100-year-old house. I drive a 60-year-old car,” she said. “I appreciate the past and am excited for the future. Wayzata has an authentic legacy that comes from multi-generational families like mine. Authenticity comes from loving where you live. I’m running to manage thoughtfully the high growth rate, maintain city services to our high standards and prioritize public safety on roads and in parks.”
Parkhill said he aims to steer away from hot-button talking points and work together with the rest of the council. Stockton also spoke of collaboration, saying her skills as a consultant have prepared her for the role. Hickman said he wants to see the $19 million city budget pared down and have the 2040 comprehensive plan reviewed regularly.
Voting for the two city council seats will take place on Nov. 8. Polls are open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. at City Hall. Absentee voting for the State General Election began on Friday.
The maximum property tax levy increase for 2023 could be more than residents are accustomed to.
The city council was presented the preliminary property tax levy during Tuesday’s meeting. Administrative services director Aurora Yager broke down the need for the increase, along with the preliminary general fund and enterprise fund budgets.
City staff starts the budgeting process during the summer months, preparing for a final budget at the end of the year.
The recommended preliminary property tax levy increase for next year is 10.59-percent. The levy must be approved by the council and certified to Hennepin County by Friday, Sept. 30.
“In my six years on the council and two years in this role — this is the largest increase I have seen, It’s not a number we have ever entertained.”
MAYOR JOHANNA MOUTON
The largest factor in the increase, according to Yager, is to pay for additional staffing. Public safety in particular will see an increased investment with the addition of two more police officers.
“Just paying for employees is about 60-percent of our budget. That’s what it takes to provide services.”
The city is working toward having two officers on duty at all times. With the number of officers currently with the police department this is not possible. Yager said it would really take three more officers to achieve that goal.
Currently, the police department is a more than $2.6 million expenditure for the city. The proposed budget increase would add another $46,812 to the department.
“I applaud how well the city has been run financially for as long as I’ve known. This has been a painful year to look at these things,” said councilor Alex Plechash. “It’s my view we do need what we’re asking for. I feel it’s one that’s warranted.”
Plechash said the largest complain he hears from residents is about evening activity on Lake Street.
“For the most part people love Panoway. It’s added vibrancy to the community,” he said. “With that comes the negative that we have some things we need to take care of.”
Following Plechash’s comments, councilor Cathy Iverson asked what the true cost of maintaining Panoway is. Public works director and city engineer Mike Kelly said the city has only just started tracking that data.
The property tax increase, if at the maximum rate proposed, would cost the median homeowner an additional $110.
While the increase took some of the council aback, Yager shared how it compares to neighboring cities. Even with an increase of more than 10-percent, Wayzata would have the second lowest tax levy rate among those cities. The city’s property tax rate makes up about 18-percent of a property owner’s property tax statement.
Councilors Iverson and Molly MacDonald voiced their hesitation to certify the rate increase. MacDonald said she believes it can be lowered. When the time came for roll call, Iverson was the only one to vote against certifying.
“A double digit increase is significantly high in my opinion,” she said. “I’m not very comfortable at this moment.”
Yager said she has heard of possibly larger rate increases from neighboring cities ranging from 5- to 22-percent.
“We’ll see what happens when those other communities release their levies,” she said. “I would not be surprised to see higher.”
With the preliminary property tax levy certified at an increase of 10.95-percent, the council can only increase the tax by that amount or less. It cannot increase by more than the rate it certified to the county.
The 2023 general fund assumes an increase of 5.37-percent in operating expenses. Cities across the country are losing one revenue source with the expiration of American Rescue Plan funds.
The total revenues for the city in 2022 are estimated at $7.5 million and projected to increase to about $7.9 million in 2023.
Yager said the proposal for the general fund is for a balanced budget. The council approved the preliminary budget. Iverson voted ‘nay.’
Text Amendment costs debated in fee schedule
When discussing the next agenda item, the adoption of the 2023 fee schedule, Iverson asked about zoning amendment fees. The fee schedule for 2023 has a text amendment fee of $2,195 with an escrow of $3,822. Both are increases of more than $100 over 2022.
“There has been someone that has reached out to the city asking why it’s so much higher than our other cities,” Iverson said. “Plymouth’s is $300 with no escrow. Excelsior is $700 with no escrow. Why such a high cost? It seems extremely elevated.”
Yager said she would not dispute those numbers, but she said cities such as Minnetonka have fees which are similar to Wayzata’s.
City attorney David Schelzel clarified what escrow is used for. He said it helps the city ensure legal processing fees and professional service fees are covered by the applicant. What is not used is then refunded to the applicant. On larger projects, staff may request a larger escrow.
Schelzel went on to say the escrow fee is important to the city because of the amount of “sophisticated development” that happens in Wayzata.
“Your single-family homeowner who is doing a small project, those fees are not going to be all used like that,” Schelzel said.
“For these big development applications when we have a PUD and we’re talking tens of millions of dollars, I’m not too concerned if they can make $3,800 work,” Mouton said. “I think they can scrape that together.”
The signing, or lack of signing, of the city’s new code of conduct policy for elected officials, boards and the public sparked the continuation of tensions on the city council dais Tuesday.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s regular meeting, the city council and Mayor Johanna Mouton were asked to hand in the newly adopted code of conduct documents with their signatures to city manager Jeff Dahl. After a short recess more than 2 hours later, Mouton and Dahl brought to the attention of the room that one document was returned without a signature. This document was returned by councilor Cathy Iverson.
The code of conduct was unanimously passed by the council during its Aug. 3 meeting.
“I voted in favor knowing I would not sign it,” Iverson answered. “It’s a personal decision and I would not like to discuss it on public TV.”
Councilor Alex Plechash asked that the code be shared with the public.
“I have grave concerns if I have a colleague that does not want to abide in a code of conduct we passed,” he said. “I want the public that has elected that council member to actually see what she has decided not to agree to.
Iverson noted that while she did not sign the document, she has carried herself according to the code at meetings. While Iverson was speaking, Plechash voiced his disagreement.
“I feel like I’m being bullied right now, and that’s part of the reason I am not signing it,” Iverson responded.
Iverson is not legally obligated to sign such a document, which she mentioned and Mouton agreed.
What inspired the code of conduct?
The code of conduct will be given to all members of the city government’s boards and commissions for signatures moving forward. Dahl noted it will also be included in the orientation process for new board and commission members, as well as a reference point for evaluations.
The code also carries expectations for members of the public who attend these meetings.
In an interview with Dahl, he said it was an incident last fall which inspired the drafting of the code. He did not elaborate on what that incident was.
“It is to keep everyone safe and have a well functioning meeting,” he said. “It’s just nice to have clear expectations for rules and responsibilities of elected officials, staff and members of the public.”
Prior to the vote approving the code of conduct on Aug. 3, Iverson and Mouton engaged in a debate related to conduct. At that meeting, Dahl reiterated the conversation was not a catalyst for the drafting of the code.
“This is just best practice for local government to have an effective and efficient governing body,” he said. “It is not a result of any one thing with the councilors.”
Iverson maintains stance
Mouton referred to Iverson not signing the code of conduct as “another disappointing example.” Iverson quickly answered the comment.
“Do we want to talk about censurship and the repercussions of you guys censuring me?” she asked. “Because that was a question that was asked. What happens if we feel somebody is not following the code of conduct? We will censure them.”
In government, censuring is a formal acknowledgement of disapproval from a body towards one of its representatives. It does not carry any direct punishment such as removal of position, but it can be damaging to public trust in an elected official or among that official and their colleagues.
Mouton answered Iverson’s question by stating censurship is an option anytime a colleague ‘falls outside the norms of behavior,’ or breaks the law.
“It’s a violation of my First Amendment,” Iverson said.
Wayzata Gateway ignites disagreement
The conversation over Iverson’s conduct at council dates back to a meeting on July 19. During that meeting the council approved a redevelopment proposal for 900 Wayzata Blvd E., known as the site of the Wells Fargo building.
The project, referred to as the Wayzata Gateway, will include the construction of an office building, apartments and 5,500 square foot bank.
Iverson was the only council member to vote against the proposal, citing concerns about the design, height and overall massing of the buildings. After the vote, Iverson exited the meeting. There was another new business agenda item remaining, the approval of excessive fund transfers. She was marked on record for leaving at 10:39 p.m.
On Aug. 3, Iverson expressed her disappointment about the approval of the project before the council entered the consent agenda portion of the meeting. She said the approval of the project was not consistent with the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, or with other projects which had been denied by the council.
“In my 11 years involved with the city I have never seen a project of this size approved without any changes to the design, scaling or massing of the building,” she said. “I don’t even know how to react to it. I am just completely baffled.”
Mouton took exception to the comments and the setting in which they were shared.
“It’s an unfair statement to make that this council — were not willing to entertain discussion about many of those items, because we were,” Mouton continued. “We discussed many of those. I am disappointed in that at this juncture you choose to make a statement that you feel we have not done our job.”
Iverson disagreed, stating she did not feel she was given the chance to have an open discussion about her concerns.
“I tried and it did not happen,” she said. “The decision for me to put something on paper did not come lightly.”
Mouton added that she was also disappointed in Iverson’s actions after the item was approved, referring to her leaving the meeting while it was in session.
“You not only disappointed this council but you stormed out and you neglected your duties as a council member,” Mouton said. “You failed your duties as a councilor.”
“My decision to walk out may not have been a professional decision,” Iverson responded. “It was my reflection of the view of the council, of the decision of the council to continue to disregard my design expertise.”
Mouton said no members of the council have tried to limit another’s point of view.
Iverson denied a request for comment. Mouton did not respond before the publishing deadline.
The city council will next meet for a regular meeting on Aug. 30.
Phase 2a and 2b of the project will now move for the construction design step in the process. This is where city staff and its consultants will fine tune the details of the project, including a cost estimate, before putting the project out to bid.
Jessica Houlihan, founder of development consulting firm Onyx Strategic Partners, outlined the timeline of what is to come. Her expectation is construction design will be finished to return in front of council by December. Once the designs are approved, the project will go out to bid. After a contractor is chosen, construction could begin as soon as March 2023.
“We walked all the way through the schedule with one firm and it’s about a six month project,” Houlihan said. “We should be done in the fall.”
Phase 2a, the boardwalk and shoreline, carries a $6.78 million budget while the docks are estimated at $770,000. The budget for the Section Foreman House, Phase 2b, is $1.27 million.
The city has secured $4 million in bond funding for the project. It will draw an estimated $2.62 million from tax increment financing and the remaining portion is slated to come from private or ‘other’ sources. The Wayzata Conservancy has pledged funding for the Section Foreman House, which it is currently fundraising for, as well.
“What we’ve done is plan for the maintenance and operations for 10 years,” said city manager Jeff Dahl. “The Wayzata Conservancy, to decrease the burden on the city, have agreed to fund maintenance and operations for the remainder of the project so taxpayers of Wayzata won’t be burdened with that.”
According to community development director Emily Goellner, the conservancy has raised about $250,000 for the Section Foreman House and will also pay for construction design plans for that part of the project.
Councilor Cathy Iverson was the lone council member to vote against approving the design.
“Can we feel confident telling the residents this will not be a tax burden,” Iverson said. “I have a lot of concerns about how it’s going to be paid for.”
Mayor Johanna Mouton noted a better picture of the costs will not come until after construction design is completed. Councilor Alex Plechash said he also had reservations about the funding, but not enough for him to vote against the design. The mayor and other members of the council said they were comfortable with the funding sources.
“We’ve been steadfast that we would not levy the taxpayers of Wayzata to pay for this,” Mouton said. “We have not done so.”
Baja Haus outdoor patio approved
The council unanimously approved a conditional use permit for a seasonal outdoor patio at Baja Haus, 830 E. Lake Street.
Applicant and co-owner Josh Friedt said his restaurant’s temporary outdoor patio was helpful for his business during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020-21.
“To me it was a huge success,” Friedt said. “I don’t want to say it saved my business but it was definitely a big help.”
The request was to use four parking spaces outside of the restaurant for a temporary pergola. Inside it would fit eight tables seating four each. The patio would be used from May to October. When not in use, the space would be opened back up for parking.
“The people I spoke to that used the outdoor patio during the pandemic really loved it,” Iverson said. “I only heard positive things from the community.”
Former Wayzata Texaco Site
The council also approved a lot combination, comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning of two parcels at 1022 E. Wayzata Blvd.
These parcels were discussed for development in front of the council in April with the proposal of adding a drive thru coffee business. The property is home to a gas station which is no longer in use. To the south, there is a small residential parcel which is considered difficult to develop because of its size and location.
The rezoning of the property changes the newly combined parcel to a C-3 property for retail use.
The planning commission unanimously recommended approval and the council voted 4-1 in favor.
Mithun Enterprises, the owner of the site at 900 Wayzata Blvd E., sought breaking the property up into three parcels with a mixed use. The property is currently a Wells Fargo Bank location. The project is called Wayzata Gateway.
“This project is not something we have taken lightly, said Matt Mithun, Owner of Mithun Enterprises. “We had a very good tenant with Wells Fargo over the years. Now it’s time for a refresh.”
The proposal is to create a subdivision and rezone two of the parcels to support a bank and residential use. The parcel to the north would be a one-story, 5,500-square-foot bank with an entrance at its northwest corner. There would be a drive through serving the bank to its rear and 15 surface level parking spaces.
Along with a rezoning and conditional use permit request for the drive through, the bank would require a design deviation as it would not have enough window space on its east side. This is due to the bank vault being located on this side.
The parcel to the east would be a two-story, 34,944-square-foot office building. It would include 44 underground parking spaces, terraces for employees and a park. Requests for this parcel included setback variances and a conditional use permit for off-site parking.
The third parcel, located along the south and west of the property, would be a residential parcel. It would feature up to 67 rental apartment units, nine two-story townhomes with two or three bedrooms and 162 underground parking spaces on two levels. Amenities would include a swimming pool, two parking entrances and green space.
The requests for the residential parcel stirred up the most discussion among the council, particularly the request for a height variance. The maximum height allowable according to the city’s design standards is 35 feet. The variance request asks for 51-feet, 8-inches.
The primary reason for such a large leap in height is the 40-foot slope stretching north and south along this portion of the property.
“We generally don’t see anything in Wayzata that has that number,” said Valerie Quarles, Assistant Planner. “We also don’t see a building built on a 40-foot slope.”
Quarles noted the planning commission was split on the height variance. Those supportive of it found it to be an unavoidable challenge to development. Those who were concerned were simply cautious of the immense height as a whole.
“This is an incredibly unique site,” said Mayor Johanna Mouton. “This isn’t just a flat site where someone wants to maximize every inch.”
Mouton has not been in favor of height variances in the past, stating she does not vote in favor of them.
“I’m OK with this but barely,” she said. “It’s going to be tall. There are no two ways about it. It’s going to be imposing on Maggie Manor.”
Councilor Cathy Iverson had the most reservations about the overall proposal among the council members. She did not support the subdivision or the requests for the office parcel and the residential parcel.
“I can’t go in the weeds when I can’t get behind the concept,” she said. “There’s too much going on in one space. There is nothing charming about it. It does not feel like a gateway to a lake community.”
While the rest of the council was supportive of the project, they agreed to include several conditions as well as staff guidance ahead of a future development agreement. Conditions include screening of the bank wall on the east side, possibly with architectural variety, vegetation or public art; mechanical equipment may not exceed the granted height variance; front yard spaces cannot be fenced in. They also asked that a pollinator meadow, which was included in the project’s plans by ESG Architecture and Design, remain in the plan.
The vote was 4-1 in favor and the resolution passed. Iverson was the lone vote against.
The Wayzata City Council Appointed Molly MacDonald at last Tuesday night’s Council Meeting. After what staff described as “an expedited but thorough interview process and discussion,” the Council made the appointment unanimously.
10 applicants interviewed for the one open position left by Johanna McCarthy‘s move from Councilwoman to Mayor. McCarthy ran unopposed for Mayor in November of 2020 after Ken Willcox announced he would not seek the position again.
Interviews with the candidates were conducted via Zoom as part of the City’s workshop agenda earlier in the evening.
Other finalists for the position included Jeff Parkhill and Lindsay Bashioum.
“The Wayzata City Council is excited to welcome it’s newest City Council member, Molly MacDonald, after considering a number of exceptionally committed, qualified and passionate members of the community, ” stated Mayor Johanna McCarthy after the appointment.
McCarthy continued, “As a life long member of the community and small business owner, Mrs. MacDonald will bring a fresh perspective and new insights to council deliberations. We look forward to her upcoming swearing in and the many contributions she will make to the council and community.”
City Manager Jeff Dahl also echoed similar comments in a statement, “In their discussions, the City Council highlighted Mrs. MacDonald’s lifelong commitment to the community, understanding of the community’s vision and values, her value of perspective as a small business owner, and her obvious overall passion to make the community even better. Staff and the Council are thrilled to have Mrs. MacDonald as a part of Wayzata’s leadership team!”
MacDonald answered several questions posed by Wayzata.com after the appointment:
WDC: What made you run for the open council seat?
MM: “The support and encouragement from family, friends and my network in the community gave me the confidence to apply for the City Council position. I was and am reminded daily that my core values for Wayzata align with a most engaged public.”
WDC: What stands out to you about growing up here?
MM: “How many of us are still here! Wayzata is idyllic. As I grew and expanded my world that became clear to me.”
WDC: How will growing up here guide your decision making in the future?
MM: “Our values are rooted in our past. My memories of the Wayzata 25 years ago will guide me when making decisions for its future.”
WDC: What is your vision for the future of Wayzata?
MM: “What I’ve learned from living though last year is hindsight truly is 20/20. It’s even more apparent to me that Wayzata needs to progress forward steadily and thoughtfully. I don’t want to see the city make regretful decisions. I hope to be a thoughtful, forward looking councilor with a clear memory of the past. Those two ideals need to work harmoniously. The community speaks about charm. It’s the word most people use when they talk about what they value in Wayzata. Charm is earned and cannot be replicated and manufactured. Charm is authentic and I believe that is what the residents, the business owners and all of our visitors want to see. It’s the core value that I want to represent in the City Council.”
MacDonald will be sworn in at the February 2nd City Council meeting.