Russ Stark

CANDIDATE FOR ST. PAUL CITY COUNCIL — WARD 4

1. How do you feel about the issue of teardowns in your Ward? 

Frustrated.  The City is far behind in doing historic survey work of our community.  Many neighbors are concerned about teardowns, but at the moment I don’t feel like the City has good tools to find quick solutions.  In Ward 4, we have recently had teardowns on Hamline University’s campus and of homes in Mac-Groveland for very different reasons.  But they share a common set of possible solutions and strategies.  I encouraged the Mayor o add staff capacity in the Historic Preservation area of our Planning Department, and he did so, recommending a 3rd Historic Preservation Specialist in his 2016 budget.  I encouraged our Planning Department to look at the issue of college campus boundaries and how to prevent our colleges from pre-empting community dialogue about appropriate campus boundaries by acquiring and demolishing buildings outside of their current boundaries.  I also strongly encouraged Hamline University Administration no to demolish 1549 Minnehaha Ave. or other houses around campus, and convened a Hamline/community dialogue to improve campus/community relations.

Conservation Districts may also be a tool that can add value to our community for those cases where the housing stock doesn’t meet the criteria for historic designation but where there are design elements that homes have in common that the community decides we want to conserve.  This will take a lot of continued pro-active work by community members in collaboration with city staff and elected officials to speed the process of completing survey work and identifying preservation opportunities and tools.

2. How do you feel about the issue of teardowns in the City of St. Paul?

Similar to the statement above.  Some important progress was made in Mac-Groveland and Highland through new dimensional standards and notification requirements.  The key is to get the survey work done.

3. What do you feel is the best approach to addressing and regulating teardowns?

Survey the City for historic resources, better identify properties for possible historic designation, further explore Conservation District opportunities, and impose reasonable restrictions on teardowns and properties that are listed as Historic or within a future Conversation District.

4. A petition is currently circulating (see attached) which asks for a teardown moratorium in the Highland and Mac-Groveland areas to allow the development and implementation of a better city-wide approach to teardowns. Is this something you would support as a City Councilmember? Why or why not?

Possibly.  A moratorium is a tool of last resort that can be used when something is occurring that is clearly outside the spirit of our Comprehensive Plan and the City’s best interests, AND it is clear that all that is needed is time to study the issue and develop a solution.  In order to support a moratorium, I would need a clear answer to the question:  after a one-year moratorium, what new restrictions will we reasonably be able to put into place that would positively affect this issue and have broad community buy-in?  If there is a clear and compelling answer to this question then I could support a moratorium in Mac-Groveland.

OTHER WARD CANDIDATES

Tom Goldstein

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