The Edina City Council on Feb. 21 approved the final agreement between the city and the school district for the 2023 general election, contracts for the second phase of the spending plan for federal pandemic funds, and a change to the city’s zoning ordinance to match the city’s updated affordable housing policy.
Multi-family housing in the city’s commercial zoning districts
The City Council approved an ordinance to the city’s zoning ordinance for commercial zoning districts to coincide with the city’s updated affordable housing policy passed by the HRA in December.
The updated housing policy eliminated density bonuses in favor of requiring mixed-use developments that have densities of 50% or greater of the maximum allowed density to include affordable units in the development.
For residential developments with densities 75% of the maximum allowed density, affordable units must also be included in the development.
The amended affordable housing policy also increased the buy-in fee for developers from $125,000 to $175,000.
Mayor Jim Hovland expressed concern about the increased fee, worrying that it would stunt Edina development.
“My fear is that we somehow disturb the program that’s been so effective for us in helping deliver affordable housing by raising the cost per door,” he said. “We could, if we wanted to, kill development in Edina in my opinion, so I don’t know.”
Councilmember Kate Agnew responded with support for the increased fee, believing it would have the opposite effect.
“In some ways, by raising it I think one of the intents is that affordable units be included in the development upfront so we’re creating a little bit of a higher barrier so that potentially fewer people will do the buy-in. But what that means is now we have that many more units of affordable housing that are entering into the market here in Edina,” Agnew said.
“We want to encourage more units of affordable housing, I feel like this is one of those tangible ways in which, when you just look at the overall cost, it’s the right way to do it, which is why support increasing it as well as requiring it for those higher-density developments.”
Despite Hovland’s reluctance, the council unanimously passed the ordinance and agreed to review it again next year after gathering data about the impact of the increased buy-in fee.
ARPA fund contracts
The city council approved three grant agreement contracts as part of the second phase of the city’s spending plan for its pandemic-related American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Of the city’s remaining ARPA funds, $80,000 will go toward partnering with Tree Trust, a St. Paul-based nonprofit, for the NextGen Tree Program to aid in tree delivery and planting; $150,000 to the Edina Chamber of Commerce for operation of the Innovation Lab, a business development resource center; and $20,000 to Edina Give and Go to cover program costs for low-income students.
The $20,000 grant to Edina Give and Go will provide funding for up to six weeks of full-time summer childcare through Kids Club for 20 Edina Public Schools students in grades K-5, funding for 20 low-income students in the program and funding for at least five students identifying as nonwhite and/or Hispanic, according to the grant program guidelines listed in the City Council meeting agenda packet
“Participation in child care is financially prohibitive for families living at or below 200% of the poverty level. This grant would have a significant impact for these 20 students and their families,” the agenda packet said.
The grant for $150,000 to the Edina Chamber of Commerce will support the Edina Innovation Lab, a business development center that trains entrepreneurs and business owners to grow and evolve their businesses in an ever-changing environment.
According to Bill Neuendorf, economic development manager of Edina, the Innovation Lab hopes to move to its new location at 7301 Metro Blvd. by June 30. The new location is currently being constructed thanks to an $800,000 loan from the HRA that was approved in November.
The partnership with Tree Trust will support goals of the NextGen Tree Program, which aims to plant 1,000 trees in Edina.
According to Tom Swenson, assistant director of Parks and Natural Resources, the city planted around 700 trees last year and will plant 300 more this year.
2023 general election agreement
The council also approved the final election agreement between the city and the Edina School District.
After 2023, the city will no longer hold elections for the district. The School District approved the final agreement at its Feb. 13 meeting.
As part of the transition, the city will conduct the district’s School Board election this year.
The city has held and managed elections to Edina Schools since 1986. Last year, the City Council voted to cancel the original agreement and allow the school district to manage its own elections. This change has been in discussion for the past few years as the number of elections has increased and they have become more difficult to operate, according to City Manager Scott Neal.
After both the city and the school district reviewed the agreement for the 2023 election, there was one alteration made.
This year, the district must only reimburse the city for costs up to $150,000, including, but not limited to, costs related to a recount, any costs for city and temporary staff, any costs for election judges, costs for equipment rental and delivery, costs for published notices, costs for printing ballots, costs of any additional supplies and costs for any other incidental expenses, according to the agreement.
City staff believe this amount should cover anticipated costs of the election but note that it is possible costs will be more than $150,000.
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