Work on the Bottineau Blue Line LRT Extension project continued moving forward at the Brooklyn Park City Council meeting Feb. 26 as the council approved a master funding agreement with the project office and continued debating negotiation strategies for the proposed residential fence in the West Broadway corridor.
The council unanimously approved a master funding agreement between the city and the project office. The agreement essentially provides mutually-agreed-to terms and mechanisms by which the city and project office can move funds back and forth. Specific funding rates for any particular aspect of the project will be subject to subordinate funding agreements that will require approval from the council.
Of the $1.5 billion project, Brooklyn Park is estimated to contribute up to $11 million for work on the West Broadway streetscape, as well as approximately $23 million in investments in roads and utilities along West Broadway and in the Oak Grove station area.
According to Deputy Project Director MarySue Abel, if the project does not move forward due to unforeseen circumstances or if the project office were unable to engage in negotiations with BNSF Railway, the agreement would be terminated.
The council also debated the best strategy to move forward with the residential fence that is proposed from 73rd to 93rd Avenue along West Broadway.
Currently, the fence is proposed to be constructed as a 6-foot tall composite fence along property lines, with installation costs covered by the project office. Once the fence is installed, it would be owned and maintained by the property owners.
Property owners would not be required to receive a fence on their property if they do not want one.
City staff members have proposed creation of a restrictive covenant on all properties that receive a project-funded fence. They have also proposed creating special provisions for fences in the zoning code for the corridor and the creation of a cost-sharing program for homeowners for fence maintenance.
Three cost sharing programs were proposed: a matching grant reimbursement system where residents have an approved installers replace or repair damaged fence panels and the city would reimburse 40 percent of the cost of materials, an upfront matching grant system where the city would purchase an inventory of materials and sell them to residents at 60 percent of the original cost, or a property tax assessment where residents pay 100 percent of the cost for materials and installation over time.
Council opinions on the matter varied. Councilmembers Mark and Bob Mata argued that the project office or the county should bear the entire cost of maintaining the fence along the corridor.
Councilmembers Susan Pha and Lisa Jacobson said they would prefer that residents do no have to bear the cost for maintenance. Jacobson said she was not completely comfortable with the potential cost burdens for residents in any of the presented options.
Pha said the city should consider some sort of hybrid program that gives residents more options and a lower cost burden, such as a system with a 50 percent matching grant and the ability to assess the remaining costs to property taxes.
Mayor Jeff Lunde and Councilmember Rich Gates agreed that a hybrid or combination of options would likely work best. Lunde said that input from residents could help guide the process.
Kim Berggren, executive director of the economic development authority and director of community development, said that she was not overly optimistic about the prospect of the county or project bearing the costs for maintenance, as they see the fence as non-essential since it is not required to negate environmental impact and is not considered a safety barrier. Years of negotiation have already went into the proposed fence, she said.
Mark Mata made a motion, which he later withdrew based on advice from City Manager Jay Strobel, “to direct staff to implement the West Broadway residential fence implementation strategy in accordance with council direction that costs for the installation, maintenance and ongoing repairs be burdened by the Blue Line Extension project office and not the residents of Brooklyn Park.”
Bob Mata made a friendly amendment to add wording that also excluded the city of Brooklyn Park from bearing the costs of maintenance.
Both Lunde and Gates said they would oppose the motion because it was not a realistic goal. Jacobson said she was concerned that the project office might downgrade the level of existing funding for the fence in ongoing negotiations. “It’s never going to happen,” Lunde said.
Stroebel said that in this case, a motion was unnecessary. Mata withdrew his motion soon after.
Mata said that staff member time should be limited on LRT work until it is clear that BNSF will negotiate with the project.
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