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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Council Retreat

This past Thursday morning (March 1), the city council held a retreat at the Gladstone fire station. It was an open meeting (as required by law, since a quorum was present and they were discussing city business), but the idea was for the council get together in a more informal setting to hash out some of their issues -- sitting around a table, rather than in the environment of the council chambers with cameras and all. The meeting began at 8:00 AM, but I didn't arrive until a little after 9:00. Present were Mayor Diana Longrie; councilpersons Will Rossbach, Rebecca Cave, and Erik Hjelle; and city staffers Greg Copeland and Karen Guilfoyle. Two observers were present — yours truly and Paul Demko, a reporter from City Pages who is working on an article about Maplewood. Kathy Juenemann was not there, due to a scheduling conflict.

Late in the meeting, the subject turned to Gladstone, where the comprehensive plan amendment recently failed (it requires a 4-person supermajority, but only got 3 votes). Partway through this discussion, Mayor Longrie had to leave for a conference call. I think credit really has to go to Hjelle, Cave and Rossbach for hashing things out and really listening to one another. Hjelle asked Rossbach to explain his issues with the current Gladstone master plan, to see if compromise could be achieved. Rossbach took the opportunity to articulate some of his concerns about urban planning in general and Gladstone in particular, and said he was trying to lay a good foundation for redevelopment in the neighborhood 50-100 years into the future. Ultimately, they found that they were not so far apart after all — the changes that Rossbach wanted did not pose a problem for Cave and Hjelle. In turn, Rossbach accepted the changes recommended by the Planning Commission which the council majority had already endorsed.

This is not a "done deal," however; as I said, the mayor had to leave before the discussion came to its conclusion, and Juenemann was not present. At least one of them will also have to sign on to the compromise for it to take effect, since four votes are still needed for a comp plan amendment. It's even possible that the vote could be unanimous.

A similar council retreat is planned for April, if I heard correctly.


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