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June 19, 2018

5/24/2018 3:42:00 PM
Lindstrom City Council gives veterans housing proposal a tentative green light

The Journey Home organization builds housing for veterans with disabilities,  and at last week’s Lindstrom City Council meeting the organization discussed its interest in putting two or three homes on an empty lot the city of Lindstrom owns,  on Newlander Avenue.  

The conceptual plan needs the land to be donated to keep home costs down. The houses would forever be only for disabled veteran ownership.

Chisago County Board Chair George McMahon, who is active in veterans’ programs and activities, accompanied Blake Huffman, representing Journey Home,  for a discussion at last week’s Lindstrom City Council meeting.  

According to Huffman the organization has constructed 50 homes which are sold well below market rate to qualifying veterans. The houses are offered back to Journey Home first whenever the dwelling is ready to change hands.  He said most of their sites are “in fill” using vacant lots in existing cities.  Journey Home envisions three houses in Lindstrom, but the first step is to see if council was interested in donating the preferred site,   a couple blocks south of City Hall on Newlander.

McMahon said he was pleased the city council was willing to negotiate the land transfer and also was open to other bureaucratic measures that could help make these homesites affordable and desireable.

Council members expressed concern, however, about the small lot size, shown on the concept drawing.  They were assured there will be more sessions designing the site configuration and that Journey Home will proceed with council concerns in mind.

Neighboring property owner Kevin Munson said the  lots as shown and fitting a home and garage on those lots, “seems pretty tight” and he believed the appearance will negatively impact the existing neighborhood.

Council members David Waldoch and Curt Flug agreed the setbacks etc. appear to be absolutely minimal and wanted staff to bring back a site plan with bigger lots.  
The whole council fully supports this as a project to benefit veterans. This would also create tax-paying ownership.  For years there’s only been a community garden on one corner of the site and the whole parcel has been tax exempt.

City Administrator John Olinger pointed out that directly across Newandler Avenue is an apartment complex and an industrial park.  There’s nothing developed directly south.  He said down-sized home lots are traditionally incorporated in urban design as a transition zone,  between intense use to single-family.  

Olinger added there is a lack of clarity as to the city-private lot lines and there will need to be a survey.  At this time there’s no plan to relocate the community garden.
Huffman said the organization is ready to build this summer.

Council will hear details and determine if the Journey Home plan is moving forward probably by the next council meeting.

Chisago Lakes Lions requested council to let their beer garden sales during Karl Oskar Days go an additional hour.  The Lions are situated in the Deutschland Meats back parking lot and have halted beer sales about when the street dance is getting up to speed. It’s been an unwritten agreement that the Lions beer sales won’t impact the profits at this main fundraiser for the city festival.

Ron Boneske explained the Lions want to go to 10 p.m. to see a little more income from the effort.  As it is,  the club maybe clears about $300 to $400.
The city compromised at 9 p.m. for beer sales to cease.

Matt Howard, Director for Lakes Center For Youth in Forest Lake (used to be Youth Service Bureau) gave a pitch for an increase in city funding for 2019.
He said 332 first time juvenile offenders from Chisago County went through the diversion and restorative justice programs, accessed counseling, etc. through LC4Y.  The agency serves Washington and Chisago counties. It provided $21,000 in services to 14 Lindstrom juvenile residents.  The city usually contributes $750 annually.  Howard said $750 is what the agency spends on a single juvenile case.

These are first time, non-violent offenses, he added.  There are youth and/or their families who are ineligible for the organization’s services.
Howard said Forest Lake contributes $17,000, City of Wyoming gives $2,500 and Hugo gives $6,000.  Their usage numbers vary, but Lindstrom would be closer to $2,500 a year if it was trying to match actual benefit with support.

It costs about $3,500 for one juvenile to be adjudicated in district juvenile court, Howard continued, so by diverting just one case out of court and into LC4Y programming-- the savings are obvious.

The budgeting process for 2019 gets underway this summer and the request will be one of many that council will have to weigh.

~ Council unanimously approved a new parking lot as part of the remodel for Plastic Products Inc.,  of a building directly east of St Bridget’s Church,  that will be used for Plastics’ offices expansion. Window replacement and other structural improvements have gotten underway.

~ City parks will be posted that the city has an ordinance disallowing smoking-- tobacco or electronc cigarette forms.  The council voted 3-2 to create the ordinance and inform the public.  

Flug and Waldoch were opposed. They had concerns about smoking complaints putting demands on police time and in applying the restrictions equitably.

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