Edina’s Year in Review

Editor’s Note: As 2012 is coming to a close, I’m nearing my first year as the Edina community editor. It was a busy year of big stories, small stories, elections, features and everything in between. Here are some of the stories that occurred in Edina during the past 12 months.

Teardowns

2012 was a year of construction in Edina.

The city broke a record with more than 90 building permits approved in 2012.

The tearing down of homes to build larger ones on 50-foot lots also took center stage as construction noise, workers and trucks filled Edina’s streets.

Although construction is taking place throughout the city, the majority of complaints came from the Morningside neighborhood in northeastern Edina. There, the closeness of the homes is causing residents to be more impacted by the construction.

Hovland pointed out in November that a balance needs to be found between teardowns being completed and adverse effects on the neighborhood.

The Planning Commission is in the middle of examining the city’s land use regulations to determine the maximum size house for lots in Edina, according to City Manager Scott Neal.

The city also expanded its Construction Management Plan, which regulates construction on commercial buildings, to cover residential construction in November.

 

Bike lanes

Edina spent the fall installing 10 miles of new bike lanes on city streets.

However, eight-tenths of a mile of the bike lanes were a new type of bike lane, which caused drivers to become confused and drive down the middle of the road.

Edina became the second city in the United States to implement these new lanes, called advisory bike lanes, when it implemented them on Wooddale Avenue.

The city decided to stay the course with the lanes for now to see if drivers adapt to the new lanes. However, some including Hovland, are opposed to the advisory bike lanes on Wooddale, saying they create a dangerous driving situation.

To alleviate the confusion temporarily, the city installed center tabs on Wooddale.

A safety study is being completed on the Wooddale bike lanes. The city is also spending the winter coming up with ways to educate the public about the lanes.

 

Detachment

A neighborhood in northwest Edina will begin 2013 working with the Minnesota Legislature on changing the state statute after it failed to receive the approval for its detachment from the Hopkins school district.

After two years of gearing up, the group representing the Parkwood Knolls neighborhood, Unite Edina 273, spent 2012 working to join the Edina school district.

The Hopkins School Board unanimously opposed in December Unite Edina 273’s request for support its decision to leave the district.

The group began the year at the state Capitol, where Sen. Geoff Michel and Rep. Keith Downey introduced legislation that would allow an area to begin the detachment process without the permission of the detaching district’s school board.

Downey’s bill passed in the House in March, but the Senate Education Committee tabled Michel’s bill in April, saying it was late in the session to begin working on such complex legislation.

Unite Edina 273 then turned its attention on the local school districts, formally requesting to annex into the Edina school district in May. The group delivered 425 petitions for detachment to Hopkins Superintendent John Schultz in September. The Hopkins School Board received a total of 448 petitions, two of which weren’t legally verifiable.

After the defeat of its detachment request at the Hopkins School Board’s Dec. 20, Unite Edina 273 is preparing to head to the Legislature again to affect a change in state statute dictating the detachment and annexation process.

 

Elections

Edina residents signaled their confidence in Mayor Jim Hovland by electing him for a third term.

The Edina City Council will also remain status quo as it heads into a new year. Councilmembers Mary Brindle and Ann Swenson won reelection.

Hovland, Brindle and Swenson will begin their new terms when they take the oath of office during the Edina City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Brindle will be in her second term and Swenson will be in her third term on the city council.

When the Minnesota Legislature convenes on Tuesday, Jan. 8, Democrats will represent Edina for the first time.

District 41 became District 49 in the redistricting of the state’s legislative districts.

The newly formed District 49 didn’t have any incumbents in either the Senate or House races. Sen. Geoff Michel (R-Edina) announced in March that he wouldn’t seek another term in office. Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) announced he was running for the Senate seat.

Democratic candidate Melisa Franzen won the Senate seat. After serving in the state House for 18 years as a Republican, Ron Erhardt is returning as a Democrat representing District 49A. A one-time state representative Paul Rosenthal, a Democrat, will represent District 49B at the Capitol.

A portion of northeast Edina switched from Congressional District 3 to District 5 due to the redistricting. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison won re-election in District 5 and Republican Rep. Eric Paulsen won re-election in District 3, which includes a majority of Edina.

In the presidential race, Edina went for Pres. Barack Obama.

The majority of Districts 49A and 49B voted no on the two Constitutional amendments – one to require voters to provide a photo ID to vote and a second to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Edina had an 89.3 percent voter turnout on Election Day on Nov. 6, higher than the city’s voter turnout in 2008 and 2010.

 

Teacher of the Year

Jackie Roehl became the first teacher from Edina to be named Teacher of the Year.

She received the award from the educators’ union Education Minnesota in May.

Roehl is a 10th grade language arts teacher at Edina High School. She’s taught at the school since 1998.

Her focus in the classroom is on finding ways to teach students from different backgrounds and she believes that’s the key to solving the achievement gap.

“Closing the racial achievement gap is a moral and ethical imperative, and we will do little to change the racial predictability of achievement without a major shift in teaching approaches and active social justice work,” she said after she received the award.

Superintendent Ric Dressen described Roehl as a leader in the school district and said she works with a team of teachers on closing the gap in Edina.

Director of Enrollment and School Improvement Mary Manderfeld described Roehl as someone who sets the bar high for all students in her classroom.

“Jackie has a strong belief that each of her students can and will learn and be successful,” Manderfeld said at the time. “She sets very high expectations for her students and then provides them the tools to achieve those expectations. She is a deeply committed teacher and has a tireless work ethic in her attempt to reach all students.”

 

Sports sites

Edina moved forward on several sports sites projects – the Hornet’s Nest, the Braemar Golf Dome and the sports dome.

The Edina City Council approved in July an expansion called the Hornet’s Nest at Braemar West Arena. The Hornet’s Nest is a two-story building that will house four new locker rooms, a retail store and an off-ice training facility.

The non-profit Drive for the Hive raised $795,000 for the expansion. Although the project was originally slated for a Dec. 1 completion date, the project wasn’t ready to be occupied until the end of December.

City officials spent 2012 grappling with the unexpected issue of rebuilding the golf dome after it was destroyed in a fire in February.

Staff has been negotiating with its insurance provider over the settlement amount it will receive to fund the rebuilding of the golf dome. However, at the close of 2012, the city council learned that the city may have to pay for a portion of the rebuilding costs.

When a new golf dome is up and running is also still up in the air. A new dome was originally expected to be completed by the beginning of the winter season, when the dome is usually in use, but a completion date had yet to be set at the end of 2012.

After nearly a year of study, the city is more closely studying the Braemar Arena field as a site for its proposed sports dome.

Staff spent part of 2012 studying whether a “double dome” housing both the golf dome and sports dome was feasible before deciding it was not.

 

Airplane noise

Edina officials and residents turned out in full force in opposition to a proposal that would concentrate the flight paths of airplanes departing from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport over central and southern Edina.

The Metropolitan Airport Commission decided in November against implementing new technology called Area Navigation, or RNAV, that would have created the paths for planes departing from gates 30 Left and 30 Right. The technology is being implemented elsewhere at the airport.

The implementation of RNAV at the airport was proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, stating it would create a more efficient airspace.

Edina hadn’t been given a chance to learn about the technology or its effect on the residents like cities closer to the airport had been given, Mayor Jim Hovland told the MAC prior to its vote.

Residents said they opposed RNAV because it would increase airplane noise over their homes and could potentially affect house values.

Edina residents weren’t alone in their opposition. The flight paths would have also affected South Minneapolis, whose residents also turned out in opposition in the standing room-only MAC meeting on Nov. 19. A petition opposing RNAV with more than 1,000 signatures was also given to the MAC.

However, some cities were in favor of RNAV. Richfield officials told the MAC that implementing RNAV would alleviate the large volumes of airplane noise that Richfield residents must deal with now.

City Manager Scott Neal pointed out that the exemption of gates 30L and 30R from the decision is only a “reprieve.” The decision will be coming back to the MAC sometime in 2014 and Edina needs to be ready. City staff is planning a briefing with airport staff in January to learn more about the technology and they hope to have a public meeting about RNAV to educate residents about it.

The council also requested a spot on the Noise Oversight Committee, which approved the implementation of RNAV at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport before it went to the MAC for a vote.

 

Hornettes

After students and parents expressed anger at a proposed name change to the Hornettes dance team, administration decided not to continue with the changing of the name to the “Hornets.”

The name change was part of a larger move to create a “Spirit Squad” at Edina High School, which began in the fall of 2012. Students and staff said this fall that they’re happy with the new Spirit Squad.

However, it was standing room only at the Edina School Board’s April meeting when current and former Hornettes expressed their outrage at the change. A petition with 1,200 signatures was also given to the school board.

Superintendent Ric Dressen apologized at the school board meeting the following month for how the administration handled the changes to the Hornettes dance team.

Administration saw a need to study the high school’s spirit activities after disciplinary incidents involving the Hornettes took place in 2011. The new Spirit Squad was the result of that study.

The new Spirit Squad is comprised of the pep band, competitive cheer, the Hornettes, the hip hop dance team and the Hornet mascot.

Spirit Squad Coordinator Jenn Carter said in October that it’s been fun watching the different entities come together.

“I think the kids, both those participating in the spirit groups and the students in the stands, are enjoying this new more inclusive approach to school spirit,” she said at the time.

 

Southdale Center

Renovations to the first regional indoor mall took place in 2012.

The renovations to Southdale Center were completed in December.

Renovations were also accompanied by five new stores joining the mall: White House/Black Market, Madewell, Sephora, Soma Intimates and Lucky Brand all opened their doors at Southdale in 2012.

The Edina City Council also helped foot the bill with a $5 million interest-free loan to Southdale Center owner Simon Properties to be used to renovate the public areas of the mall. The loan was approved in April in a 4-1 vote.

To receive the loan, Southdale had to first invest $14 million in renovations by the end of 2012.

Simon Properties will begin repaying in 2014 and will have eight years to pay back the loan.

The loan also came with a catch – if Simon Properties builds a new Metro Transit station, the city will forgive $250,000 of the loan.

Planning for the transit station is well underway and the new station is expected to be located on the northeast side of the mall.

A part of Southdale’s parking lot will also become a space for luxury apartments.

The apartment complex, tentatively named 1 Southdale Place, will include three buildings with a total of 232 units.

Southdale was also focus of a film crew in July.

Staff from PBS-affiliate WTTW spent a day filming at Southdale for its documentary “10 Buildings That Changed America,” set to air in 2013 on PBS.

 

Amy Senser

The weeklong trial of an Edina woman brought national media attention to the Twin Cities.

Amy Senser was convicted in May of two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the hit-and-run death of Anousone Phanthavong. She was sentenced to 41 months in prison in July.

During her emotional testimony in May, Senser said she thought she had hit a construction barrel on the Riverside exit of Interstate 94.

Senser is remaining in prison as she appeals her case after Judge Daniel Mabley upheld his order denying her release in September.

Mabley criticized the Sensers in his order, writing, “The theme of the defense from day one has been avoidance of responsibility.”

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