I attended the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) public meeting hosted by the D12 Land Use committee last week along with perhaps 40 or 50 other neighbors. For those who haven't heard about the concept or need a reminder, this is an idea being promoted by a group of neighbors to lower or carbon foot print and provide more housing options, especially for seniors looking to downsize but stay on their property. Basically, it would change our zoning code to allow two living structures on one lot with a bunch of requirements thrown in to try to make them positive additions to the community.

I've talked at some length about them before, so I won't spend a lot of time on the topic, but the outcome of the meeting was to create a representative task force of interested neighbors to dig deeper into some of the many questions the audience members had about the idea. Some of the main concerns expressed had to do with crowding, loss of trees, increased property tax, enforcement, parking and just plain financial feasibility. The group will meet over the next months to see if they can agree on a proposal to bring back to the Land Use committee for consideration.

My short take on the discussion: From the Land Use Efficiency (LUE) group presenting the proposal - I wish there had been more data on the energy it would save, the housing it would realistically generate and the demand for it in the neighborhood. I know the presenters were trying to be concise to leave time for plenty of discussion, but I think a number of those questions could have been answered by stating convincing data up front.

On the side of the folks with concerns, I wish there had been a bit wider respect for the intentions of the LUE group. Energy efficiency and housing options should be common goals for all of our community and there aren't many other groups I'm aware of coming up with ideas for addressing them in St.AP. While I think the majority of the folks were respectful and had important questions to ask, there was still an adversarial feel to much of the proceedings with applause for points made and a few uncharitable side comments.  

The District Council deserves our thanks for supporting solutions and inviting the public to discuss the pros and cons. It's an important function of their role in our community.  Even if ADU's provide only a partial answer, they could still be part of a multi-pronged approach to lower energy use and create more housing. Whatever their future in our neighborhood, I think we have to consciously work to support new ideas and approaches to solve serious problems. People on both sides of these issues need to find common ground in our desire to be good neighbors and responsible stewards of the resources we are privileged to share.


Green Line Launch Party
June 14 is getting closer and the folks planning the launch party at our Raymond Avenue Station are coming up with some great ideas for events and activities to showcase the Creative Enterprise Zone as well as all of D12. A video expressing the feel of the Zone is in the early stages of production along with plans for pop-up demonstrations, artist participation, music, food and surprises. Stay tuned, but mark the date on your calendar and the 9:30am kick-off. 

Kasota Pond Clean-up April 26, 9-12 pm
It's that time of year again when the ice is finally out on the pond and the litter that has found its way from the highway and RR tracks to what is a lovely little nature refuge many of us hardly notice. I always look for turtles sunning on the log in the middle of the pond as I turn into the entry ramp from Energy Park Drive to 280. There is always a friendly group of volunteers, coffee, juice and treats to sustain even on cool spring days. Stop in and enjoy it all.

New Executive Director to be Named Soon
The final interviews have been conducted and the selection of a new executive director to take the place of Amy Sparks is nye. As I've mentioned before, we will not lose Amy's talent and tenacity completely as she will be working part time as the staff person for the Creative Enterprise Zone Task Force. The task force is a program of the district council for now, although at some point it might make sense to become a separate entity. Whoever the new director is, that person will have a lot of exciting activity to support.


Murray Middle - Environmental Class
I had a nice conversation with Stacy Theien-Collins, the new principal at Murray this afternoon. The first part included science teacher, Tim Chase, creator and lead teacher of the successful E2 environmental class supported by a unique partnership between the school district, Wolfridge Environmental Center and the St.AP Foundation. Tim showed us the results of tests taken by the science students at 4 intervals starting in November of 2013 with the most recent being administered in February of this year. The E2 class, composed of kids who had not been supported toward a science track or identified as potential science track students until 7th grade, began the year 25% points behind the top accelerated science class and by this February had surpassed the scores of that class. Woo-hoo! These kids will now have a chance to get on the pre-AP (Advanced Placement) path in high school like their cohorts in last year's class, who by the way, are now serving as mentors for the middle schoolers who will follow them to Como and other area schools. That's huge. 

Murray Middle - Achievement
The second part of the conversation had to do with Murray's student achievement. I think we all know that the start of this first year of the new district plan switching from K-6 to K-5 and 6-8 brought some growing pains. Overcrowded classrooms, hallways, stressed students and teachers as everyone tried to cope with the new system which emphasized keeping all kids in the classroom prepared to learn. This has been challenging for all members of the school community, but the reasoning behind the changes seems to be working. The proof is in the pudding they say and here's some of the Murray pudding: in the recent State Science competition, 300 students participated, 46 advanced to the regional level and 6 Murray students out of the total of 280 kids from around the state placed in the top 10% winning top awards. I mentioned their success in the State History competition a few weeks back. This summer the school will turn the old swimming pool area into a new cafeteria and the old cafeteria into new facilities and classrooms for the 6th grade which will definitely ease the space issues.

The transition at Murray has had its up and downs, but the staff, teachers and administration have worked together to put together a structure that is working. Principal Theien-Collins welcomes parents and students to visit and explore. 

Como High - Achievement
Jason Vigliotti and Simon Insook took first place in the Short Form: Fiction category at the Mall of America last week for their video and the Robotics team fought their way through several rounds before falling to the eventual champs in a regional championship sponsored by the U of M.


Peapods Spring Celebration this Saturday
Peapods is having a spring festival this Saturday, April 12 from 11-4 pm with face-painting and baby chicks! there will be prizes as well so check it out.

Joy of the People Spring Training
JOTP's spring training starts April 15, sign up at their website.

Easter Party at Methodist Church
Also this Saturday from 10-12 pm crafts, prizes, lunch and an Easter egg hunt.

SAPAS is Looking for Help
Here's a good idea for a family or group effort. Help area seniors with spring chores.

Tu Dance Rehearsal
Tomorrow night April 10 from 5:30-7 pm at the dance studio at 2121 University Avenue behind the Subway. It's a chance to watch some of the best dancers and choreography you will see in this area for free! Stop into Biaggio's for dinner after or the Dubliner for a beer and a bump.

That's all for now. Take good care of yourself and be a good neighbor.