Bulletin 2015 year in review

2015 was filled with memorable stories and headlines in the Bulletin area.

Planned use development approved for Islamic center

The City of St. Anthony held up its end of the settlement deal it brokered with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014, with the city council voting to create special zoning that cleared the way for an Islamic center in the city.
Last year, at its Feb. 10 meeting, the council voted unanimously to create a planned use development for 3055 Old Highway 8, in order for the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center to settle in.
The PUD, an overlay of zoning regulations that expand upon existing zoning rules, allows for religious gatherings in the basement of the St. Anthony Business Center, which was zoned for light industrial use.
The council vote was the final move in a chain of events that dated back to the summer of 2012, when the council denied a conditional use permit to Abu-Huraira to allow religious gatherings in the building, a vote taken at a council meeting tinged by anti-Islamic comments made by residents.
Council members had said since 2012 that the denial of the permit was only about zoning issues.
On Aug. 27 of last year, the Department of Justice filed a federal civil rights suit against the city, alleging that it had violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by denying the permit; Abu-Huraira filed a concurrent suit.
Following a lengthy settlement conference Dec. 11, 2014, city, federal and Islamic center officials announced a settlement to the suits Dec. 16. Days later, the city council approved the settlement, establishing a deadline by which the PUD would be approved.
The special zoning rules were passed through the planning commission Jan. 26 and were brought before the council just more than two weeks later.

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Arden Hills Library comes down half a decade after closing

The Arden Hills Library building in its final days before the demolition vehicles arrived. (Pamela O'Meara/Bulletin)

Some 700 people showed up at the former Ramsey County Library in Arden Hills for its last day of operations on Dec. 31, 2010.
The building, deemed too expensive to update in order to keep up with changing library needs, was closed in favor of a new library location half a mile away in the New Brighton Community Center. The New Brighton branch opened Oct. 29, 2011.
Nearly five years after the closure, the library building, which dated back to 1969, was torn down with much less fanfare. The demolition made way for an upscale housing development.
Dean Hanson, owner of Hanson Builders, developer of the site at 1941 County Road E2, said at the council meeting that the construction project entailed seven planned homes.
As for the disappeared library building, Arden Hills Mayor David Grant said there were mixed feelings in the community about the place being razed.
“A lot of people in the area have very fond memories of the library,” Grant said. “While we’ll certainly be pleased to see the library [land] go into productive use, it’ll be sad to see that era pass.”

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Hoffman sentenced for killing ex-boyfriend in Arden Hills

Lyle "Ty" Hoffman

Ramsey County District Court Judge George Stephenson sentenced Lyle “Ty” Hoffman to 25 1/2 years in prison in March, 2015 for the Aug. 11, 2014, shooting and killing of Kelly L. Phillips at an Arden Hills Holiday gas station.
Hoffman, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree intentional murder Jan. 23, after initially pleading not guilty months before. He was sentenced on his 45th birthday and will have to serve two-thirds of his sentence in prison, and then be eligible for supervised release.
Phillips, 48, was a vice president and general counsel at Boston Scientific, an owner of Lush Food Bar, a nightclub in Northeast Minneapolis, and a marriage equality activist.
Phillips and Hoffman had previously run the nightclub together and were in a relationship for 15 years, which ended five years prior to the incident, according to the criminal complaint against Hoffman.
Court documents said Phillips fired him from Lush Food Bar when daily deposits were coming up short, and according to the court records, as a result of the firing, Hoffman was also evicted from a Northeast Minneapolis duplex that he rented from Phillips.
“If someone took everything you owned, you might be capable,” Hoffman’s sister Dawn Gominsky said, saying that Hoffman was “pushed over the edge.”
Adding 5 years to his sentence, Hoffman also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Paul to one count of armed bank robbery at a TCF Bank branch in Blaine, an action he’d taken during a weeks-long manhunt after he was identified as the suspect in Phillips’ death.

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New Brighton regulates backyard chickens, Council pivots away from ban

From left, Ellis Norman, 7, Delaney Norman, 10, Archer Norman, 8, Colleen Norman, Sarah Steiniger, and Ethan Gylling, 8, protest New Brighton’s proposed backyard poultry ban in the lead up to the city council’s May 26 meeting. (Mike Munzenrder/Bulletin)

Some 100 people packed into a corner of Little Canada’s newly public works building on June 22 for its grand opening and dedication to the city’s former mayor, the late Bill Blesener.
The cavernous yet bright new building at 2858 Centerville Road was packed with heavy vehicles and heavy hearts for Blesener, who championed the completion of the 25,000-square-foot building.
Blesener died from cancer on Dec. 21, 2014, at age 74, days away from completing his 10th term as mayor.
Current Mayor John Keis spoke to the crowd and remembered a then-council member Blesener advocating for a new public works building back in 2004 during a city goal-setting session.
Keis characterized Blesener as the driving force behind the new facility and said that come 2013, then-Mayor Blesener issued a “mayoral mandate” to get the project done.
“He’s not here to enjoy and see it with us,” Keis said.
Blesener’s widow, Grace Blesener, was greeted by rousing applause when she was set to speak. She said to the crowd, “Bill knew this day was coming.”
Grace said that during a stint on the city council in the 1980s, Blesener was liaison to the public works department, and that some 30 years ago workers were telling him that the city’s public works facility was inadequate.
“On behalf of Bill ... thank you to all who had a part in this project,” Grace said. “Little Canada is a small town, and Bill and I had the opportunity to meet many people. ... I want to thank you for this tribute to Bill.”

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New Brighton man found guilty of killing neighbor with shotgun

Neal Zumberge

A New Brighton man was found guilty of first-degree murder on one August afternoon in the shooting of his neighbor the year before.
A Ramsey County jury also convicted Neal Zumberge, 58, of first-degree attempted murder, second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder.
Zumberge killed his neighbor, Todd Stevens, and injured Stevens’ longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Cleven, when he shot them May 5, 2014.
Jurors announced their verdict hours after attorneys gave their closing statements in the case that Tuesday morning and after Ramsey County District Court Judge Margaret Marrinan rebuffed defense attempts to have a third-degree murder charge added to the slate of charges the jury would contemplate.  
Zumberge and his attorneys argued during the trial that Zumberge’s decision to shoot Stevens hinged on self-defense to protect his wife, Paula Zumberge, from Stevens, while assistant prosecution Ramsey County attorney Anna Christie argued Zumberge’s decision to fire the shots was planned.
The penalty for first-degree murder is life in prison; and in the end, Zumberge was sentenced Oct. 14.

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Shoreview community members vocal about new library design

Glass and wood dominate the design of the planned new Ramsey County Regional Library in Shoreview. If plans go smoothly, the library could be open by early 2017. (courtesy of Ramsey County Libraries)

Community members packed the Shoreview City Council chambers July 14 to catch a first glimpse of the preliminary design for the city’s proposed new library.
Ramsey County Library staff and some of the library’s architects attended the community meeting to gather input on the library’s design, which Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman said was about 25 percent completed at the time.
This planned library came after the Ramsey County Library Facilities Master Plan recommended the county build three regional libraries, and to offer more services and longer hours of operation than standard libraries.
Two of those libraries were built already in Roseville and Maplewood, and, once completed, Shoreview’s location will serve as Ramsey County’s north suburbs’ regional library for North Oaks, Gem Lake and Vadnais Heights, in addition to Shoreview.
But many meeting attendees said they wanted more space for programs to take place and community organizations to meet than the current library provided. Some also said they wanted the new library to be warm and welcoming and to include woodwork in the design.
The preliminary design did include many spaces for programs and meetings and would use a combination of dark, reclaimed wood, lighter brick and glass on the building’s exterior.
The project architects also tried to capture the things that make Shoreview special in the library’s design, such as a large glass wall and seating that would look over the open, natural space south of Highway 96, architect Victor Pechaty said.
Ramsey County Library director Susan Nemitz said the new library would likely double the size of the current library’s childrens’ area and triple the teen area’s size.
Instead of adding books to the teen area, the library will add computers, places for teen programs and safe spaces for teens to hang out and study after school, Nemitz said.
“If you let people linger, they actually meet people and feel a part of the community,” Nemitz said. “And we want teens to hang out in the library. It’s a good place for them.”
Construction is expected started this winter and finish by November 2016, which will allow the library to open early in 2017, Nemitz said.

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Under summer skies, The Floating Library enchanted Silver Lake

The Floating Library finished its time on Silver Lake with poetry at dusk and under moonlight Aug. 2. (courtesy of David Eberhardt)

Remember this: hot, sunny Sundays in late July on St. Anthony’s Silver Lake, people paddling across the lake in canoes and kayaks like any other Sunday afternoon on any other lake. But many of them paddle at this particular location, were heading towards something unusual: a library on water.
This scene played out July 26 when Sarah Peters brought The Floating Library to Silver Lake at Silverwood Park. It was the second and final weekend at the library for the public to read and check out books this year.
Peters’ creation wasn’t a library in the typical sense — less of a quiet building and more a raft that comfortably tied up about four canoes around its perimeter. Peters assured that anyone in a small boat or paddleboard could tether their vessel to the side of the raft and hunker down with a book when they showed up.
“Because they [had] to canoe to [the books], there [was] this extra component of delight and surprise, and also care that they [took] with the objects,” Peters said of the library’s visitors.
Peters built her first floating library in 2013 and received funding from a Minnesota State Arts Board grant that year. The grant allowed her to hire an architect to build the raft she uses each summer and to commission three artists to each create a special book for the library.
Peters said she has big dreams for the library but that the dream is limited by the amount of time she dedicates to the project, she said. One of her goals was to create an online catalog of the books in her collection.

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A close finish in the 2015 New Brighton city council, mayoral race

Val Johnson Mary Burg Paul Jacobsen

In what can be described as a heated New Brighton City Council race, two incumbents held onto their seats, while a newcomer was elected mayor Nov. 3.
For the first time in six years, New Brighton will have a new mayor as of this month. First time candidate Val Johnson narrowly won the mayoral seat with 39.36 percent of the vote, for a total of 1,143 votes.

Johnson ran against incumbent Mayor Dave Jacobsen, winning by 58 votes, or 2 percent.
Current council member Gina Bauman was also in the mayor's race and received just more than 23 percent of the vote.
While Johnson will work under a budget that will have already been set her first year, she said it will gives her the opportunity to work with the council and commissions to take a hard look at the budget and identify what they feel has been missing from it in the past.

City Council
Incumbents Mary Burg and Paul Jacobsen ran for re-election successfully, holding onto their seats against Susan Erickson and Richard "Rick" Moses.
Burg received the most council member votes with nearly 36 percent of the vote, winning her fourth council term.
Burg said the community supports the council having a strong commercial development plan, which can help keep homeowners' property taxes in check.
Paul Jacobsen held onto his seat with nearly 33 percent of the votes cast.
Moses earned nearly 15 percent of the vote, while Erickson received almost 17 percent.

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