Be aware of the variance

Here in St. Paul we have zoning laws and building codes. The zoning laws make it hard for businesses to operate in residential areas. When business owners want to circumvent the rules they can get a variance.

The way the variance system works is that nearby property owners are notified of the request and if they do not protest, complain and testify en masse the variance is granted. In fact, even if they do protest it may still be granted.

The variance system is kind of backward. Persons asking for a variance do not have to get the majority of neighbors to agree to it, instead neighbors have to protest it. Sometimes those neighbors are tenants and they don’t have a say.

There are many examples of this throughout the city. Business owners get variances that allow them to operate even though zoning laws and other laws forbid it. As homeowners, our property rights are constantly under siege as variances allow them to be taken away.

St. Paul residents need to understand that their next door neighbor could buy up neighboring properties, tear down some houses and convert their home into a business that generates noise, traffic and that might give off unpleasant odors. That is what can be accomplished with variances.

As property owners, we have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of our property. When a neighboring homeowner is granted a variance the neighbors sometimes lose that right.

St. Paul

Playing games downtown

Sometimes I think downtown St. Paul is St. Paul’s best kept secret. Did you know that Wednesday is game day at the Union Depot? They set up giant board games from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM.

Games include Chess, Checkers, Connect Four, Dominoes, Jenga, Tic Tac Toe and others. There are ping pong tables too but they are the normal size.

No one was playing when I walked through last Wednesday probably because the weather was amazing.

If you are looking for a family friendly Wednesday activity this could be it.

The Green Line stops at the Union Depot and if you have to drive there is plenty of parking in the attached ramp and even on the street. There are is also a new restaurant and bar in the Union Depot.

Giant Chess

City sidewalks what could possibly go wrong?

Bird Scooter

I walk a lot. At least three miles a day, often closer to five or more miles a day. Many of those miles are in the downtown St. Paul area. I can tell you the sidewalks in St. Paul are a challenge. There are a lot of cement heaves caused by tree roots and actual potholes in many locations. I have tripped more than once and gotten injured more than once.

People walk down the street in downtown St. Paul without ever taking their eyes off of their phones.  Usually, they are moving slow enough so that I can stay out of their way.

In the downtown area, there are places where it is impossible to ride a bike in the street so people ride the green Nice Ride bikes up on the sidewalk.

There are other obstacles too like entire restaurants on the sidewalk leaving a thin walking path right next to the pothole-filled street with no bike lane.

Crossing a street at an intersection is a challenge. I end up yelling and pounding on car hoods to get them to see me. I have been thinking about getting some kind of a flag I can wave.

Now there are electric scooters on the sidewalk. I am told that it isn’t safe to ride them in the streets downtown so they ride on the sidewalk. Apparently, the train tracks and potholes are just too much for them.

What could possibly go wrong with scooters on the same bumpy broken sidewalks where people dine, walk, look at their phones and ride bikes?

Walking can be a good source of exercise. We should be able to safely walk on city sidewalks. How walkable a neighborhood has an impact on property values.

Happy July

Brown-eyed Susans

I plan to spend as much of the month outside as I can. If you enjoy the outdoors and wildflowers go to a park. It is kind of like taking a vacation. I took these photos along the bike trail in Lilydale Regional Park. I also enjoy Battle Creek Regional Park, Phalen Park, and Como Park. Don’t forget Fort Snelling State Park or Crosby Farm Regional Park or Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. These are just a few parks to enjoy this July.