by Mike Knaak
St. Joseph City Council members focused on three outdoor recreation and entertainment issues at the July 6 meeting. The council approved two ventures and tabled a third idea.
After a successful event on June 27, St. Joseph resident Carl Berg asked the council to approve two more craft vendor events – one for Saturday, Aug. 1, and a “bigger” one for Saturday, Sept. 19.
Berg said the two events will feature food trucks, arts and crafts vendors and perhaps a car show at the September session.
Mayor Rick Schultz asked Berg to define “big” and he said there could be up to 100 vendors and 10 food trucks. Berg said about 600 people attended the June event.
After assurances that Centers for Disease Control guidelines will be followed, the council approved the plan for the events that will take place east of the Community Center.
Last month, the council postponed action on creating a parklet in downtown St. Joseph. A parklet repurposes parking spaces into a public space with amenities such as seating, plantings, bike parking and public art. Students in an urban studies class at the College of St. Bendict/St. John’s University proposed the plan.
The council approved on a 4-1 vote applying for a $1,000 grant. Public Works staff would water plants, empty trash and install and remove the structure. Council member Bob Loso voted no.
The council viewed the plan as a one-year pilot to see how the parklet is used and if successful, develop a policy for the future. The parklet will take up two parking spaces in front of the Minnesota Street Market. It will be removed at the end of October.
At the June 15 meeting, council members asked staff to research other cites with parklets and sidewalk seating areas. Duluth has allowed private parklets for about seven years through a temporary-zoning permit process. Duluth also allows sidewalk seating through a sidewalk-use permit process.
In Minneapolis, some parklets are private and funded and maintained by neighboring businesses, residents or community organizations. Three are owned by the city of Minneapolis, which are hosted by various businesses each year.
To help businesses meet Covid-19 requirements for reopening, the city borrowed 36 picnic tables from the College of St. Benedict and monastery. That equipment needs to be returned. In anticipation of expected requests from businesses for tables next spring and summer, the Public Works Department requested permission to build up to 40 picnic tables at a cost of about $200 each.
The council tabled the plan and suggested the expense could be covered by CARES Act money the city received. Schultz said a committee of city staff is examining how to spend $551,340 received from the legislation intended to cover coronavirus-related expenses.