Historical preservation and high school athletics collide on Nicollet Island.
A key City Council committee overturned the Planning Commission’s recent decision to deny most of the permits needed for DeLaSalle High School to build an athletic facility on Nicollet Island.
The City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee granted DeLaSalle’s appeal at its Aug. 9 meeting. The issue is scheduled to head to the full City Council for approval at this Friday’s meeting.
The proposed athletic field is contentious in large part because it would require the closure of a portion of Grove Street, and preservationists argue that it would have an adverse impact on the St. Anthony Falls Historic District where it would be located. The Heritage Preservation Commission voted to deny the project a certificate of appropriateness, but the City Council also overturned that decision this spring.
At a meeting in July, the Planning Commission rejected permit applications to allow a field in the residential district, allow light fixtures higher than 35 feet and allow the vacation of Grove Street. The commission did approve permit applications to build within 40 feet of a steep slope in the Mississippi River’s designated shoreland overlay district, but denied the application for a site plan review.
The Zoning and Planning Committee approved all of the permit applications, although it did attach a number of conditions. DeLaSalle must make sure that:
— The public path around the field will not be gated
— The public path will be made of a consistent material throughout with the exception of areas previously occupied by the Grove Street right-of-way
— The signage at path entrances and exits will explain the public nature of the path
— A landscape buffer of at least five feet will be created between the path and the existing building
— The Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) will review final site plans and elevation drawings
— Approvals are valid for one year
— DeLaSalle will promote walking, biking, carpooling and other alternative methods of transportation to athletic events
— Signage on DeLaSalle’s parking will state that parking is a priority for away teams
— DeLaSalle will contract 150 parking spaces — from either the Park Board or a lease agreement — for home games and provide shuttle service
— DeLaSalle should work with opposing teams’ schools to encourage busing to games
— Lighting may only be used for up to eight varsity football games, 10 girls’ soccer games, 10 boys’ soccer games and up to an additional 15 evening events annually
— All lights must be off at 10:15 p.m.
The Planning Commission also asked the City Council to hold off on the vacation of Grove Street until all outstanding issues related to the athletic facility are resolved. The DeLaSalle stadium is facing litigation in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Although the council committee voted to grant all of the permits, Council Member Cam Gordon (2nd Ward) suggested that the council wait to hear the outcome of the lawsuit before vacating Grove Street.
“If we are deciding we want to vacate it for the purpose of the joint football field and we aren’t even sure if they can build the football field, I think we’re premature in vacating it,” Gordon said.
But Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) said there is always the potential for litigation in city decisions, but the City Council can’t refrain from moving forward because of what the future might hold.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that this has become a sad story of delay and wrangling … regarding something that is really for the public good,” Goodman said.