Call that bad-faith bargaining for Jefferson

Perhaps an experienced view of Jefferson School negotiations from upriver may be in order.

The issue of good-faith bargaining certainly now seems in question. Just what has changed with respect to property issues? Simply stated: Nothing.

READ MORE: Jefferson sold? Not so fast

Suggested liability issues injected now are best considered to be bargaining in bad faith.

The School Board should seriously consider withdrawing its RFP on this basis.

Jim Million


Keep Red Wing's historic district historic

We purchased a home in the historic district of Red Wing 20 years ago. We totally renovated it and opened as the Moondance Inn Bed and Breakfast. We have watched as Red Wing has struggled to define and preserve its historic heritage.

The current case in point is the proposed renovation of the old St. John's Hospital into a 104-unit apartment complex with a 164-stall parking lot. Red Wing code requires two spaces per unit, which would mean 208 spaces are required for this project.

READ MORE: Permit for housing at old hospital advances; here's what happens next

The main rationale offered for this project is a lack of "affordable housing" in Red Wing that limits job growth and the retention of younger citizens and seniors who wish to stay and live here.

A less discussed reason is Mayo Enterprises' wish to get this property off their books. I don't think there is anyone who disagrees with the need for more housing. And I am certain that the city of Red Wing has worked with and supported Mayo in many financial and non-financial ways and that Mayo has contributed greatly to our community.

Red Wing was named as having one of the top 103 historic districts in the world by National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Our historic district has been honored in numerous publications and, as a result, the city attracts thousands of visitors each year to explore the downtown and the historic neighborhoods that surround it.

High-density housing, as proposed for St. John's, does not fit the character of historic Red Wing. It would be akin to putting a Walmart in the old Goodhue County bank downtown. This may sound far-fetched to some, but once the precedent is set, then any future enterprise has the legal foundation to argue that any downtown property or any historic home can be used for a variety of purposes, regardless of its neighbors' protests.

Currently, a very large affordable housing project is being built close to Mayo Clinic Health System. There are numerous parcels of land to develop for housing that will meet the needs of the residents of Red Wing. But there is only one historic district. For those involved in making this decision, I urge you to preserve this one area of Red Wing's history and vote no on this proposal.

Mikel Waulk and  Chris Brown Mahoney

Red Wing

High-density would be 1950s mistake for old St. John's Hospital

The Red Wing Planning Commission must think it's 1950 again, when crowded, noisy, high-density living spaces were all the rage. By advancing the Mayo-driven boondoggle to transform old St. John's Hospital into high-density apartments right in the middle of a single-family neighborhood, the commission ignored the fact that here in the 21st century modern communities across the country are taking back their family-friendly neighborhoods, tearing down exactly the same kind of costly mistake that could be on tap for our city.

As one local business owner pointed out at Tuesday night's Planning Commission meeting, high-density living spaces in communities like Red Wing have proven to lower property values, increase traffic, encourage crime, endanger kids, cause a myriad of parking problems, and generally prove detrimental to everyone's quality of life.

More than 75 households in the immediate Old St. John's neighborhood have signed a petition urging the Planning Commission and the City Council to reject the ill-conceived high-density plan put forth by Mayo and its out-of-town developer. The commission caved to Mayo on a 5-2 vote. Hopefully the council will decide differently on Monday - confirming that they, and not corporate Mayo, are calling the shots here in Red Wing.

Steven A. Johnson

Red Wing

Think outside the old hospital box

I have given this some thought. There seems to be some problem with housing in Red Wing. Section 8 housing does lower the value of your property. I understand that totally. Low-rent housing is different. People struggle and I understand that.

Instead of making the old St. John's hospital affordable housing, make it for seniors. Take the old Central Research property and build a complex like Maple Hills out there near the factories - easy access to work, alternative school across the road and the school buses go in that area for them. Give them bus passes so they can go shopping when needed. Easy access to workplaces to help them get on their feet for self-respect.

Sharon Johnson

Red Wing

Let neighbors help craft better plan for old hospital

The housing complex at the old St. John's Hospital should get a "no" vote at Monday's City Council meeting.

High-density housing is not better or worse than single-family; it's just different. I'd be a hypocrite to say high-density is bad. I lived in such a place right out of college.

At the same time, putting a high-density complex in a single-family residential neighborhood is rare. To get 102 units where a maximum of 47 should be allowed, they also need to use a "loophole" in our zoning.

• Section 90-040 lists six findings the council must make for permit approval. E2 says: "The conditional use will not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the vicinity and will not impede the normal and orderly development and improvement or surrounding property for uses permitted in the district, or substantially diminish property values."

This development will definitely be injurious. Changing single-family residential into high-density is a huge change for any neighborhood.

• Dan Rogness, planning director, when asked for a recommendation, said he would typically only go one step up from current zoning. They are jumping up two steps, but also using the loophole, giving this project the absolute highest density in the city.

• Rogness mentioned Red Wing has never done this before.

• High-density housing is being built by Keller-Baartman. We have no idea if it will fill and more will be needed. As a city, we should not rush into building more high-density housing before we know the impact of the ones being built.

• Mayo did not reach out to the neighbors before making a conditional deal with this developer. (There was a neighborhood meeting is only because the Planning Commission asked for it.)

• People mentioned this project fits in the 2040 plan. R-2 residential housing also does. (That's what this is zoned for now.)

• If this project goes through with 102 rental units, 70% will be efficiency or single units (hence few families/children). Where will a single family want to buy a home, next to this place or in a single-family residential neighborhood? This leads me to believe, and a developer has confirmed his opinion to me, that our home values will go down.

• Parking is already very tight in this neighborhood, and employees from the health center use the Mayo parking lot. Where will everyone park? Snow removal is even worse.

The reason many commission members discussed moving this project forward is that it is the only project on the table. We neighbors offered to help find other options, and we will if we are just given the chance. I sincerely hope that the council votes "no."

Stephanie Elsen

Red Wing

City's lack of vision for future becomes clear

Tuesday night at the Red Wing Planning meeting, a gross miscarriage of reasoning occurred. On a 5-2 vote, the conversion of the old St. John's Hospital to 102 units of high-density housing was approved with a few conditions. The project will be in the center of a century-old single-family neighborhood.

My observations of the lack of vision for the future of Red Wing follow:

1. Corporate Mayo and a non-local developer have worked in sync to repeatedly and arrogantly ignore concerns from those neighbors directly surrounding the project.

2. The "Oz" behind the curtain of city staff is refusing to solicit any competing request for proposals from other interested parties as they are dead set on checking a 2040 vision statement box with zero collaboration from the neighbors.

3. Real factual concerns of traffic increasing by a factor 4 to 10 times the current flow on Fourth Street. were brushed aside as "It won't be that bad."

4. When presented with facts that the required number of parking spaces was not being met, the process got rigged to make the numbers compliant.

5. A paid intern of city staff spoke in favor of the plan having never identifying his conflict of interest. A clear violation of city personnel policy.

6. A never used and unproven super density formula is being tested on the long-standing guinea pigs also known as the surrounding neighborhood. It allows a density increase from 10 units per acre to over 50 units.

7. Why wasn't a study required of the likely devaluation of surrounding properties as this is a requirement to qualify for a change of density?

8. Grossly inflated demolition and traffic count costs were cited that don't tie out between two different reports (developer's and staff's).

9. No tax benefit to the city for up to 25 years if built with tax-increment financing.

My list is not complete. The bottom line is that the city is eagerly ready to boondoggle the lives and existing property values of the current long-standing neighborhood for the feelings of 250 new unknown rental tenants. Except for the two brave members that voted no, feelings trumped facts at "vote time." If built, Red Wing will continue down a path of non-visionary leadership.

Thomas Wilder

Red Wing

Two faces of Red Wing are developing

Red Wing presents an image to tourists of a restored historic downtown with beautiful mansions and churches on the bank of the Mississippi River.

There is another face of Red Wing which includes high crime rates and a high proportion of rental properties. Based on FBI crime data, Red Wing has a crime rate that is 91% higher than all towns and cities in Minnesota of all sizes.

State figures for Red Wing show 35% rental and 65% owner occupied. With proposed high density housing, Red Wing would be at 40%. State average for rentals is 30%, as is the Twin Cities metro area.

Cities are tearing down high density housing (affordable, low-income and subsidized) to build low density (2-6 units). High density housing has been associated with an increase in crime and concentrated poverty.

The city of Red Wing is encouraging the development of privately owned high-density housing with tax-increment financing: the Keller-Baartman project on Tyler Road, $14.4 million, and undetermined millions for old St.John's Hospital. Neither of these projects will generate additional property taxes for the city, county or school district for up to 25 years. All Red Wing property owners through increased property taxes will subsidized these projects.

Red Wing needs senior housing and "for sale" units. A better use for the St. John's property would be 15 to 17 single-family homes (i.e. Habitat for Humanity).

Please contact the City Administrator Kay Kuhlmann 651-385-3612, Community Development Director Dan Rogness 651-385-3697, and Economic Development coordinator Melissa Baartman 651-385-3685. And all of your City Council members to voice your concerns.

Ron McCarthy

Red Wing

Start over with neighborhood input

Why won't Mayo tear the old St John's Hospital down? Because, if they do, the property can not be used for a high-density project.

Mayo officials have known since they purchased the hospital from Fairview that they would be divesting themselves of the property. At no time, has the community been consulted about possible uses for the future. All of the sudden, this proposal has become an emergency. Mayo has not even deigned to answer questions submitted to them by a large group of neighbors.

Mayo has tried to ride roughshod over Lake City, Wabasha, Albert Lea and who knows how many other communities in the Mayo Health Care System. Let's call a halt to this insanity and send Mayo back to the drawing board with neighborhood input.

Peggy Rehder

Red Wing