"Don't pave paradise and put up a parking lot."
When one Golden Valley resident quoted Joni Mitchell in his statement to the City Council, more than 100 residents who attended the Bottineau Transitway public hearing cheered.
It was that kind of a passion-filled night.
Residents sat in Golden Valley's City Council chambers for almost fours hours and listened, cheered and booed as opinions were voiced about the proposed Bottineau Transitway and the D-1 alignment, which is the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) and would bring the light rail through Golden Valley.
Out of the 50-some people that spoke, the overwhelming majority of attendees urged City Councilmembers to vote no on the resolution that would allow more studies to be conducted about the LPA.
Councilmembers reviewed a draft of the resolution on Nov. 13 and decided that hosting a public hearing would help them in their decision making process.
Hennepin County’s Engineering and Transit Planning Manager Joseph Gladke was on the hot seat for most of the night, answering questions about project phases, project cost and environmental impacts. Gladke said that if the council passes the resolution, the pre-engineering phase of the project can begin - a phase that he says could cost upwards of $100 million. The Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) is currently underway and is analysing four light rail routes, including the D-1 alignment.
Robbinsdale City Councilmember George Selman, Metropolitan Council Program Director Mark Fuhrman and Commissioner Linda Higgins also attended the hearing.
What Did People Say?
Bottineau Pros and Cons: What Do Residents Really Think?
Councilmembers heard a range of questions and opinions from concerned residents. Parking, park preservation, noise, lighting and crime were all topics of discussion.
Resident Nancy Huntley wanted to get back to the basics and know why the council was reviewing the project after voting it down last June.
"Golden Valley has already rejected this. Now we have to revisit it again?" Huntley asked. "Why do we have to keep revisiting this?"
As part of the D-1 alignment, Bottineau project officials are looking at placing a light rail station adjacent to Theodore Wirth Park, an idea that made longtime resident Elaine Wynne unhappy.
"Wirth Park is sacred space and is a beautiful treasure," Wynne said. "This is about speaking up for the last child in the woods. I’m afraid that we’re going to end up at the end of this process and it’s going to be too late to look at other options."
Golden Valley resident Stephen Dent had a different idea. "Public transportation in Golden Valley is horrible," Dent said. "Wirth Park is a gem, but it's mostly deserted. Have you ever walked over there on a Wednesday afternoon? There's nobody there."
With a room full of mostly dissenting opinions, a handful of people challenged the naysayers, including Ryan Hoffman, marketing and media relations specialist at Courage Center.
"We see the proximity of this proposed line to our Golden Valley location as a huge benefit to our clients, employees, and the community at large," Hoffman said. "As Minnesota’s largest independent nonprofit rehabilitation services provider, we understand that access to reliable transportation is critical to the independence of those with disabilities and complex medical conditions."
Carol Barry, former environmental attorney and resident, wanted to know how the light rail would be environmentally beneficial to the community. "Everyone assumes that the light rail reduces pollution. It doesn't. It depends on how many people are riding it and how many cars have stopped driving," Barry said. "There's no benefit that I can see for Golden Valley."
On Dec. 18, the City Council will either:
- Vote in favor of the resolution, which will allow more studies to be done on the LPA
- Reject the resolution, which would send Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council back to the drawing board to find other routes for the light rail that don't include Golden Valley.
Councilmember Joanie Clausen said that it's one of the most difficult decisions she's ever been faced with. "This is an extremely difficult decision and it weighs on my mind. I lay awake in bed at night," Clausen said.