Here are the top 10 news stories of 2019, selected by the staff of the Chanhassen Villager.
What are your top 10 news stories? Post your thoughts on the Villager Facebook page, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Prince of a property
Neighbors surrounding 191 acres of property once owned by the rock star Prince made their concerns known to the Chanhassen City Council and Lennar at numerous meetings in 2019.
Following his 2016 death, Prince’s heirs sold the property to Lennar. Lennar’s residential development, The Park, initially proposed building 198 lots on the property, left mostly undeveloped during Prince’s ownership.
The city planning department, park and recreation commission and city staff worked with Lennar to negotiate a land density transfer. It enabled the city to acquire 100 acres of the property and extend city parkland and trails along Lake Ann and Lake Lucy.
The City Council ultimately pressed Lennar to reduce the total number of lots to 169, and approved the rezoning on March 11. Lennar began working on the development, called “The Park,” this summer.
2. Referendum results
Eastern Carver County Schools voters turned out in high numbers in November. Voters approved one of three Eastern Carver County Schools referendum questions, with the security and technology levy passing by 1,002 votes (6,069-5,067).
However questions 2 and 3, asking for an operating levy increase failed by 193 votes (5,478-5,671); and a question seeking funding for building maintenance, a new bus garage, and a new elementary school failed by 495 votes (5,819-5,324).
Now the district is preparing to lower next school year’s budget by $5 million.
3. Aldi and Venue open downtown
The new Venue apartment building at 541 West 78th Street in downtown Chanhassen held its grand opening Oct. 24. Residents were able to move into the market-rate building beginning Sept. 15.
The Venue, and adjacent Aldi grocery store, replaced the former Frontier retail/office building.
Many residents had originally pushed back on project, objecting to a tax subsidy and voicing concern about various issues, such as the height of the building. The City Council’s votes concerning the development were often split 3-2.
4. Red Birds reclaim title
On Labor Day, Sept. 2, the Chanhassen Red Birds won the State amateur Class B Baseball championship for a second year in a row.
The Red Birds defeated Dundas 8-1 and 9-2 at Irish Stadium in Maple Lake.
The city proclaimed Sept. 9 as Red Birds Day, and the team was recognized and honored at the Chanhassen City Council’s meeting.
5. Rolling Stone noticed
Minnesota State Sen. Scott Jensen, who represents District 47, including most of Carver County, garnered a mention on the Rolling Stone magazine website in January 2019, after being the only Republican co-sponsor of a bill to legalize marijuana.
“Three months ago I could not have envisioned myself standing at a podium speaking on a marijuana issue, but I’ve had numerous constituents ask me to get involved,” Jensen said, during the bill announcement.
Jensen told the newspaper that he wouldn’t vote for the introduced bill, but was interested in a “robust discussion” about the issue. The bill ultimately was voted down in committee.
Jensen announced in July that he would not seek re-election for the senate seat.
6. What local homelessness looks like
In November, Southwest News Media staff compiled vignettes of homeless life in the southwest metro.
Reporters talked with those involved in the housing crisis, whether it was people directly facing homelessness, or those working to help them.
Homelessness looks different for everyone experiencing it, and can be hidden in plain sight. Over 10,000 Minnesotans face homelessness today.
7. The Farm
The iconic red barn is a distinctive landmark at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, clearly seen by anyone traveling along Highway 5 in Chanhassen.
After undergoing a $5.4 million makeover, the former Williams farmstead, located off of Three Mile Drive, is now the Farm at the Arb, an interpretive center that teaches visitors about Minnesota agriculture.
The Williams family returned for the grand opening in September and marveled at the transformation. The barn even has an elevator and restrooms for the visitors.
George’s wife Carol said it was a little overwhelming. “It’s a different world,” she said.
8. Looking for a home
Earlier this year, the Chanhassen Historical Society, which does not have a home, approached the city about using the historic Village Hall as its operating base and museum.
The Village Hall’s annual operating costs and utilities, based on a previous tenant’s costs, was $4,000, and the business paid a monthly rent of $400. But the City Council wants to see a marketing plan showing how the society might generate revenue to help pay utilities and maintenance.
Mary Osborne, a historical society board member, said the historical society would be willing to pay a portion of the utility costs, but said that as a nonprofit, “Doing both rent and utilities is out of the question.”
“I’m not against the historical society, but they haven’t shown a way to pay their own way. I don’t see the city getting into the historical business,” said Councilor Jerry McDonald.
The Old Village Hall was originally built in 1896 for a cost of $187.73, not including the bell or the jail, which continues to be a popular attraction for visitors.
9. Goodbye Vogelsberg Trail
The last of the homes in the Vogelsberg Trail neighborhood were slated to be removed or razed by year’s end. The way is being cleared for the eventual realignment of Highway 101, between Pioneer Trail and Highway 61.
The Highway 101 road improvement project has been in the works for years, gradually moving south from Highway 5 to Lyman Boulevard to Pioneer Trail. Over the next two years, construction will move down to Highway 61, where the road will align with a roundabout. The road will be four-lanes, straighter and less steep.
10. Future of Lake Ann
Chanhassen’s Parks and Recreation Commission and staff recently completed a Lake Ann Park Preserve Feasibility Study, which takes into account the 100 acres of newly acquired parkland on the west side of Lake Ann. (See our No. 1 story of 2019.)
The city did a density transfer with the Lennar development company, to acquire the property that will enable the city’s parks and trails system to continue around the two city lakes. Eventually, the city hopes to have a trail that goes all the way around Lake Ann.
A quality of life questionnaire was sent to a sampling of residents in November. One of the questions asks how residents feel about a property tax to make improvements in the city’s community parks, and to Lake Ann Park, Bandimere Park, Lake Susan Park, and the Chanhassen Recreation Center, and to what extent.
The survey results are expected to be presented in February to the Park and Recreation Commission and City Council.