Burnsville year in review: Walmart, CVS came to town
Burnsville’s showdown with the owner of the problem-plagued Country Village Apartments continued all year in 2012.
The 138-unit complex finally regained full city licensure in December. But the city’s battle with Lindahl Partnerships over decrepit conditions and hundreds of code violations forever changed the way Burnsville regulates rental housing, with mandatory inspections of all units beginning in 2013.
November’s election returned Mayor Elizabeth Kautz to a seventh term. Burnsville-area voters elected a mix of Democrats and Republicans to state office, including some faces from the past.
Burnsville also appointed a new police chief, Eric Gieseke, who started with the city as a police cadet 23 years ago.
2012 brought notable additions to the commercial landscape. Walmart and CVS Pharmacy stores opened. So did two new restaurants on a sleepy frontage road. And city officials say a hotel is likely in the Heart of the City.
Here’s a recap of 2012 news highlights from the pages of Sun Thisweek.
Country Village is now all the way back from a city-imposed exile that included its shutdown in March.
The City Council voted 4-0 Dec. 4 to reissue rental licenses for the final two buildings in the complex, which was discovered in May 2011 to have widespread building, fire and property code violations.
Now all six buildings are relicensed under a schedule the council imposed in August, after Lindahl Partnerships began in earnest to make needed repairs.
The city revoked Country Village’s 2012 provisional rental license after Lindahl missed a Jan. 17 deadline for correcting fire-code violations pending since August 2011. The provisional license included subsequent deadlines for fixing other code violations.
After Lindahl missed the Jan. 17 deadline, the city pulled the provisional license, and residents of the 138-unit complex were given until March 1 to vacate.
In September, the council passed changes in the city’s rental licensing ordinance that require residential rental units, including single-family rentals and rented mobile homes, to be inspected once every three years. Landlords will pay for the inspections.
“Make no mistake about it, (Country Village) was the seed that made us do that,” Council Member Dan Gustafson told Lindahl representatives Dec. 4.
Mayor Elizabeth Kautz won her election rematch with challenger Jerry Willenburg Nov. 6, expanding her margin of victory from four years ago.
Facing Willenburg in 2008, Kautz won 54 percent of the vote in the closest race of her mayoral career, which began in 1995. On Nov. 6, she won 57 percent of the vote in an election that also returned one-term incumbent Mary Sherry to the City Council and ushered in a council newcomer, Suzanne Nguyen.
In newly drawn legislative districts, Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, was re-elected in District 56, which covers most of Burnsville. He defeated Burnsville DFLer Leon Thurman.
Former DFL Rep. Will Morgan of Burnsville defeated Roz Peterson of Lakeville, a Lakeville Area School Board member, in an open-seat contest in the new House District 56B. Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville, was re-elected in the new House District 56A, which includes northwest Burnsville and all of Savage. She defeated Savage DFLer David Jensen.
Morgan is one of three local DFLers who found their way back into office after being elected in 2006 and ousted in 2010. Former Sen. Jim Carlson of Eagan beat Republican incumbent Ted Daley in District 51 (northeast Burnsville and Eagan), and former Rep. Sandra Masin of Eagan beat Republican incumbent Diane Anderson in House District 51A.
A Walmart store opened Oct. 26 at 12200 River Ridge Blvd., east of Interstate 35W in north Burnsville.
The store is one of three smaller, leaner prototype stores that opened in Minnesota, according to Burnsville store manager Sean Brooks said.
The stores are about 150,000 square feet and are designed to use less energy and better accommodate customer traffic patterns, he said. Less product is stored on-site.
Brooks said in August he expected the store to provide 350 to 375 jobs, making Walmart a major employer in Burnsville.
More new business
• The old TCF Bank building, a landmark at Burnsville Parkway and Nicollet Avenue since 1974, was torn down in April to make way for a long-planned CVS Pharmacy store, which opened this summer.
The developer, Burnsville Crossing LLC, first struck a development contract, which included tax-increment financing incentives, with the city in 2007. Plans originally called for a pharmacy, a medical office building and a two-story parking deck. Since then there have been amendments to the contract. The developer told the city that the slow economy hindered progress on the site.
• On Aldrich Avenue west of I-35W and south of Burnsville Parkway, a pair of bar-restaurants opened this fall, returning life to a strip that had become known for vacant buildings.
The Rack Bar and Grill, with a wait staff known as the Rack Girls, opened in the former Timber Lodge Steakhouse building.
Florida-based Hurricane Grill and Wings occupied the vacant Hooters Restaurant building.
• Yussuf and Ifrah Shafie, longtime Burnsville residents by way of Kenya and Somalia, opened the city’s first Somali restaurant in the Nic-Burn strip mall east of Nicollet Avenue and north of Burnsville Parkway. The brother-and-sister team opened Tawakal Restaurant on Sept. 21.
• Wisconsin-based Fairchild Equipment, which sells and services forklifts and construction equipment, bought the long-vacant Menards building at 3100 Highway 13 W.
Menards vacated the 95,400-square-foot building about six years ago when it built a new store next door.
New occupants will be Fairchild, which expects to move in in February; NAPA Auto Parts, which expects to move in May 1; and Durham Student Services, the bus contractor in School District 191, which is already using the property for bus parking and a dispatch center.
• City officials said in October they’re negotiating with a hotel developer to sell city-owned land north of the Performing Arts Center.
“We’ve gotten indications from (the group) that this is something that they want to do,” Community Development Director Jenni Faulkner said. “Certainly, this has been a long-term vision of the city, that we have a hotel in the Heart of the City.”
Police veteran Bob Hawkins, who grew up in Burnsville and was chief for eight years, retired Dec. 19.
His replacement is Eric Gieseke, who started with Burnsville as a police cadet in 1989 and worked his way up to captain before being selected for the top job by City Manager Craig Ebeling.
“Eric has excelled at every position he has held,” Hawkins said. “But even more important than that, he’s just a good man. It’s always about the organization and the community; it’s never about him. He’s extremely humble.”
Gieseke’s fellow former captain, Eric Werner, was hired as Rosemount police chief in August.
New captains in Burnsville are department veterans Tanya Schwartz, the city’s first female captain, and Jef Behnken.
Frederick Alexander, 16, of Burnsville and Alesha Roehl, 17, of Castle Rock Township, were killed in an Aug. 21 car crash in Burnsville. The car they were riding in, driven by a 17-year-old Lakeville boy, was speeding along Buck Hill Road when it went out of control, rolled down the embankment and landed on the southbound lanes of I-35, according to the State Patrol.
Alexander and Roehl were students at the Lakeville Area Learning Center, an alternative high school, which took the news hard.
“These two students had enormous potential,” said Joan Vievering, Roehl’s language arts teacher at the ALC. “It’s so hard to see students turning the corner and starting to believe in themselves have it all taken away so quickly. No one expects to lose a student.”
and Girls Club
Momentum grew this year behind plans to open a Boys and Girls Club in Burnsville.
The first suburban outlet of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities would likely replace The GARAGE, Burnsville’s 13-year-old teen center. The Boys and Girls Club would expand youth services to include elementary-age children.
But questions of funding and location remain. Renovating the GARAGE space in Civic Center Park to accommodate the club — including a Kids Feeding Kids program, with a kitchen and dining area that could accommodate 180 children per day — would cost an estimated $1 million.
City officials and backers of the project are waiting to see if a site becomes available in School District 191, which is studying its building needs.
Burnsville Chamber of Commerce President Daron Van Helden resigned in August to take a job with join Burnsville-based Pawn America, which is in an aggressive expansion phase. He was chamber president for 10 years.
His replacement at the helm of the 47-year-old, 575-member business organization is Bill Corby, who was president of the Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau for five years and previously owned a Hutchinson portrait studio.
Burnsville residents and business owners are pretty happy campers who share an opinion on city taxes:
Don’t raise ’em.
New city-commissioned surveys, one of residents and one of business owners and managers, gave Burnsville high marks for quality of life, government and city services.
But when the 400 randomly selected residents were asked if they’d favor a tax increase to maintain city services, 63 percent said “no” and only 17 percent said “yes.”
When the 300 randomly selected business people were asked, 43 percent said “no” to 19 percent “yes.” The survey results were delivered in June.
for man ended
In May, police called off the active search for a Burnsville man who had been missing for more than a month.
Lorenzo Pacheco-Orozco (aka Lorenzo Moreno-Pacheco), 61, was last seen at about 6:30 a.m. Sunday, April 15, near his southwest Burnsville home.
Pacheco-Orozco doesn’t speak English and suffers dementia from a head injury, according to police.
In December the city issued a request for proposals for management of the city’s Performing Arts Center.
The current two-year contract period for VenuWorks, which has managed the center since it opened in January 2009, expires at the end of next year. The company plans to submit a proposal to win the new contract.
The PAC is on track to post an operating loss of $325,300 this year, with a projected loss of $311,090 in 2013, according to VenuWorks.
City officials reported in January that the venue had its best year yet in 2011. Operating losses totaled $275,711 — about $116,400 less than the $392,130 loss budgeted for the year.