Environmental review petition further delays TCGIS project



An environmental review has put the Twin Cities German Immersion School construction progress on hold.

A team of Save Historic Saint Andrews (SHSA) members, led by Roy Neal, asked the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) on Feb. 22, for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the proposed demolition of the former St. Andrew’s Church and the addition to the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS).

TCGIS officials view the petition as yet another delay tactic.

The EQB has determined that the petition is consistent with state requirements and that the city of St. Paul is the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU) for determining the need for an EAW, pointed out SHSA member Bonnie Youngquist. “State rules governing environmental review (including EAWs) prohibit the city from taking final action on any zoning applications until all environmental review processes have been completed,” explained Youngquist.

Because of this, the planned Mar. 6 hearing on the appeals of the requested TCGIS variances and the site plan was canceled.

A City Council hearing on the appeals will be rescheduled after the city has either determined that an EAW is not needed or until an EAW process is completed.

In all, 126 people signed the petition asking for the review. Of them, 80 percent live outside the district, according to the District 10 Community Council.

Petitioner’s concerns

The petitioners have asked for a review citing four environmental impacts:

1. The loss of a significant and irreplaceable historic resource, the former St. Andrew’s Church

2. Increased traffic and safety concerns in a small, residential neighborhood

3. Increased noise levels from higher student population and more traffic

4. An increase in net carbon production near homes, and an unsustainable plan

The petition, and more description of the four points, can be read in its entirety at www.district10comopark.org/uploads/eaw_petition_partial.pdf.

According to the government website, “The EAW is a brief document designed to lay out the basic facts of a project necessary to determine if an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required for a proposed project. In addition to the legal purpose of the EAW in determining the need for an EIS, the EAW also provides permit information, informs the public about the project, and helps identify ways to protect the environment. The EAW is not meant to approve or deny a project, but instead, act as a source of information to guide other approvals and permitting decisions.”

Appeals on hold

The city had been planning to hear appeals on Mar. 6 by the Dist. 10 Como Community Council and by SHSA which had sought to overturn decisions by the Planning Commission.

If there had been no action, the school’s original variance requests would have automatically gone into effect on Mar. 26.

Both of those deadlines are now null.

District 10 filed an appeal on Feb. 19 questioning the Planning Commission’s Feb. 8 decision to not vote on the school’s most recent variance requests and site plan. According to the documents filed with the city, District 10 alleges that “the Planning Commission failed its fundamental role of ensuring that a project complies with the city zoning code. As a result, by a violation of law, three variances and a site plan that violate the zoning code will take effect. In reaching the point leading to its Feb. 8 action, the commission made errors in fact, finding and procedure.”

On behalf of SHSA, Kevin Anderson filed two appeals on Feb. 15, one pinpointing the TCGIS site plan and the other the three variance requests.

Both cite an error in procedure and decision at the Feb. 8 Planning Commission meeting.

“The Planning Commission process has been incredibly confusing for everyone involved,” said Ward 5 Council member Amy Brendmoen. “I appreciate both parties’ appeals as it will provide the City Council an opportunity to evaluate the planning staff report and make an unambiguous decision.”

Historic preservation

The city has yet to decide on giving historic designation to the former church building, which would prevent the school from tearing it down and constructing a 25,000-square-foot addition.

The City Council may hold a public hearing on the issue on Wed., Mar. 20, followed by a City Council vote on Mar. 27.


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