Citizen’s Academy comes to Independence, Maple Plain


West Hennepin Public Safety will offer this year’s Citizens Police Academy on Thursdays from 7 to 10 p.m. from Feb. 16 through April 6. WHPS serves Independence and Maple Plain.

WHPS Public Safety Director Gary Kroells brought news about the Citizens Academy to the Independence City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 24. At the meeting, the city council also took up other business.

The Citizens Academy is a free 24-hour block of instruction, sponsored by the Crime Fund. The academy is designed to give citizens knowledge about how the local public safety department operates, along with its policies, procedures, programs and challenges, according to the WHPS website.

Academy students will be introduced to government officials and staff and learn about responsibilities of their respective offices. Participants in each session will commit to meeting three hours, one night a week for seven weeks.

The Citizens Police Academy was designed to create a better understanding of law enforcement through education, according to WHPS. Participants get realistic hands on information that will help them better understand police department functions.

Classroom and hands on information covers DWI and traffic enforcement, Hennepin County Dispatch Center, home security and use of deadly force, including a demonstration of the Taser gun and FATS training (firearms simulation). Other topics are court procedures, including testifying before a judge, and many other areas related to law enforcement.

WHPS is compiling a list of participants who would be interested in the next class. The recommended age to attend is 18 years and older. To get information, contact WHPS at 763-479-0500 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The city council approved a variance for a reduced front yard setback for property at 4586 Shady Beach Circle. Dean Voss applied for the variance for property owner Linda Nelson.

City Planner Mark Kaltsas described the reason that Voss and Nelson requested the variance. They wanted city approval for constructing a new garage and a single story addition to the home, which is located on shoreline property on Lake Sarah. The proposed structures would encroach into the front yard setback from Shady Beach Circle. The variance would allow a 13-foot setback rather that the required 30 feet.

The lot spans .34 of an acre and is a nonconforming lot, too small to conform to Independence’s minimum lot size requirements, Kaltsas said. Several neighboring properties alongside Lake Sarah have similar lot sizes.

Voss, who is a builder, said the building and site plans have features that would make the situation work for Nelson. Two small sheds would be torn down. The driveway would consist of pervious pavers to facilitate drainage. The result would be a lot with 24.9 percent hardcover, compared with the current 28.4 percent hardcover. Kaltsas said the maximum impervious surface coverage allowed in the shoreland district is 25 percent. The current site plan exceeds the limit and the new site plan falls within the limit. And, for the first time, Nelson would have a garage.

The city council discussed whether additional construction should be allowed within a small area along Lake Sarah. They decided to approve the Voss/Nelson proposal because it was similar to what has been constructed on other properties in the neighborhood.

Public Safety Director Kroells gave a year-end police report for WHPS. He said that WHPS handled 8,713 incidents in 2016 — 5,002 of them in Independence and 3,114 in Maple Plain. This was an increase of 492 incidents compared to 2015.


Every year, Independence reviews liquor licenses for the Ox Yoke Inn, Windsong Golf Club and Pioneer Creek Golf. The city council certified for the Ox Yoke Inn licenses for on-sale, off-sale, Sunday and 3.2 percent beverages.

The council also certified for the Windsong Golf Club and Pioneer Creek Golf on-sale, Sunday and 3.2 percent beverage licenses, subject to successful background checks by WHPS.

The city council renewed Independence’s five-year agreement with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which provides a computer network for electronic charging of police suspects with criminal offenses. The network links police departments, the State Court Administration and local prosecuting attorneys for cases submitted electronically by police.