Independence to survey citizens on vision for city

BY SUSAN VANCLEAF
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS

The city of Independence is preparing to survey its citizens to find out what features they would like to see in their city by 2040. Survey results will help the city update its comprehensive plan and deal with other current issues.

The survey is likely to arrive in citizens’ mailboxes sometime during the week of May 1, said City Administrator Mark Kaltsas. Residents, business people and other property owners also will find the survey on the city web site at www.independence.govoffice.com. The end of May is the deadline for citizens to respond to the survey.

Independence currently is operating under its 2030 comprehensive plan. The Metropolitan Council requires cities to update their comp plans every 10 years. Comp plans are thick documents that have chapters on issues such as land use, population density, transportation, parks and trails, recreation, housing and more. Cities are required to submit their 2040 comp plans by the end of 2018.

Kaltsas asked the City Council to review a draft of the survey and provide feedback at its Tuesday, April 25 meeting. He said the Planning Commission had done a good job of helping him tweak the questions.

Key issues for Independence are potential commercial development along Highway 12, whether or not the city should have a commercial area and the location of population density, Kaltsas said.

After the meeting, he said he has been working with a number of cities on citizens’ surveys and comp plan updates. Some cities are getting very specific with survey questions. Besides asking whether citizens want more parks, some cities are asking how much they are willing to pay to have more parks.

The public will have a number of opportunities to learn about and contribute to Independence’s Comprehensive Plan, including open houses, public hearings and the survey. Information will be in the city newsletter and on the city website.

At the meeting, the council also took up other business.

POTENTIAL MASSAGE PARLOR ORDINANCE
The City Council directed Kaltsas and City Attorney Bob Vose to update Independence’s massage parlor ordinance, based upon recommendations from West Hennepin Public Safety. The council would approve the update.
The updated ordinance would be patterned after a similar ordinance on the books in Maple Plain. WHPS provides law enforcement services for both cities.

Kaltsas said that Maple Plain and WHPS had problems with non-legitimate massage parlors several years ago. Staffers at these establishments were practicing “more than massage.” Maple Plain adopted an ordinance regulating licensing of individuals and businesses providing massage services in the city. WHPS now is asking Independence to update its ordinance to similarly protect its citizens.

City Attorney Vose said the state has no license requirements for massage parlors. Cities can take on this responsibility. The consumer does not know whether a masseuse knows what he or she is doing. A local ordinance would give consumers “a little reassurance.”

City Councilor Ray McCoy said it is really important for Independence to enact an ordinance amendment. Licensing massage parlors would give WHPS a tool to prevent sex trafficking. He suggested that the ordinance require all license applicants to list their criminal and employment histories. Also, the ordinance should specify that a legitimate massage does not include female breasts.

McCoy was Director of WHPS during the time when Maple Plain had difficulties with massage parlors.
Vose said the ordinance would give Independence the right of inspection of massage parlors, thus enabling it to deal with trafficking.

SEXUAL PREDATOR ORDINANCE
The City Council directed Vose and Kaltsas to research a possible ordinance that would regulate where Level II and Level III could live in Independence. Kaltsas would bring the ordinance before the council for its approval.

Kaltsas recommended an ordinance similar to the one in Maple Plain. However, the Independence document would be a general ordinance. The Maple Plain ordinance is part of the city zoning code.

Prior to their release from state prison and treatment facilities, convicted sex offenders are evaluated to determine their risk to reoffend. Level I offenders have the lowest risk and Level III offenders have the highest risk. Before they move into a community, Level II and Level III offenders must register address, employment and vehicle information with the local police department. Police would conduct a community notification for Level III offenders.

Kaltsas handed City Councilors a model predatory offender ordinance that restricts where predatory offenders can live. He said many metro area cities have adopted similar ordinances. They prohibit Level II and Level III offenders from living near protected areas, such as schools, playgrounds, parks and other places where children are known to congregate regularly.

Vose said, “You can’t say that predatory offenders can’t live in your city. These folks have had their legal rights restored.” A blanket prohibition of residency anywhere in the city would very likely result in a legal challenge to the ordinance. A city can limit where predatory offenders can live within its boundaries.