By Mark Page
Chanhassen Villager – Letter to the Editor
Call for change in council
Posted: Friday, September 14, 2018
This November, voters have a clear choice for the leadership of Chanhassen. The choice is between two distinct camps, the status quo leadership vs. citizen inspired, forward-thinking leadership.
The status quo has not served Chanhassen well and that’s why we are in need of new leadership.
Chanhassen has been on a downhill slide since my family moved here 11 years ago. Back then, Chanhassen was a great suburb, comparable to Excelsior, Shorewood, and Minnetonka.
Over the last 10 years, we have witnessed a slow decline into mediocrity. There are many reasons for this, but the main reasons are a lack of cohesive downtown planning; an explosion of fast casual dining; and city leadership’s refusal to listen to the public.
First, the lack of planning. Chanhassen has grown completely “piecemeal” with no long-term strategic plan, especially pertaining to downtown. The city spent $42,000 of taxpayer money on a downtown development study that they never even bothered to read; that’s a pretty expensive paperweight.
Second, our town has become the “food court” of Carver County. We have every fast food restaurant imaginable, with hardly any unique establishments, so our citizens head to Excelsior, Wayzata, and Victoria for interesting dining options. In addition, some of the restaurants are impossible to patronize because of poor planning for parking and access, particularly Potbelly Sandwich Shop and Smashburger.
Finally, and this is the crux of the problem, is the unwillingness of the majority of City Council to listen. The council is controlled by three members, Mayor Denny Laufenburger and councilors Bethany Tjornhom and Jerry McDonald, and they have a stranglehold on the city with an unbreakable 3-2 monopoly. This lack of listening culminated in the contentious vote on the Aldi/six-story downtown apartment building.
The city and its current leadership took the low-hanging fruit and chose the project presented by the developer instead of working to find what the taxpayers really wanted. And then they used tax increment financing to fund it.
The citizens begged Laufenburger, Tjornhom and McDonald to reconsider their votes. Over 800 people signed a petition opposing the six-story apartment/Aldi plan; 100 citizens attended the City Council meeting; and 20 made impassioned pleas against the plan. These three did not listen to the citizens, and they voted against the public’s desire to keep Chanhassen free of a giant apartment building right in the middle of downtown. So when the big buzzword of “listening” comes up in this election, please remember who catastrophically failed to listen — Mayor Laufenburger.
Who did listen? Councilor Elise Ryan and Councilor Dan Campion, who both voted “No” to this travesty. Therefore, I am supporting Councilor Ryan for mayor, and Councilor Dan Campion and Julia Coleman for City Council.
The saving grace to this whole story is that we can still change. By supporting these three young, bright, forward-thinking people, we can get our city back into the rightful hands of the citizens, because Ryan, Campion and Coleman are interested in listening to the citizens and acting on citizen concerns.
– Mark Page