Public comments on housing project and mayoral campaign consume most of Maplewood council meeting

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About 50 residents attended the Maplewood City Council meeting Tuesday, where the bulk of the over hour and a half-long meeting was taken up with two sessions of public comments.

The first session was specifically for comments relating to a resolution to be voted on by the council in support of affordable housing; currently focused on property where the Immaculate Conception church and outbuildings sit. A housing project proposed by RCH Development at the Feb. 27 council meeting would result in the demolition of the education building but not the church.

Five of the six commenters on the project asked the council to preserve the historic buildings and consider another location.

Doug Houser, Maplewood historian, said the development would need to go through Maplewood’s Historic Preservation Commission, and called the education building a first-rate historic building. Ray Crader, an architect, recommended a village-type development, which would draw inspiration from the surrounding community. Patty Nouraie, an artist who rents space in the education building, said the lack of public outreach by the city is concerning.

Justin Lorenz, operations manager for L’Arche St. Louis, which provides care for the disabled, said that the building on the corner of Anna and Marshall avenues is a residence building owned by L’Arche St. Louis, not the St. Louis Archdiocese. He said they recently found out about the project, and not from the city, which was concerning. He said after the meeting that the building has about seven to eight residents.

The second public forum was open to any topic, and had eighteen speakers. Twelve of those supported reelecting Mayor Knapper in the upcoming election.

Resident Beth Newman said misinformation has “run rampant.” She recommended that people talk to the elected officials and to neighbors instead of believing what is online. Brad Jackson echoed that, saying Maplewood has become “willfully obtuse,” and read of list of things he said were a smear campaign against Knapper.

Leslie Koess said, “White supremacy runs deep within the Special Business District and Chamber of Commerce. When a black female leader did not conform to their status quo, they resisted using nasty, volatile, evil-intentioned tactics.” She said Mid County Chamber members have been repeatedly using the Sunshine Law to get details from the city about its separation agreement with former Maplewood city manager, Michael Reese, calling it harassment, and putting the city in legal jeopardy.

Another criticized candidate Barry Greenberg’s campaign statement, which states it’s important to “serve the community they live in, not promote personal agendas or attempt to solve world problems.” They said that world problems are our problems, and also that Knapper is committed housing equity and to protecting trans students.

Sam Knapper, the mayor’s former husband, said Mayor Knapper had received threatening text messages and asked if a hate crime had ever been filed or prosecuted as a result. He also said that those seeing the separation agreement with Reese as a negative against the mayor showed implicit racial bias. Also that there is nothing in the agreement that says the mayor did anything illegal.

Among those comments, Karen Wood (former city council member), pointed out that again, there is no public forum at the end of the meeting, which she said is a way for the public to take part in an on-record conversation with the council.

Patty Nouraie, in the final comment of the night, said when she first moved to Maplewood, the police tased her son, who wore dreadlocks, but “the good police are here now.” She called Mayor Knapper brilliant and young, and she does a disservice to bring race into the campaign. She also said she had tried to email the mayor with a question and got no reply.

Later in the meeting, Knapper said she had replied to Nouraie but it apparently didn’t go through, and that the city has been having IT problems. She said if anyone has emailed her and didn’t get a reply to call City Manager Amber Withycombe and tell her about it.

Following the comments section, the council unanimously passed the resolution supporting the affordable housing development. The resolution had been amended since the last meeting; it formerly indicated that the housing would be on the Immaculate Conception site. The passed resolution had that stipulation removed.

See videos of Maplewood Council meetings here.

Resident Patty Nouraie speaks in the public forum on affordable housing.
Council members Krista Garcia and Eric Page, and Mayor Nikylan Knapper listen during public forum. City Manager Amber Withycombe (on right), also.

 

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. I am sure Knapper will put on quite a performance at her last council meeting tonight!!! More blame games/”I didn’t do anything wrong”/”I am a victim…”

    How refreshing it would be for her to just admit that she made mistakes and has learned from them but that ain’t gonna happen. One thing is for sure-she is a textbook politician!

  2. I was pleased to see a discussion of no-mow April this year for pollinators, thanks to Sustainability Commission.

  3. No comments about the replacement City Manager’s salary difference from the last person, her qualifications for the position, or the reasons for the separation? Whether it’s legal or not, it’s not ethical.

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