2023 State of the City
"The fact that 2023 is our 75th anniversary causes us to reflect on how we’ve gotten to where we are today and where we are going. I think we have much to be pleased about in terms of how Roseville has grown and developed over the years,” said Mayor Roe. “We’ve had a lot of input from prior leaders and members of the community. Everyone has been working to make sure Roseville is the best it can be. We have a lot to be proud of. Hopefully, we can build on that going into the future.”
2023 is a notable year in the history of Roseville because it is the 75th anniversary of the City’s incorporation in 1948. A lot has changed since we were a “village” of around 4600 people back then. Our population has grown to over 36,000. We have gone from mostly agricultural land to a fully developed first-ring suburb with both established residential neighborhoods and a vibrant commercial hub for the region. While some things have changed, much has remained the same over those 75 years: Roseville continues to benefit from our adjacency to both Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and from being along major transportation routes. Back then, Highway 36 was a 2-lane road, but served as it does now as an important east-west link, and before the interstate highways, Snelling Avenue was an important north-south corridor, which it remains today.
Those in leadership before us laid the groundwork for all of the changes over 75 years of being a city, including making an exemplary park system part of the vision from early on. We in leadership today work to continue that tradition of foresight and connection to the people we represent, including our ongoing update to the community vision.
Plans are underway to incorporate celebrations of our 75th anniversary over the course of this year, so be sure to stay tuned for more on that.
Guided by our most recent community vision’s aspirations, we can report on the state of the city in 2023:
Welcoming, Inclusive, and Respectful
A notable part of our effort to be welcoming and inclusive over this past year has been the effort to rename the former Pocahontas Park. A young person brought forward to the City the suggestion that a name change should be considered. The City Council and Parks & Recreation Commission agreed, and a months-long process resulted in recent Council approval of a new name for the park: Keya Park. Keya is the Dakota word for “turtle.” It was a name suggested by residents based on the presence of turtles in the park and neighborhood, and received support from expert representatives from the area’s Dakota community who were consulted extensively during the renaming process.
In addition to the renaming to Keya Park, the Park & Recreation Commission recommended, and the Council approved, efforts to educate the public about the name and the history and association of native peoples in this area, as well as an acknowledgement that the land on which Roseville is situated was taken from the Dakota people.
To further the City’s efforts toward being welcoming and inclusive in another way, the City partnered with community organizations that had already been putting on a Juneteenth celebration for a number of years in Roseville. For those who don’t know, Juneteenth is a celebration of the end of slavery, commemorating specifically the order ending it in Texas in 1865 – one of the final milestones along the path from the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to actual freedom for enslaved people as the Civil War progressed and ended. The celebration in Central Park last year significantly expanded the local event, and plans are to continue that partnership and sustain the event going forward.
In addition to the partnership on the Juneteenth event itself, the City also added Juneteenth as an official City holiday beginning in 2023.
The City continues to implement our Strategic Racial Equity Action Plan – first approved in 2021 – to among other things increase the diversity of staffing to better reflect the community we serve. The work continues across the entire organization, but 2 efforts to highlight are the proactive work of the Police and Fire departments, through such programs as Community Service Officers, Cadets – both for Police and now also Fire cadets, and programs of assistance with training and education costs for those going into the professions.
As has been mentioned in previous annual messages, an important component of implementation of the Plan is to have meaningful data and measure our results. In 2022, the City adopted and began using a racial equity toolkit as part of our work, and we have invested in software to help track data. The toolkit got its first test during planning and outreach for our tenant notification ordinance. We’ll cover that ordinance in more detail later, but we can say that the use of the toolkit helped our process be more inclusive, and also gave us helpful experience and lessons that can be applied to improve our efforts going forward.
Safe and Law-Abiding
A discussion of the aspiration to be safe and law abiding would be incomplete without an acknowledgement of the hard work, professionalism, and sacrifice of our first responders – both police and fire, as well as their continuing dedication to proactive reform and improvement.
That was brought into focus during the active shooter incident in the neighborhood south and west of Lake Owasso almost a year ago. That incident demonstrated the benefits of the hours of training by our first responders, as reflected by the police response as well as the emergency medical assistance provide both to injured officer Ryan Duxbury and to the shooter before he ultimately succumbed to his wounds after being shot by officers after de-escalation efforts proved ineffective. The incident was traumatic to everyone involved and to the community more broadly, and while so much of it was tragic and a sign that much falls short about our system of dealing with people who have mental health issues, all of us can be heartened by Officer Duxbury’s recovery and return to duty, and the outpouring of support from across the city for our officers and the neighbors affected by that day.
It was noted at the time that the training and responsiveness of our firefighters in their emergency medical role really made the difference for Officer Duxbury. That same training and responsiveness has provided similar benefits to residents and visitors across the city day in and day out. As a follow up to going to a full time department, and staffing for 3 simultaneous responses, in 2022 the Fire Department became the first department in the State to offer Advance Life Support level emergency medical response. That means that our firefighter-paramedics can administer certain treatments and medications as first responders that increase the survivability of those they treat within minutes of arrival to a call, rather than waiting until ambulance personnel get there. Given our population demographic prone to more need of emergency medical response, and the staffing issues in the ambulance industry more broadly, this evolution of our department will save lives in the years to come.
Another public safety area that continues to be an issue for residents and visitors in Roseville is the persistence of catalytic converter theft. Roseville has actively pursued and obtained grant funding for dedicated auto related crime resources, which have included support of an officer as well as etching events for catalytic converters. The City recently adopted an ordinance to add a tool to the enforcement toolbox by making possession of catalytic converters without proof of ownership illegal. On top of these efforts, the City continues to actively support State legislation aimed at addressing the catalytic converter theft epidemic. We are hopeful of passage this year, and that it will start to curb this crime.
Statistically, both police and fire in Roseville saw increases in calls for service in 2022, with police calls up nearly 10% and fire & emergency medical calls up about 6.5%.
Economically Prosperous, with a Stable and Broad Tax Base
Roseville’s Economic Development Authority won a St. Paul Chamber of Commerce award in 2022 for our Choose Roseville program. This program used COVID relief funds to support various types of assistance to local small businesses, including business advice, web and social media improvements and digital advertising, hiring assistance, and promotional videos.
The campaign intentionally sought to connect especially with local businesses owned and operated by black, indigenous, and persons of color, who are often under-supported by typical business resources. About half of the businesses supported by the program were BIPOC owned or operated.
The participants in the program provided tremendous positive feedback, expressing appreciation for the outreach and support – especially after being hit hard by the downturn during the COVID pandemic.
In order to build on and continue the momentum of such a successful program after expiration of its temporary funding, the EDA supported staff outreach to the local chambers of commerce to incorporate these and perhaps additional offerings into their work.
Rosedale’s expansion plans being paused in 2022 due to factors such as inflation and increased costs of borrowing tended to reflect broader trends in the development industry. However, notable projects are in the plans for 2023, including commercial development in front of the multi-family residential buildings northwest of Snelling and County Road C. Reports are that will include a business offering escape rooms, axe throwing and indoor pickleball, so look for more on that as the year progresses.
2022 was a record year for the number of building permits in the City, although the dollar value of the projects was down a bit from previous years, at $104 million versus $106 million in 2021 and the record $159 million in 2020. These statistics reflect that smaller improvement projects – both in homes and commercial properties – were the dominant types of permits pulled last year.
Secure in our Diverse and Quality Housing and Neighborhoods
We have talked in the last couple of years about the Housing Navigator on staff that works with our police department’s Community Action Team to connect homeless people with housing and resources. That program has helped house several people since its inception, and has proved to be an effective use of resources for follow up that simply were not able to be provided by police officers who were often called upon to address homeless persons in the past. The initial funding for that position ended in 2022, but the City was able to secure grant funding going forward to continue the position and the good work that is done.
After a flurry of multi-tenant building over the last few years, projects have slowed down, but a few important projects can be reported on. The Oasis affordable family apartments north and west of Snelling & County Road C opened in the summer of 2022, with full occupancy reached very quickly after opening. Next door to that, The Harbor senior affordable apartments are nearing completion, with an expected opening this spring. Those 2 projects represent around 500 units of affordable housing in the city. Additionally, The Edison – a project in northwest Roseville – added a second phase in 2022-23, and expects a third and final phase to be underway shortly.
With al l of the recent apartment building in Roseville, the City focused more on affordable home ownership in 2022. The City established a Land Trust in partnership with Habitat for Humanity late in 2021. The newsworthy story in 2022 was the intense interest in the program by Roseville homeowners looking to sell. More owners wanted to sell to the land trust than Habitat had capacity to handle. That will hopefully bode well for a program that aims to promote affordability by owning the underlying property so that buyers need only finance the home itself.
In 2022 the City Council adopted a tenant notification ordinance that requires advance notice to both the City and the tenants when an affordable multi-family building is to be sold. That notice requirement gives the City the opportunity to investigate ways to maintain the affordability of the building, and gives the tenants important information about their rights as well as time to plan if they ultimately will not be able to stay in the building after its sale.
Environmentally Responsible, with Well-Maintained Natural Assets
Just a couple of weeks ago, the City had an opportunity to recognize and celebrate sustainability efforts by local residents and businesses through our Sustainable Steward award program. Two households and one local business were awarded for their efforts at assessing energy usage, installing energy efficient appliances and equipment, and adding solar or geothermal systems. The City plans to promote the awards program and publicize each year’s winners in order to foster individual efforts toward sustainability.
Recognizing the importance of sustainability to the City’s work into the future, the City made permanent an existing Sustainability Intern position with the approval of the 2023 City budget. The sustainability coordinator position joins the environmental manager in the public works department to help with the added workload resulting from the City’s sustainability efforts, including implementation of the Energy Action Plan adopted a year ago.
While the City is currently limited by the State building code in its ability to implement certain sustainable development and building requirements, Roseville has devoted a significant portion of our ongoing zoning code update to adding those requirements we can, and providing for incentives in areas that can’t be mandated. The City Council is poised to approve new standards for electric vehicle charging in parking lots, new regulations for shoreland areas, and an innovative sustainability incentive program that relaxes certain code requirements in exchange for implementation of meaningful sustainability measures.
In 2022, as one part of addressing the harm to our environment from the loss of trees, the City began implementation of our aggressive Emerald Ash Borer response on City properties. The program will invest over $1 million into intensive treatment, tree removal, and replacement tree planting over the next few years. In partnership with our contractor, the Tree Trust, the program also includes resident education about EAB, and tree sales to the public. The first sale was last spring, and another one is coming up soon.
Physically & Mentally Active and Healthy
With the support of the most significant State investment in the Guidant John Rose Minnesota OVAL since it was built – $3.9 million, the City completed a major rehab of the OVAL refrigeration system, safety padding, and the apron around the skating surface. In addition, access for those of all abilities was improved with installation of a ramp adjacent to the entrance stairway. The project was completed without notable impact to the skating season, and will sustain the facility for many years into the future, for Roseville and all the regional, national, and international users.
As huge as the OVAL project was, the project with possibly the most popular impact in 2022 was the conversion of the tennis courts at Evergreen Park to full time pickleball use. In partnership with the Roseville Area School District, tennis courts at the Aŋpétu Téča Education Center site were upgraded for community use to at least partially replace the tennis facilities for the neighborhood.
In that same general neighborhood, in our continuing effort to increase park opportunities in southwest Roseville where they have been recognized as lacking, the City was able to acquire land on County Road B near highway 280 as part of a new residential development. Planning will be done with extensive resident involvement during 2023, with expectation to build out the facility in 2024.
2022 saw a boom in use of the spaces in the recently added park buildings. Rentals were up 25% over the pre-COVID peak levels.
Well-Connected Through Transportation and Technology Infrastructure
In 2022, Roseville continued its annual reinvestment in our streets, water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure. By the numbers, nearly 10 miles of streets were rehabbed, along with about 6 miles of sanitary sewer lines and ½-mile of water mains. Pathway segments were added to increase connectivity for pedestrians and bikers, and a new underground stormwater storage facility was installed at Simpson & County Road C2 to help with local flooding issues in that area.
All of that work, along with routine repairs and maintenance, is supported from an undersized and outdated maintenance facility on the city hall campus. Preliminary planning work was completed in 2022 for a new, right-sized maintenance facility across Woodhill Drive from the current site, with integrated and phased plans to relocate the license center and VFW to the south side of the street. The City plans to fund most if not all of that project via a ½-cent local sales tax for 20 years. This funding approach would be responsive to requests the City has heard from local property tax payers to shift more of the funding of City costs to those who use our infrastructure and services while not being local residents or businesses. If the City’s request is approved by the legislature, the sales tax would go before Roseville voters in the 2024 general election.
While on the subject of infrastructure and finances, we must take a moment to acknowledge the City’s water under-billing mistake that came to light late in 2022. Over about a year and a half beginning in early 2021, the City’s water billing system under-calculated water bills for higher users. The rates that were supposed to apply to usage over certain levels were not charged. This resulted in only about $6.4 million out of what was supposed to be $7.2 million in charges being collected – a shortfall to our water system of about $800,000 or just over ten percent of water funding.
In order to be fair to all water users, and to be sure that the water system is adequately funded – including both the purchase of water from the St. Paul Water Utility as well as the upkeep of our infrastructure – the City Council approved collection of the under-billed amounts beginning in the first quarter of 2023, with the option for larger amounts to be collected over 4 quarterly bills rather than all at once. While about 44% of residential water users and about 60% of commercial users were completely unaffected by the under-billing, and over 90% of residential users and 75% of commercial users had no under-billing or less than $100 total, that does not excuse the City’s error, or the time it took to be discovered. Steps have been implemented to check and re-check both the water rates when entered, as well as random bill audits, in order to avoid the problem recurring.
Engaged in our Community’s Success as Citizens, Neighbors, Volunteers, Leaders, & Businesspeople
People in Roseville continue to be engaged in our community. That is definitely reflected in our City volunteer numbers: We saw about a 9% increase in the number of volunteers – up to about 700 people in 2022. In addition, there was a 10% increase in volunteer hours, up to about 7300 total hours, representing a value to the City and taxpayers of over $200,000, using industry standard benchmarks.
Throughout much of 2022, and into this year, the City has been intensively and intentionally reaching out to engage all our residents and businesses – and even visitors – in the first update to our community vision since 2006. Called “Envision Roseville,” this work has included participation at various City events, interactive SMS text-based cellphone outreach, targeted resident and business focus groups, and other methods. The objective is to check in with the community about the aspirations around which our City work – and this State of the City message itself – is organized, and to develop meaningful benchmarks to tell us whether we are making progress toward those aspirations.
Once the aspirations are updated and the benchmarks are established, those will guide a further effort to develop short, medium, and long term action plans in various areas to guide City work.
We are grateful to everyone who has taken the time to participate, and we want to hear from those of you who haven’t yet been part of the process. Please be sure to contact the City or search “Envision Roseville” online to learn more and get connected.
75 years ago, Roseville began as a small village. We have grown into a regionally significant city since then. All the while, care has been taken by leaders, residents, businesses, faith groups, civic organizations, and countless others to set ourselves high standards for success as a community – success as WE want it to be measured. Through that care and foresight, along with a great deal of hard work, it can be said that our growth has been reflective of that vision.
As we go into our future with our updated vision, may we be as successful as those who came before us in achieving that vision.