Fifteen businesses in and around St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood are suing the City of St. Paul and Listening House, a Dayton’s Bluff day shelter, to block their plans to expand into Red’s former location Savoy Pizza on East Seventh Street.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court, seeks more than $50,000 in damages based on six claims, including negligence and “anticipated nuisance.”
The companies allege that the St. Paul City Council, acting as the housing and redevelopment authority, improperly authorized the transfer of $1.4 million in tax revenue known as capital increase funding. tax, or TIF, without proper public notice before June 22 and July 27. HRA meetings. They want a judge to stop the transfer of funds to the day shelter.
“My clients are overjoyed that all of this was done without public notice, without any transparency,” attorney Patrick O’Neill Jr. said in a brief interview. “No one came to tell them. There were technical issues with the way they did it. The majority of my clients found out about it after it was approved.
On June 22, city HRA staff presented the city council with a sweeping $28 million TIF spending plan, then staged an HRA vote 90 minutes later. On July 27, council member Rebecca Noecker recommended using $1.4 million of the $28 million for Listening House, waiving a 45-day public notification process. The board, meeting as the HRA, approved both motions.
“This $1.4 million – granted without public notice or a hearing – will be used to support an operation that Listening House, the (city Housing and Redevelopment Authority) and the city have a real opinion will have a negative effect on surrounding businesses, their employees and customers,” the complaint reads.
Business owners pointed to a negative experience with Freedom House, a former temporary satellite location for Listening House, when it was located at 296 West Seventh St. The shelter, which did not screen visitors for drugs or contraband , closed in May after months of complaints from nearby restaurant owners about littering, vagrancy, theft and muggings.
O’Neill pointed to statistics compiled by the city showing a 78% increase in crimes against quality of life in the surrounding area in the first five months after Freedom House began operations, and a 36% increase in crimes serious during the same period.
The former site of Freedom House, formerly known as Fire Station 51, is returned to the St. Paul Fire Department, but city officials worked with Listening House to locate a new home for fire departments. day at the former site of Red’s Savoy before winter set in.
In November, council approved a zoning ordinance that allows homeless day services for the homeless in most commercial, mixed-use and industrial areas of the city, as long as they occupy less than 7,000 square feet. .
In the short term, the suing companies want a temporary restraining order against the city prohibiting the creation of homeless day shelters “without any permitting or review process for shelters of any size and in any locations”.
Plaintiffs include owners of Heppner’s Auto Body, Bulldog Lowertown, Dark Horse Bar, Gopher Bar, Barrel Theory, Schurmeier Lofts, Dacotah Properties, Saramar Enterprises, Kat-Key’s Lock & Safe, Inc., Earl & Wilson Event Center, MB Properties , condominium owner Matthew D. Gross and Lowertown residents and building owners Tom and Sandra Erickson.
A Listening House official was not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon. Kamal Baker, spokesman for the office of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, said the city will respond to the lawsuit in the coming days. “As we have done throughout the pandemic, we are focused on connecting homeless people to services, shelters and pathways to housing, including working with partners in our community who provide life support,” he said.