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Proposed bicycle lanes top council agenda

Months after a bike lane proposal was first introduced to city staff, the Albert Lea City Council tonight will vote whether to move forward with what could be the city’s first bike lanes on Front Street.

If approved, the project, proposed for 1 1/2 miles of street on Front Street, would begin at U.S. Highway 69 and go through to Frank Avenue, where the route would connect to the Blazing Star Trail.

Proponents of the idea say the project would show the city’s commitment to vitality and a healthier community. They have also touted the health benefits of bike lanes, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and improved mental health.

Opponents are mostly concerned with the cost — there is an initial $47,000 cost and an additional $15,000 to $20,000 per year for paint striping, according to estimates from the city engineer.

There would also be changes to parking.

Under the existing proposal, there would be no parking from Highway 69 to First Avenue, parking on only the north side from First Avenue to Spark Avenue, no parking from Spark Avenue to Euclid Avenue, parking on the north side from Euclid Avenue to Washington Avenue, and no parking from Washington Avenue to Frank Avenue, Jahnke said. School buses would be allowed to park only during loading and unloading of students near Sibley Elementary and Southwest Middle schools.

There would be bike lanes on both sides of the street. On areas where there is parking, the parking would be closest to the curb, with the bike lane in between the lane of traffic and the parking.

The vote comes after much public input, including a public hearing and a neighborhood meeting.

In other action, the City Council will:

Have a public hearing about the proposed building design amendment for the B-2 Community Business District.

If approved, the amendment will affect all new construction and major expansion of commercial buildings on East and West Main Street, Bridge Avenue, South Broadway Avenue, Bridge Avenue near the Northbridge Mall and the Walmart area of Blake Avenue.

Standards in the ordinance have been prepared by city staff, leaders of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, leaders of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency and community members.

Vote on whether to approve a request to defer assessments against 1525 Blake Avenue until the property is sold or used for commercial purposes.

The assessments have already been deferred for five years, and in November 2009, they were certified to be paid over a 10-year period.

The owners have since requested to have the assessments deferred.

Vote whether to approve a resolution adopting a computer use policy for the city.

According to background information provided by City Manager Jim Norman, the policy is “to protect the security and integrity of the city’s electronic communication and information systems by educating employees about appropriate and safe use of available technology resources.”

Hear a request from the Freeborn County Humane Society to have a fundraiser to raise funds for the organization’s building addition.

Have a public hearing about the establishment of a tax increment finance district (TIF District 9-2) for Palleton Pallets. The company will be in the ALEDA Industrial Park.