Many sites considered for Cliff Road cell tower

  Verizon Wireless considered nine possible sites for a tower intended to address wireless coverage issues in the area before settling on a controversial site in Walden Heights Park, according to comments made at a recent city council meeting.
  In choosing the controversial site for a 119-foot-tall tower--complete with surrounding barbed-wiretopped fence and 9-foot lightning rod--in a neighborhood park south of Cliff Road, the wireless provider was met with obstacles that included zoning restrictions, lack of space, homeland security restrictions, and existing infrastructure that could not be disturbed. The company’s first choice was a parcel of land at Clearwater Park, but restrictions related to the nearby water treatment plant ruled out that site.
  The company also considered the church across the street, Easter Lutheran, but the current zoning of the site prohibits construction of cell towers, according to a Verizon representative. Many churches across the country host cell towers because their steeples provide a headstart on the height needed to send wireless signals and the churches typically receive revenues from renting out the space.
  After ruling out a series of sites, the company claimed it had no choice left but to construct a 119-foot tall tower, with a 9-foot lightning rod, on city property at Walden Heights Park.
  The search for a place to put a cell phone tower shows the often competing interests of a developing residential community. As farmland or open space is replaced with housing and commercial development, the demand for wireless capacity increases. A 160-acre farm could be replaced with 600 houses, Verizon Wireless representative Louis Martin told the Eagan City Council. Each house has an average of 13 devices connected to the internet. In addition, the average wireless user is increasing his data usage exponentially. The average user who used 7 gigabytes of data last year is expected to use 48 this year, according to Verizon.
  Verizon is seeking two rulings from the city council. One would allow it to build the tower. The second would allow it to build the tower closer to residential property, 135 feet from the nearest home rather than the 300 feet specified under city rules.
  Eagan residents have voiced opposition to the proposed tower, sending the city 110 pages of comments. Residents also voiced opposition the cell tower in the park at a city council meeting April 3.
  The Advisory Planning Commission denied both requests. The city council did not make a final decision, but continued the matter to allow Verizon time for further discussions with the church across the street, an indication the board would consider an exception to the current zoning rules.
An Eagan police officer surprised a woman texting and driving through the Starbucks drive-thru on Cliff Road on April 5. Police were at the coffee shop for the Coffee with a Cop program, a meet-and-greet public relations program with local law enforcement.

Pawlenty announces run for governor

     After a failed attempt to run for president in 2011, Eagan resident and former governor and Eagan city council member Tim Pawlenty announced Thursday he will seek a third-term as Minnesota governor.
     “Toxic politics are dividing us,” Pawlenty said in his announcement. “I have the strength and experience to solve problems and bring us together.”
     Pawlenty has been criticized for budget issues during his two terms as governor. He also faces challenges from his perception as a friend of the rich and his decision as governor to pardon a statutory rapist, who was later accused of molesting his daughter, so his wife could open a daycare center.
     Pawlenty’s announcement ends month of speculation as to whether he would enter the gubernatorial race. His announcement to enter the race for state-wide office attracted national attention, with reports on the announcement featured on CNBC, FoxNews, New York Magazine and other media outlets across the country.
     Pawlenty ran for the 2012 Presidential nomination after two terms as Minnesota governor. He ended the campaign within three months after a showing of less than 14% in the Ames Straw Poll.
Eagan resident
and former city council member
Tim Pawlenty
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Third teenager charged with rioting in parking lot

   An 18-year-old who told investigators he was trying to keep the peace on the night of a fatal shooting became the third person charged in connection with a deadly fight between teenagers at a movie theatre parking lot on March 24.
   Taishawn Smith, 18, of 5205 Angeline Ave. N. #2, Crystal, was charged with felony riot in the second-degree, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint. Smith was ordered held in lieu of $150,000 bail with conditions, according to court records.
   The charge stems from a fight in the parking lot of the AMC Theatre in Inver Grove Heights shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 24. A 19-year-old, Billy Ray Robles, was shot twice during the melee and pronounced dead at Regions Hospital, according to police. Robles was a rapper from St. Paul who posted YouTube videos under the name BillyThaKidd.
   Smith has not been charged, and does not appear to be suspected of, involvement in the actual shooting, according to court records. He was questioned by police at the hospital. Smith told police he had been acting as a peacemaker during the melee and had been punched in the face, according to court records.
   The riot charge brought against Smith does not require a person be armed during a disturbance. The charge only requires a person knew that another participant in a disturbance was armed, according to the complaint.
   Two other teenagers, who have not been publicly identified because they are under the age of 18, were charged March 28 with riot in the first-degree and assault in the second-degree in connection with the deadly fight, according to the Dakota County Attorney’s office. It is expected prosecutors will seek to have them certified for trial as adults. Further charges could result once investigators determine who fired the fatal shot.
   “This is another example of the senseless and tragic loss of life from gun violence in our community,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said. “It is extremely disturbing to see juveniles possessing and using firearms in this manner.”
   The shooting followed a battle between factions identified as east-side and west-side that brewed during a birthday party-bus ride that left from the movie theater parking lot at about 11 p.m., according to court records. The two groups argued throughout the evening on the bus, according to investigators. When the bus returned to the theater parking lot, the east side group left the bus first. The west side group then chased the east side group in the parking lot. A witness, who was shot in the ankle while walking to his car, told investigators that members of the east-side group shot at the west-side group, according to court records.
   Witnesses reported a fight broke out on the stairs of the bus, and someone was punched in the face. The bus driver then told everyone to get off the bus.
Taishawn Smith

Police seek missing man

   Eagan Police asked the public's help April 4 to locate a missing man. According to the Eagan Police Department's Twitter account, Roger Shaaf, experiencing memory loss, was last seen at about 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 4, near the Cub Foods store on Town Center Drive.
   Anyone who believes they have seen Shaaf was urged to call 911.
Eagan woman charged with mail theft
   An Eagan woman is facing a felony charge for allegedly stealing mail from a local apartment complex.
  Tracy Smith, 34, of 2099 Silver Bell Road, #42, Eagan, was charged with felony mail theft following a March 28 report of a theft in progress, according to a criminal complaint. A man reported the package he was expecting had been intercepted by a woman when the mail truck arrived.
  The victim followed Smith as she traveled to a different apartment complex and saw her stuff items into a trash can, according to the complaint. The victim confronted Smith, who denied stealing the package, according to court records. The victim recovered the package from the trash and gave it to police.
  Police apprehended Smith as she emerged from the bathroom from a nearby bowling alley.
Roger Shaaf
Parents charged with neglect of underweight infant
   Two Lakeville parents were charged with felony child neglect following a child welfare investigation, according to court records.
     Matthew Groth, 33, and Miranda Chambers, 23, of 20696 Keystone Ave., Apt. F, Lakeville, were charged with felony child neglect, according to a criminal complaint.
     The investigation stemmed from a report that the parents’ youngest child, an infant, was severely underweight. The report also expressed concerns about the parents’ alleged drug use. Police allege both parents tested positive for methamphetamine use. Police found four children under the age of four at the home, according to court records.
     At the home, police found the infant in a dirty diaper and described her appearance as “shockingly thin with her rib bones visible and skin hanging off her bones.” Police reported the infant appeared to have a “ravenous appetite” when offered food. When police gave the infant food, the older three children in the home requested food as well. After police fed the children, Groth allegedly commented they were “eating too much.”  
     The infant’s weight was so low she was admitted to the hospital.
Police find meth after OUI traffic stop
   A South Saint Paul man is facing two felony drug charges following a March 28 traffic stop during which police found about 47 grams of a substance suspected to be methamphetamine.
  Joseph Nelson, 34, of 337 3d Ave. S., S. St. Paul, was charged with a felony count of sale of a controlled substance in the first-degree and possession of a controlled substance in the second-degree, according to a criminal complaint.
  Nelson was a passenger in a car whose driver was arrested for driving under the influence, according to a criminal complaint. During a search of the vehicle after the driver’s arrest, police allegedly found a clear plastic box containing plastic bags and a broken glass pipe with residue near the seat where Nelson was sitting. Police also found a backpack on the floor containing a digital scale and a whiskey bag holding plastic bags holding a substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine.
  Police found another plastic bag wedged between the font passenger seat and center console. Inside that bag, police found 27 grams of a substance that field tested positive for methamphetamine.
  Nelson was convicted of previous drug crimes in 2008 and 2012, according to police.
Woman charged with mall theft
   A Minneapolis woman is facing felony charge stemming from an alleged theft from the Eagan outlet mall.
     Leaonza Goodwin, 21, 509 15th St., Minneapolis, has been summonsed to appear in Dakota County court April 16 on a felony charge of theft, according to a criminal complaint.
     The charge stems from a Nov. 3 episode at the Eagan outlet mall, according to a criminal complaint. A store security officer flagged down a police officer driving through the parking lot of Saks Off 5th reporting that two women were inside the store concealing merchandise, according to court records. One of the women, who allegedly gave police a false name and date of birth, was ultimately identified as Goodwin.