Following Up on Town & Country Club’s Sidewalk Tax Evasion Scheme

Town & Country Club Trees Sidewalk
Were these trees saved?

Back in 2010, the City of St Paul wanted to add a sidewalk along Marshall Ave on the north side of the street. You’d think that wouldn’t be a big deal, but when St Paul’s wealthiest residents were asked to contribute toward paying for the sidewalk (like everyone else in St Paul does when a sidewalk is built along their property) they freaked out and lawyered up.

In the end, the wealthy and powerful prevailed over the poor and powerless. The sidewalk was built without a special assessment on T&C’s property.

One thing that was particularly pathetic about Town & Country’s efforts to avoid being good citizens was the work of Summit Avenue resident and Town & Country Club member, Chip Michel, who filed a lawsuit against the city and created a petition to “Save our Trees”. Here’s Chip Michel’s letter explaining his issue with the sidewalk:

Family, Friends and Friends I haven’t met yet.
I recently did something I may regret but I am to the point where I am more than tired of our elected representatives ignoring the feelings and desires of us little ones (voters) down in the neighborhoods.
I filed a personal lawsuit against the City of St Paul for an injunction (stopping) the construction of a sidewalk along North side of Marshal Ave between Otis & Cretin Avenues. This stretch borders the Town & Country Club.
I am having trouble finding anyone
This perked my interest and emotion as I rode the path along the golf course as a boy. Enjoying the feeling of a dirt bike ride. Having lived here for 60+ years I know there is little if any demand for a sidewalk there. So I start asking around. Other than some people with very personal goals I can find very few people who disagree with me. Where is the benefit of the common good?
The project the city wants to do and buy the way will do it unless I can get my injunction will put a sidewalk on the green grass, require the removal of dozens of trees, including 80+ year old mature ones. And will eventually force the property owner to build a retaining wall to keep the hill from moving down on the new proposed sidewalk. More concrete in the picture. We are engaging professional arborists to give an estimate of the potential damage to the root systems of dozens of additional mature trees on the owner’s property, thus resulting in their eventual demise and will send out an update when I have it.
This is not just about the project as it is just the tip of the iceberg.
My goal here is to send a message to our duly elected representatives’ to stop spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need.
The City is running a huge deficit; we are closing schools and laying off teachers. And we building a sidewalk no one wants.
I need your help to send a message that we the voters are tired of the fiscal & environmental irresponsibility.
I ask that you please print out the attached petition in this sight sign it, get as many friends & neighbors to sign it and get it back to my house. I also ask that you forward it to any St Paul resident in your e mail address book.
I need only St Paul resident voters and all the help I can get.
I will keep you all up-dated.
Thanks for your support.
Chip Michel
1731 Summit Ave
St Paul, MN. 55105

Chip Michel told people that the sidewalk project would lead to the demise of 80+ year old mature trees. Was Mr. Michel correct? Let’s take a look. The “after” pictures were taken on October 10th, 2012, so two years after the sidewalk was installed.

Cretin at Marshall


Town & Country Club Sidewalk v. Trees


Town & Country Club's Trees from Cretin & Marshall

Cretin at Otis


Town & Country Club Sidewalk v. Trees

After (the pines are near the left in this picture):

Town & Country Club's Trees from Marshal at Otis

Along Marshall Ave


Town & Country Club Trees Sidewalk

After (the crab apple trees on the boulevard were replaced with trees on the new boulevard):

Town & Country Club's Trees along Marshall

Conclusion: Chip Michel was wrong. I’m not sure if he was lying or just that dumb, but I tend to think it’s the former in a pathetic (yet, successful) scheme to avoid paying for a share of a public sidewalk.

Michel mislead, the public paid, the trees are fine, and the public benefits today from this popular stretch of sidewalk.

2 thoughts on “Following Up on Town & Country Club’s Sidewalk Tax Evasion Scheme”

  1. Same gambit when a bike trail was proposed along Stinson Blvd a few years ago. Homeowners started a “save the trees” campaign – tying yellow ribbons around every tree in the median. You’d have thought the whole median was to be clear cut! Proposal failed.

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