APC narrowly approves Raising Cane's plan

   A proposal to build a Raising Cane’s drive-thru chicken restaurant narrowly passed by a 4-3 vote of Eagan’s Advisory Planning Commission Tuesday night after commission members expressed concerns about parking and a lack of green space.
   The proposal will now head to the City Council for approval at its August 6 meeting.
   During a hearing on the issue, commission members questioned whether the 23 9-foot-wide parking stalls would be enough for the restaurant’s customers, as well as its staff. A representative of the business told the commission that 60 percent of the restaurant’s business will likely be drive-thru.
   The restaurant has a branch in Apple Valley. During peak hours at that location, customers have been observed parking at surrounding businesses and walking over to the restaurant. The sponsor of the Eagan plan told the commission it has tried to negotiate an overflow parking arrangement with a neighboring business, but has not yet been successful.
    The restaurant would expand the city’s fast food restaurant area from the current cluster on Town Center Drive across Yankee Doodle Road to the rapidly developing Quarry Road area.
  If approved, the restaurant would be the second drive-thru chicken restaurant recently approved in the Yankee Doodle Road area. A Chick-Fil-A restaurant opened on Yankee Doodle Road Feb. 8.
Leigh Monson reviews
Eighth Grade

After months of planning, hype, and perks for city officials, Eagan's NFL camp slated to open

   The Minnesota Vikings first training camp in Eagan opened this week, under the clouds of the death of an offensive coach and the son of former coach Bud Grant. The opening tested local infrastructure and months of preparation by Vikings staff and city officials.
   The NFL team is expecting 5,000 visitors per day to the northeast Eagan site, which is still under construction. The event runs from the arrival of rookies July 24 to August 16.
   Parking will be limited as city officials have prohibited parking on nearby public streets, creating a lucrative stream of revenue for the NFL organization, now charging $10 per vehicle to park in the 2,200 parking spots allotted for training camp visitors. There is no charge for training camp tickets, but the parking fee is mandatory when ordering tickets.
   Prior to the public debut of the training camp site, the Vikings organization invited Eagan’s mayor, city council, 22 city employees and the city’s volunteer firefighters to a private party at the site labeled as a “community event.” Mayor Mike Maguire did not attend but his relatives did. City Council Member Cyndee Fields said she invited her boss, who got lost on the way to the event because GPS systems do not recognize the address Vikings Parkway. City Council Member Gary Hansen reported a backup at the entrance gate because of delays with the electronic ticket reading system.
   The expected crowd is about the size of the daily workforce of one of the city’s largest employers, Thomson Reuters. That company’s workforce has staggered work hours, unlike the set entry and exit times of Vikings’ practice. To help alleviate congestion at the end of practice, the organization expects to offer after activities such as musical performances.
   Visitors also have the option, for a $20 admission fee, to purchase tickets to the Vikings Museum. At $20, the Vikings museum admission price is twice that of the Patriots’ museum in Massachusetts, where visitors can take their selfies in front of five super bowl championship trophies and take a virtual ride along the victory parade route, confetti and all.

Council approves extra costs for city hall renovation

Pumping equipment poured concrete recently as part of  the multi-million-dollar renovation of Eagan's city hall and police headquarters.
   The Eagan City Council approved an additional $80,000 in renovations to city hall and police headquarters.
   Among the expenses included on a change order approved without discussion at a recent city council meeting are structural and mechanical issues not apparent until after the renovation project began, according to the change order request. Nearly $6,300 was requested for an additional door and painting of a temporary space used during the renovation project. The largest increase, more than $27,000, was attributed to the need for larger openings to remove mechanical equipment. The second largest increase, more than $26,000, was attributed to relocating and reinforcing floor structures.
   The price of the project had already increased substantially from the $9 million approved by voters in 2015 to an estimated $17 million.

Two police officers shot during mental health call

   A South Saint Paul man is facing two charges of attempted murder after shooting two police officers at a group home.
   Dustin Bilderback, 33, 550 12th St., S. St. Paul, was ordered held in jail in lieu of $1 million bail on two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder, according to court records. The charges stem from the shooting of two South Saint Paul police officers attempting to resolve a situation at the mental health group home where Bilderback lived.
   At the time of the shooting, Bilderback was on a provisional discharge from St. Peter Security Hospital, where he had been committed as mentally ill and dangerous, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint. Bilderback missed an 11 a.m. appointment with his mental health case worker and was reported missing about 90 minutes later. He returned to the group home shortly afterwards and police were called to conduct a welfare check.
   Bilderback left the group home with his case worker for a cigarette, according to the criminal complaint. When they walked outside, police had arrived at the building. Police began discussing with the case worker whether Bilderback should be taken into custody for a 72-hour mental health hold, according to court records. While police were talking to the case worker, Bilderback went to his car in the back of the group home. A police officer followed him. Bilderback then pulled a shotgun from the backseat, according to the complaint, and began firing at the officer who had started running for cover.
   Bilderback allegedly continued firing as more police arrived and struck a second officer in the leg. The gun he was firing was a break action shotgun, which required the shooter to reload before each shot. Two police officers shot at Bilderback but did not hit him. Bilderback eventually dropped the shotgun and was arrested.
   “I am extremely thankful that the officers were not killed or more seriously injured; and that there were no innocent bystanders who were shot,” County Attorney James Backstom said. “I wish to extend my best wishes to the officers as they recover from this terrifying experience. ”
   The shooting of South Saint Paul police officers occurred just one day after a corrections officers was killed by an inmate at Stillwater State Prison. The funeral for corrections officer Joseph Gomm is scheduled to be held Thursday at 11 a.m.
Dustin Bilderback

City Council approves liquor license for El Parian

  The Eagan City Council approved a liquor license for a local restaurant at the center of a 2016 federal drug trafficking and money laundering indictment.
  The council approved an on-sale liquor and Sunday license for El Parian Mexican Grill at 1960 Cliff Lake Road without discussion as part of the consent agenda at its July 17 meeting. According to council documents, the license will be issued to a new owner of the restaurant, Gustavo Zapata. As is standard procedure for liquor license applications, the Eagan Police Department reviewed the request.
   The restaurant, and two others in the chain, was at the center of an August 2016 federal indictment alleging its owner opened the restaurant with drug trafficking proceeds and used illegal immigrant labor to keep it running.
   The August 2016 federal indictment alleges three men, Aldo Escoto, Rosenda Garcia-Garcia, and Edgar Jose Ramirez-Mendoza, conspired to transport, store and distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. The indictment alleges Escoto, a fugitive since the indictment was released, used drug proceeds to buy real estate and cars and to open the El Parian chain of three restaurants, including one at the Cliff Lake shopping mall in Eagan.
   “Escoto used the restaurants to conceal his drug proceeds and hide his drug trafficking activities by creating the appearance that he was a legitimate business owner and to promote further drug distribution by serving as locations for the storage and distribution of illegal drugs and drug proceeds, as well as meeting sites to further controlled substance distribution operations,” the indictment reads.
   The indictment also claims Escoto increased profits at the restaurants by staffing them with “illegal aliens…willing to work long hours for multiple days at a time.” The undocumented workers were paid in cash and harbored at homes bought with drug proceeds, according to the indictment.
   Property other than the restaurant—including cars, houses, and bank accounts--funded with proceeds of the criminal enterprise were seized by federal authorities. A house at 4471 Johnny Cake Ridge Road alleged to house illegal immigrant workers was auctioned off last May.
   The sale of the house followed a settlement between the federal government and Escoto’s wife, Imelda, last October. Under the terms of the settlement, the U.S. Treasury is auctioned off the Johnny Cake Ridge Road property, but Escoto was allowed to keep a townhome at 1992 Jan Echo Trail, across the street from the Eagan El Parian restaurant.