Pine Island council tackles social media concerns, Elk Run residential plat

February 24, 2019

PINE ISLAND — Tuesday night, the Pine Island City Council approved the preliminary plat for a new subdivision that could bring 42 new homes to the city.

The newly platted Elk Run West Estates would cover more than 18 acres of former farmland near Pine Island Elementary School and include parkland, a trail connecting with the Douglas Trail and full city utilities such as sewer and water.

City Attorney Bob Vose said the final plat will need to detail the amount of park space and amenities in a development agreement. That agreement will also need to detail, for example, the width and construction of roads in the development, whether sidewalks are required and more.

The lots will include space for single-family homes and multi-family units such as duplexes, according to the preliminary plat.

Sewer and water were extended to the area when the elementary school was built, with a loop created in anticipation of housing developments in the area. The development will also be served by the extension of Olmsted County Road 5 / 125th Street from the Elk Run exit on U.S. Highway 52 toward the elementary school.

In other business, the city council discussed updating its social media policy after new Council Member Kelly Leibold was admonished by other city officials for a pair of Facebook posts.

Leibold, who ran for city council on a platform of reaching out to city residents through social media for better communications, created her own Facebook page. While the city has a policy that covers social media posts made on city-created accounts, Leibold’s social media account does not fall under the city’s regulation of social media.

The issue rose due to a pair of posts Leibold made. The first was a post on her Facebook page saying the city was not part of the deal between the Prairie Island Indian Community and Tower Investments for the purchase of about 1,200 acres for $15.5 million, and any inquiries should be directed to the tribal leadership.

The second post involved a swastika that was engraved in the cement of a downtown sidewalk. Leibold posted a photo of the symbol and related a second-hand story that unnamed individuals had faced racism and bullying at Pine Island schools.

In the first instance, City Administrator David Todd had emailed a copy of the Pine Island social media policy to all members of the city council. In the second instance, Mayor Rod Steele sent Leibold a note asking her to remove the post.

Steele said that while Leibold has a constitutional right to express herself via social media — and he apologized for asking her to censor herself — he said the post frustrated him because it puts the city in a negative light without any proof or ways to remedy any problems.

“This is great we’re having this discussion,” Steele said. “I just want everyone to consider if you’re trying to correct a problem whether it hurts the city.”

Vose said that while the city cannot censor someone’s private social media site any more than it could stop a council member from standing on a street corner with a bullhorn, it’s always best to think about the impact of what you’re saying.

“It’s not about what you can and can’t do, but what you should or shouldn’t do,” Vose said. “You all have First Amendment rights, and you haven’t given that up just because you ran for local office.”

The council directed city staff to develop a more comprehensive social media policy and bring that back to the council for approval at a later date.

“This is ever-fluid,” Todd said, referring to the changing nature of social media. “Maybe we need to look at these polices every few years.”