Sustainable Community, 1997

Government.30.1: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 10 Apr 1997

We’re hosting a special NCO Web Cafe forum on sustainable development beginning Thursday, April 10 and continuing through April 24. Special guests include:

- Molly Woehrlin and Chris Robbins from the Northfield League of Women Voters (LWV)

- Bill Rossman, member of the Northfield City Council and Economic Development Authority (EDA)

- Scott Neal, City Administrator

- Joel West, Community Development Director

- Paul Hager, Mayor

- Dan Rogness, Rosemount (and formerly Northfield) Community Development Director.

Staff from the Office of Environmental Assessment, the state agency working on sustainable development issues, have also been invited to join the online discussion. The forum will be moderated by George Kinney, a member of Northfield’s Environmental Quality Commission, NCO board member and host of the Nature conference here in the Web Cafe.

The forum continues the discussion that began last Saturday, April 5, when the LWV hosted a forum at the United Church of Christ to hear the findings of a two-year study by the State of Minnesota on the economic, environmental and social issues in planned residential growth.

The purpose of the online forum is to enable more area citizens to get involved in discussing the possible directions that growth may take in Northfield, what ‘sustainable development’ means, how sustainable development concepts may be incorporated into new residential, commercial and industrial development, and what impact these concepts should have on the City Council’s livable communities policy, the Planning Commission’s Comprehensive Plan and Transportation Plan, the EDA, and others.

This topic will remain “read-only” till the moderator, George Kinney, opens the discussion on Wednesday evening. Join us!

Government.30.3: George Kinney (george) Tue, 08 Apr 1997

Hello everyone! I’d like to just start with a coupla ground rules: No spitting, punching below the belt, or slamming each other into the turnbuckles!!! Actually… I’d like those of us who will be ‘speaking’ to the issues to state our backgrounds or involvement (professional or as a concerned citizen) so that everyone can get an idea of who we might be. That, I think, will help us all.

I would also like to remind everyone to respect others points of view (I’m sure there will be conflicting views!), and realize that these issues do generate heat as well as light!!

So — I’m the current chair of the Northfield Environmental Quality Commission, a Board member of NCO, and I’ve been employed by Dakota County Environmental Management for the past 13 years. I regulate the hazardous wate generators, run the household haz. waste program, and work to clean up contaminated properties. For four years, I chaired the state’s Pollution Prevention Task Force, an advisory body dealing with following the progress of ‘pollution prevention’ (this term means finding substitutes for hazardous materials in industrial and commercial processes). This task force also followed sustainable development progress in the state. I am very interested in developing the concepts of sustainable development, and look forward to moderating (not leading!!) this discussion.

One definition of “Sustainability” : ‘development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (taken from the World Commission on Environment and Development report “Our Common Future”, 1987 )

Government.30.4: Bruce Morlan (morlan) Wed, 09 Apr 1997

One definition of “Sustainability” : ‘development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (taken from the World Commission on Environment and Development report “Our Common Future”, 1987 )

I suspect that this definition mostly serves to help focus the discussion on the two “actionable” terms:

“meets” – this implies measurable threshholds for quantifiable attributes (e.g., “provide housing affordable by people working in jobs within xxx miles of y”, using less than z% of disposable (after tax) income”. The discussion here would need to focus on defining the measurable terms.

“needs” – defines the measurable attributes that will need to be quantified.

If is sounds like I am trying to measure the unmeasureable – in my extensive career in the decision sciences (both applied and in doing research) I have found that most failures to achieve consensus are driven by a failure to define the playing field – leaving the discusssions mostly open to rhetoric and posturing. [Arrow's impossibility theorem concerning the non-existence of a community utility function is not a show-stopper].

I would like to hear what each of the participants think of – first as the attributes that define “needs”, then get an idea of the measurable attributes that define both those needs, and, by so defining, become the measures of success or failure of policies.

Thank you.

Government.30.8: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 10 Apr 1997

Here are the notes from the Saturday LWV forum. Thanks to Mary Steen and Molly Woehrlin for providing them:

Sustainable Development in Northfield

Meeting Summary

April 5, 1997

Jonathan Hubschman of Minnesota Planning, a State agency, presented initial findings of the Pathways to Sustainable Development Project at a meeting on April 5, 1997. Approximately 65 Northfielders gathered to listen and to ask questions. They represented city and county government; builders, developers and realtors; Chamber of Commerce; Community Action Center; interested citizens; and members of the sponsoring organization, the League of Women Voters. Here, in outline form, are facts, questions and conclusions.

Sustainable Development

The Pathways study defines sustainable development as a practical approach that includes the whole picture: economics, environment, community.

Methodology of study

Researchers talked to people in 20 of the cities, because there are things numbers alone won’t tell you. Hubschman offered this analogy: If you put a thermometer in a cadaver in a room where the temp is 98.6F, what does that tell you? Not enough. Don’t throw away the thermometer, but take further measures: Learn from those who live there; collect stories and scenarios.

Population

Minnesota as a whole is growing, though the number of places in decline vastly outnumbers the number of places that are growing. Seventy-five percent of the population is located in 33% of the cities and towns; people are moving to regional centers, looking for amenities. Population in Minnesota is nowhere as dense as in old coastal cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco; therefore, transit solutions, for example, that work in those cities are not transferable to our cities; the trend here is to lower density.

Population and taxes

Population growth is associated with rising revenue and rising expenditures; however, among the 316 cities (population greater than 1000) in the Pathways study about 25% of growing places saw per capita taxes go down while expenditures remained level. There did not seem to be a common denominator here, other than the ability to use existing infrastructure. The primary source of revenue for most cities is local government aids; tax increment financing (TIF) is the fastest growing source of revenue, having increased by 150% since 1985-6. Areas in decline, trying to hold the line on property taxes, have placed even more emphasis on special collections and fees; TIF increased 230% in these areas between 1985 and 1994.

Northfield

[All of these figures are based on the Pathways study, covering 1985- 1994. They are based on the city alone, and do not include figures from the school district or county. We may be able to get these figures as well. All numbers are controlled for inflation.] With a 15% expansion in residential population, Northfield is growing, but slowly relative to other growing areas.

Total revenues rose 36%, while expenditures (not including capital outlays) rose 37% in the same period. Property taxes as a whole increased 20%. On a per capita basis, revenue from all sources rose 18%, expenditures 19%, and property taxes 4%. During this period 419 single and 590 multi-family dwellings were built. Affordable housing is defined as 80% of median income, which in Rice County would be $35- 37,000. The Community Action Center is dealing with approximately 300 families with less than $20,000 annual income.

Questions we asked

Is growth a benefit? Have growing places experienced fiscal improvements during that same period of growth? Does growth pay? Is it positive or negative? How should costs be apportioned? Is there a breakeven point at which a new home pays for itself with respect to taxes vs. services? Does each house have to pay for itself? How do we actually start talking about residential opportunity relative to industry and job opportunity, so that people can live and work in the same place? The lowest income people in our community aren’t even on the affordable housing scale. How can we avoid segregating low income housing into a few areas? How can developers and builders get one stop shopping, not lots of different permits and bureaucracy? How can residents of a small town influence wider decisions on, for example, toxic waste disposal, clear cutting? How can we best develop green belts? What kind of community do we want?

Trends and generalizations

Pay-as-you-go is becoming increasingly popular, as are cooperative efforts across governmental units. Communities are increasingly treating land, water and habitat as economic resources, as attractions for people to move there.

Conclusions and advice

Sustainable development is extraordinarily complex. Decisions are extremely contextual; conditions are extremely local: The Pathways study found no variables that accommodate growth that are common to all communities. Communities that have handled growth best are proactive, engaging the entire community; in these communities there is a wide civic base, a high level of interest. As an “immigrant to Minnesota,” Hubschman noted that we have high expectations of ourselves–what we treat as problems are luxuries elsewhere. We need to be clear about our definition of growth. We need to balance the interests of new residents and new jobs–all these changes–against the traditional values of the people already there. Hubschman’s advice: Tackle contentious issues. Be as clear as possible about the things that matter. Add up things that have value, not just money.

Meeting consensus:

We can do our own study. We need to work together, not choose up sides.

Government.30.10: Scott Neal (scott) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

A priority of this City Council with regards to sustainable development has been to encourage a development of a full range of housing options in the community. High end to low end. This will come into conflict with the idea that all development ought to pay for itself, unless one greatly increases density levels in the lower end residential neighborhoods.

Many residential developers would prefer not to mess with developing housing on the lower end of the cost scale. Some cities don’t either. Lakeville, in fact, has made a conscious decision to encourage the development of housing on the higher end of the costs scale by implementing a minimum lot size requirement of 15,000.

So, if it’s so much trouble, why has the City Council chosen the stratgey is has? More on that later………….

Government.30.11: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

Scott, thanks for joining in. Did Hubschman’s report shed any useful light on this issue, in your humble opinion?

I’m glad that the city is willing to tackle this issue in order to see that Northfield has a wider range of housing options.

I’m interested in hearing more from all the participants about what could be done with developer *incentives* to develop low-end housing options, rather than just a regulatory approach.

Government.30.12: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

MN Planning has a web site:

http://www.mnplan.state.mn.us/

Jonathan Hubschman can be reached at (612) 296-3926 or at

Government.30.13: George Kinney (george) Fri, 11 Apr 1997 16:15:43 CDT (3

The economic side has to be strong, both for affordable places to live and for jobs. What’s happening in the jobs and economic development areas?

Government.30.14: Andrea Christianson (wolfmoon) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

Pretty intersting meeting in Faribault this week. A speaker about “The Natural Step” which is the organization promoting Swedish style sustainability based on a set of “conditions for sustainiability”: 1. Substances from the earth’s crust must not systematically increase in nature. 2. Substances produced by human society must not systematically increase in nature. 3. The physical basis for the productivity of nature must not be systematically deteriorated. 4. The use of resources must be efficient and just with respect to meeting human needs.

They are creating jobs and economic development as part of sustainability.

Lots of info about what is happening in Sweden in every arena!!! And growing interest in the US. We heard that Rod Sando at the Minn DNR wants to see Minnesota become the first Natural Step state.

Lots of involvement from industry, Electolux (makes Fridegaire) has bought “sustainability” and trained all their key players with thier version of the training and using TNS as one of the tools, because, among all the good environmental stuff, it is PROFITABLE!! (as an aside they have a prototype for a neat little solar powered lawnmower robot)

McDonalds in Sweden is involved and has done some pretty interesting stuff. Monsanto in Us is looking at TNS and has visited Sweden.

Faribault Public Schools is looking at it, as is Erickson’s as they are building their new store (their contrators, landscape folks, designers were at the meeting ..from LaCrosse).

In June there will be two Swedes here who have worked in two communities (they have “ecomunicipalities” now) will be in Minnesota and in Faribault.

It’s the first time I have really seen buisness as involved and it gives me hope.

The local contact with lots more info that I have is: Terry Gips, Sustainability Associates, e-mail: tgips@blaine.polaristel.net

Government.30.15: George Kinney (george) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

Yeah — I saw that he was speaking, and have heard him before. Unfortunately, I had a meeting that night. I have done a bit of web-crawling about TNS in the past, and could probably point folks to them if they’re interested. The Erickson’s grocery chain is the same as More-4 (started out in Hudson as Erickson’s store and gas stations back when some of us were pups), and the More-4 in Farmington has won a couple awards for the innovative remodeling (flooring that doesn’t need waxing, for instance.) Some of the folks from the state OEA could give us the details of the Farmington store design.

Government.30.16: George Kinney (george) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

I’m going to copy in an e-mail from Molly Woehrlin, who’s having some glitches in getting her mail posted (Gee — hope this goes better than last time!!! ).

In response to morlan’s concern about defining needs from the pharise “meeting the needs of the present without compormising the ability of future generations of Minnesotans to meet their own need” — here on the principles adopted by the Minnesota Round Table on Sustainable Development on 9/18/96 (I’m a member of the group):

Principles for Sustainable Development in Minnesota (Adopted by Consensus by Governor’s Roundtable on Sustainable Development, 9/18/96)

1. Global Interdependence: Economic prosperity, ecosystem health and social justice are linked and our long-term well-being depends on all three. Local decisions must be informed by their regional and global context.

2.Stewardship: Stewardship requires the recognition that we are all caretakers of the environment and economy for the benefit of present and future generations. WE must balance the impacts of today’s decisions with the needs of future generations.

3.Conservation: Minnesotans must maintain essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life-support systems of the environment; harvest renewable resources on a sustainable basis; and make wise and efficient use of our renewable and non-renewable resources.

4.Indicators: Minnesotans need to have and use clear goals and measurable indicators based on reliable information to guide public policies and private actions towards long-term economic prosperity, community vitality, cultural diversity and healthy ecosystems.

5.Share Responsibility: All Minnesotans share responsibility for sustaining the environment and economy, with each being accountablefor decisions and actions, in a spirit of partnership and open cooperation. No entity has the right to shift the costs of its behavior to other individuals, communities, states,nations or future generations. Full cost accounting is essential for assuring shared responsibility.

Government.30.19: Molly Woehrlin (molly) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

Scott Neal raised the issue of affordable housing. There are several developers on the State Roundtable on Sustainable Development, who are active in the metro area. They tell me that with much higher densities it is quite feasible to plan a development with multiple types of housing, including affordable housing. Those developers complain that the problem is not the cost of developing, but that they do all the planning, then an adjoining neighborhood objects and it grows into a big NIMBY movement and the city council backs down in the face of opposition.

I commend our current Planning Commission and City Council that they are planning a stategy for growth around Northfield–which means the city has become proactive in managing growth, for the first time in my memory, rather than being reactive to developers. One the ground rules are set for developments, developers will know what they are dealing with and it will make their job easier–but the Council has to be willing to resist any NIMBY reactions.

Government.30.20: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

Welcome, Andrea. I’ve been following The Natural Step program, too. Paul Hawken, founder of Smith & Hawken catalogs, and author of several books, has been working with the founder of TNS here in the US. Hawken has a cover article titled “Natural Capitalism” in the Mar/Apr issue of Mother Jones.

http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/MA97/hawken.html

I think we want a narrower focus here, tho – not dealing with all aspects of sustainability but just those related to housing and commercial/industrial development in Northfield.

Government.30.21: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

The Nfld News article on last Saturday’s presentation by Jonathan Hubschman is now on their web site at:

http://www.northfield.org/news/backissues/970411/plan.htm

Government.30.22: Tracy Hartke (tracy) Fri, 11 Apr 1997

I was reading through the posts and got a little bit overwhelmed by the “macro” nature of some of the sustainability concepts. I need to see how “global interdependence” works when Northfield is trying to give out building permits. (I realize we’re discussing more than that; just wanted to include my $.02 advocating keeping the discussion focused on local specifics.)

And it’s great to be having this dialog online; my thanks to all participants.

Government.30.23: Bob Cady (bceast) Sat, 12 Apr 1997

I concur with Tracy’s post. Let us keep the discussion focused on specifics. I don’t think we ought to take it upon ourselves to solve the world’s problems here.

I agree that planning is important. I also understand that by holding up this development we are losing tax revenue which, if used wisely, could keep Northfield’s rates at an attractive level. This, in turn, would draw in more building and hopefully more business to the city.

I would hope the city would begin taking a proactive stance toward development and begin working with the developers.

Government.30.24: George Kinney (george) Sat, 12 Apr 1997

There were several developers at the LWV meeting, and there was a discussion (slight though it may have been) between the developers and the city staff present. I’d hope that our forum here might help a dialogue to continue.

Government.30.25: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 12 Apr 1997

The Nfld News article last Feb 28 re: the Planning Commission’s discussion of neo-traditional neighborhood planning for the proposed Sumac and Huber developments is at:

http://www.northfield.org/news/backissues/970228/neighbor.htm

“The pattern under discussion has been called variously neo-traditional planning, livable communities, traditional neighborhood development, low-density urbanism, transit-oriented development, the new urbanism and just plain civic art.”

Government.30.26: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 12 Apr 1997

Paul Hager told me on the phone tonight that one way to make housing more affordable within traditionally expensive housing developments (without inciting NIMBY riots) is to change the R1 zoning to allow for accessory apartments.

Sometimes called “granny” apartments, these are separate living spaces typically above garages, in walkout basements, or in attached units of one kind or another.

We have many of these in Northfield in the older parts of town near the colleges.

The advantages: – affordability for the homeowners; the rental income can offset the mortgage payments – more diversity of incomes in the housing development: students, singles, young couples, seniors downsizing from family-sized homes, etc. – population density

Hopefully, Paul will get here and explain more about this.

Government.30.27: George Kinney (george) Sun, 13 Apr 1997

Speaking of zoning, haven’t the zoning patterns commonly used for the past decades been part of the cause of the featureless suburb? One of the charms of Northfield and other cities with some of the older sections is the small corner store or neighborhood market area (we lived in several eastern Wisconsin cities – in older neighborhoods- they all have them- great for walking down for that ice cream cone!!). I would think that mixing up zoning a bit – not allowing solid areas of R1, but mixing in other residential and a bit of commercial – would help the livability of the neighborhoods.

Government.30.28: Joel West (joel) Sun, 13 Apr 1997

I believe that under the livable communites initiative there are two distinct, but related elements. The first is the desire to create a livable community through allowing more mixed use development, i.e. neighborhood commercial in residential areas and single family and multi-family in the same zoning district. The second is how to encourage more affordable housing in the community.

Much of the recent discussion with livable communities has centered around the premise that in many communities zoning was substituted for planning. Zoning ordinances, in many cases such as in Northfield, entirely separated single family residential uses from neighborhood commercial uses and even separated multi-family uses from single family uses. The livable communites initiative seeks to reintroduce these concepts into community planning and zoning ordinances.

Affordable housing is also an element of the livable communites initiative. One of the concepts is to encourage higher density development, which promotes efficient land development and should reduce development costs on a per units basis. Also, by encouraging the use of accessory apartments, additional houisng units are created that are affordable to certain segments of the community, and the rent payments received by the owner of the home can be used to assist with mortgage payments on their house. Currently, accessory apartments are allowed by conditional use permit in residential districts in Northfield. If such apartments were allowed through performance standards it would be easier for such units to be added.

Government.30.29: Molly Woehrlin (molly) Sun, 13 Apr 1997

Since we aren’t just having a roaring discussion about development within the city limits of Northfield, how about our considering what the landscape in the surrounding area looks like.

Do you like the rural nature of our surroundings, with farm land, patches of woods? Do you want houses popping up on any hilltop, long gravel roads cutting up fields, houses being built along streams, so there is no possibility of public footpaths or bike paths along streams or woods?

How do you feel about the loss of farmland? Do you prefer all our fresh fruit and vegies being flown (or trucked in) from far away places or would you prefer more locally grown food, closer to our markets?

Do you want our woods divided up with long driveways, trees cut down for house building and lawns developed? Those driveways give predators in roads into the wild forest and reduce the amount of wildlife and bird life there.

The Big Woods Project, land use committee has a proposal for a Big Woods Conservation District to protect forests and farms in four townships near us: Northfield, Bridgewater, Cannon City and Wheeling.

They are proposing to the county, building upon the county’s comprehensive plan, that they enact a limited conservation zaning district that protects the remaining areas of Big Woods and prime farmland.

By using selected standards to manage rural residential development, it will be possible to:

1. Protect and enhance Big Woods remnants.

2. Protect the heritage and future of farming.

3. Maintain landowner development values over the long term.

4. Minimize farm and rural residentail conflicts over issues like feedlots.

5. Minimize the costs of township andcounty services to rural residents.

A proposed conservation district would include areas surronding the Cannon River Wilderness Area, Seven Mile Woods and Nerstrand Big Woods.

Development rights could be modified by allowed a lower density in those conservation areas: maybe 1 house to 80 acres or 1 house to 160 areas. (Now it is 1 non farm per 40 acres in ag. areas).

In addition there would be restrictions on placing the house, how many trees could be cut down, type of plantings.

There could be transfer of development rights to selected areas where houses could be clustered–so that landowners would not lose value of their current lands.

If you want more information on this call Neal Canon (645-6808) or Bob Nesvold (334-8693). They are both on the Land Use committee of the Big Woods Project.

Government.30.30: Paul Hager (ph) Mon, 14 Apr 1997

Finally, I’ve arrived at the Web Cafe. My thanks to those who have organized the cafe and selected the topic of development in Northfield- it is an issue of great concern for all of us.

I’m pushing the idea of “livable communities” for Northfield because we need a community that is not economically stratified, segregated by incomes, occupation, color, or culture.

Northfield’s history shows a city that has had neighborhoods where people of different means lived side by side.That mix of people produced a great community- a community that has a long history of citizen

participation and involvement in the future affairs of the city. There are many examples of citizen involvement- too many to list here, but if the idea is new to you, I suggest you read the Bicentennial publication “Continumn ” that was published by the Northfield Bicentennial Committee in 1976.

Is the success of Northfield’s past due entirely to the mix of people in the neighborhoods ? Of course not- the success is due to the people themselves, and their wilingness to get involved. The neighborhoods, however, provided the common ground for people of different means to get to know one another and to realize that they shared a common goal of concern for their community.

How do we maintain the mix of people in new developments and neighborhoods ? An outcome that I believe is desirable for Northfield’s future. We need to plan our future growth and development with a focus on providing housing options for a wide range of incomes. We need to encourage developers to think of building neighborhoods, not just

appendages to the city.

More to follow…….

Government.30.31: Philipp Muessig (philippm) Mon, 14 Apr 1997

Greetings all. George Kenny graciously asked me to look into your discussion, which I’ve found most interesting. I’m a pollution prevention specialist with the MN Office of Environmental Assistance, having studied science at Carleton and then having worked with food cooperatives in the Upper Midwest and a Minneapolis neighborhood group (as its exec. dir. for 8 years). I have a few reflections on the discussion to date:

WHAT KIND OF COMMUNITY DO WE WANT FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS? The LWV meeting summary, Molly W., and others are asking, in different ways, this key question. It’s key because it allows ‘we the people’ who live in a specific place to consider our love for it and envision what we want to change or not change. It sets the time frame long enough so that the noisy details of most issues that occupy most of our time fade, leaving the focus on the important things: the natural beauty that brought us here, the productive soils that enable life here, the civility engendered by chance encounters in Bridge Square, etc.

HOW DO WE MAKE THE COMMUNITY WE WANT? The discussion of affordable housing quickly moved to traditional neighborhood design, ‘granny flats’ and performance zoning. That’s great! No one who actually lives in a place can seriously want extreme segregation of people by income (or extreme segregation of land uses in a small town like Northfield), and yet post WWII building (especially the suburbs) is an example of the tyranny of zoning over planning. The obvious answer is to focus on our vision and to plan, and then to change the zoning code. Performance-based codes are one clear tool, and are used for industrial zoning too (e.g., the American Planning Association has argued for pollution prevention [not control] audits as part of the review process for site plans for new industrial facilities.) Codes in Portland encourage housing over neighborhood commercial buildings, in what is of course just a return to how Division St. developed historically.

Other tools: The McDonalds in Sweden, mentioned in the Natural Step/Faribault posting, serves milk from local, organic farms. More-4 stores are working (with the Land Stewardship Project) to increase their purchasing of locally grown, organic foods. I think any reasonable person would, over generations, rather spend money that stays local than send it to distanct food companies.

WHAT STOPS US FROM CREATING THE COMMUNITIES WE WANT? Across the state, the unambiguous answer I get from business people, local government officials and citizens is “lack of political will.” Ideas and tools are out there, but fear stops us. We see precious things (civility, productive soil, wildlife habitat, safe streets, decent jobs) disappearing and we tread lightly instead of remembering that ‘we the people’ can take bold steps in obvious directions to save precious things. But unless we engage each other in the way Jeffersonian democracy urges us to — direct, face to face (and idea to idea, as in the Web Cafe) and focused on the common good we as a community wish to make together — we will take small steps for fear of being sued, losing office, etc. Let us take big steps!

Government.30.32: Scott Neal (scott) Mon, 14 Apr 1997

Joel West and Mayor Hager have hit upon the Livable Communities Initiative as the City’s primary growth-management strategy. The Livable Communities Initiative (LCI) is squarely a retro-movement. It asks us to look at what we like about our commuity and then to structure our planning and zoning regulations to be consistent with what we like. SImple?

Like many things in life, development regulations have changed incrementally over many decades. The use of “zoning” laws spread across the United States in the early part of this century after the landmark Euclid, Ohio decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Originally, zoning laws seperated industrial land from residential land. Then we added “commercial” land to the mix. THen we added density sub-catagories, and so on and so forth, until zoning became just another tool to separate me from you.

The LCI seeks to back up the zoning-clock in some key respects. In our community, there is a consensus of the City Council and Planning Commission, I believe, that would say that our older neighborhoos on the Northeast side or around St. Olaf are neighborhoods which are worthy of replication in other parts of the community. BUT, under our current planning & zoning regulations, if you were a developer and you wanted to do this, we proably couldn’t let you, based on our existing regulations.

So, a good look backward is at the heart of the LCI. Things like narrow street right-of-ways, higher densities, smaller front yards, homes closer to the street, etc. These, and many more, are issues we will discuss as they become part of the LCI.

Government.30.33: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 15 Apr 1997

Welcome, Paul, Joel and Phillip. Thanks much to you and everyone else (Molly, Scott, Bruce, Bob, Andrea, Tracy) for joining this conversation and helping to enlighten us citizens on these issues.

Government.30.34: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 15 Apr 1997

I referenced in a previous posting that I would get back to why we feel affordable housing is important.

“Community” is a term that can be applied to a group of people living in close proximity to one another. When I think of community, I think of a group of people living in close proximity to one another with diverse interests. What ties them together is economic and social interdependence. When a community begins to stratify its housing mix, it typically tends to go one way or another with respect to housing stock. Prices go up. Prices go down. Either way drags the middle along with it.

What concerns me about this process is that our community loses when we stratify eiother end of the socio-economic spectrum out of the community. We lose our ability to grow as a community if all sectors of our community aren’t growing. WIll we have a bigger tax base if we only encourage the development of large expensive homes, sure. Is this bad? I suppose that depends on your persepctive. I believe it impairs our commuity development in some important ways if only that sector of our housing stock grows at the expensive of the middle and low ends. It disturbs the commerical sector by skewing the market towards some services and away from others. It forces people who don’t make a lot of money farther and farther from the City as land values increase driving up housing costs. This skews the labor supply. A community without a reasonable labor market has difficulty attracting industry. And so on and so forth.

I could go on as well on the effects of not having a balanced [Image] growth in upper income housing. Stunting the growth of this class of housing causes problems for the community’s development also.

More later…………

Government.30.35: George Kinney (george) Tue, 15 Apr 1997

I did a quick scan of the postings so far, and I guess I’ve seen a lot of consensus for ‘livable communities’, mixed developments (allowing some commercial mixed into residential), the ‘granny’ or accessory apartments, and constructing a strategy for growth in Northfield. Is this truly a consensus? Can we assume that this is the direction the City will take? Is the only thing left to decide the width of those narrow streets and how close the sidewalk is to the front of the house?

I’d still like to hear from a developer. Any lurkers??

Government.30.36: Gregory Gibbs (om) Tue, 15 Apr 1997

The developers aren’t on-line. They’re too busy making money to spend it this way. Which is a shame because if you find the right one who doesn’t want maximum profit, they might “turn” the others… I’d like to bring up something I saw in the City of Chicago. It was a “Green Belt” that edges the whole older city, from top to bottom, a mile thick and many miles long. Funny thing, but when your mayor was a high schooler, he had just such an idea. It took me a while to get the point behind it. The City of Portland has done the same thing by limiting growth of the city. That would certainly limit suburban sprawl! How about Northfield? Do you still think its a good idea, Paul? It may seem strange, but I remember being able to walk into the countryside from my house. I think I’d have a lot longer haul now…

Government.30.37: Molly Woehrlin (molly) Tue, 15 Apr 1997

I’m working on a couple of developers to give us some hard facts about how they might provide “affordable” housing with different zoning and higher density–and then compare the “affordable” costs with what the Community Action sees as a need…………

in the meantime, ponder what trails could do for Northfield–for biking and hiking–aside from the sheer pleasure and healthy aspects of getting exercise…..these are from Peggy Prowe who found a DNR publication at a recent conference on trails……on the advantage to property values………

1. A study of two Minnesota rail-trails found that 87% of homeowners adjacent to the trail felt that the trail had either increased the value of thier home or had no effect on it.

2. in 1987, Seattle conducted a study on nearby property values and crime rates. The study was conducted on the Burke-Gilman Trail, 9.9 miles of which run within the city limits. Results showed that property near but not directly adjacent to the trail was worth about 6% more than property elsewhere. Homes immediately adjacent to the trail were found to have lower buraglary and vandalism rates than the surrounding neighborhood average.

Are trails being encouraged sufficiently by the city and the county here?

Government.30.38: Dan Rogness (rog) Wed, 16 Apr 1997

I’m finally here (sorry, Griff). I have not had much time to read through all the postings, but I’ll start with a few words from my perspective. Lately, I’ve thought that one of the most important elements of a livable community is “connections”. This should happen across age/income/race spectrums, so planning should try to improve those connections. City’s have gotten too good at separating and protecting one another. One of the reasons for protecting housing is due to the tax structure, which supports investing our life savings into housing. We tend to protect our investment, then, rather than be part of an integrated/connected neighborhood. The maket system is very strong, so it’s difficult to do too much on affordability unless significant financial incentives are evident to builders/developers. By the way, 3 areas of costs are involved with housing development … the raw land cost, the development cost (grading/streets/utilities) and the house. Not ever house builder develops the land and visa-versa. For example, the Nfld. HRA developed lots in Lincoln Woods for sale at $12,000/lot. No builder was interested, however, because we put a cap on the house price. All for now … I’ll add more later!

Government.30.39: George Kinney (george) Wed, 16 Apr 1997

Welcome, Dan!! Taking the Lincoln Woods case, how does the city/community position the lots (hypothetically) in a way that would interest builders? Is the problem simply that they get more return for their dollar elsewhere? Would they build on a contract basis?

If you get a chance to review the previous postings, you’ll see quite a discussion of mixed development ideas — having a mixture of housing stock in neighborhoods that may also contain some commercial properties. How may this be approached in new developments?

(The previous questions are not restricted to Dan — I wouldn’t mind ‘hearing’ from anybody visiting, as I’m sure you may know a lot more than I!)

Government.30.40: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 16 Apr 1997

Welcome Dan!

The May-June issue of Utne Reader (my former employer) is due out next week and its cover story:

America’s 10 Most Enlightened Towns

Lots of good stuff that pertains to our discussion here.

I should have the text to post here tomorrow — it won’t be up on their web site for a while. And I’ll see if I can get some extra copies for participants by this weekend.

Government.30.41: Tracy Hartke (tracy) Thu, 17 Apr 1997

It sounds so far like there’s some kind of consensus as to 1) the need for a livable community and 2) how to define same in terms of planning and zoning.

Are we in Northfield at the stage when we can work on rewriting the zoning ordinances? Or is that premature at this point? How do citizens get involved in the process?

Government.30.42: Bruce Morlan (morlan) Fri, 18 Apr 1997

I am glad to see this focusing more on the local issues.

On the subject of green belts – does the 35 (or is it 40) acre county restriction on acres per new home in the “non-incorporated” portion of the county provide enough of a green belt? Or do we need, for example, purely (well, mostly) undeveloped woods like the 40 or so acres across 3 from KMart? And how big does that land set-aside have to be to provide the ecological and emotional benefits to justify, for example, exempting the land owner from assessments, offering reduced tax rates (remember, property taxes serve to drive land to the highest productivity = most production per acre). I’m not sure that cropland is really “greenbelt” – but most cities probably cannot sustain more than a low percentage of land in parks and/or a fallow/natural state.

I’m not even sure that the county government has the resources to sustain a reasonable ratio of natural vs constructed land, except by the use of eminent domain (and its softer cousin, zoning ordinances).

Also, isn’t there a recent ruling that people can sue to recover loss in value of land that suddenly becomes unusable because of zoning, endangered species, etc.?

[aside - I'm a STRONG believer in individual freedoms, a real lover of the greenbelt concept, and am torn between the two when they conflict.]

Government.30.43: Philipp Muessig (philippm) Fri, 18 Apr 1997

In reading the past dozen postings, I have a couple suggestions on the issues of greenbelts and zoning and on developers and their profits.

The questions of preserving/expanding big woods’(and other natural landscape) remnants — necessary sizing to achieve various ecologic benefits AND legally defensible means which are much more creative than eminent domain — are being extensively explored by the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, of which you are no doubt aware. CRWP and it’s partners — The Nature Conservancy, the MN DNR (and especially its environmental indicator’s initiative), and various public and private groups around Nerstrand, 7-Mile Woods, and the Cannon River Wilderness Area — are proposing a limited conservaton district. Allene Moesler (332-0488) could tell you a lot more.

Studies of developers who have clustered or otherwise built housing and mixed use developments that are senstive to and preserving of natural features have been conducted nationwide by Randall Arendt of the Natural Lands Trust in PA. He finds that, in comparison with “control” (conventional) developments, these conservaton-based developements (1) sell faster and (2) appreciate in value faster (just like golf-course developments tend to). The OEA has his book “Conservation Design for Subdivisions” and his video “Creating Open Space Networks through Conservation Design” available for free loaning; contact Glenn Meyer at 800/877-6300.

Government.30.44: George Kinney (george) Sat, 19 Apr 1997

Thanks, Phillip. Molly — can the Cannon River Watershed Partnership/Big Woods project help in the greenbelt discussion? Can it extend up that far?

Does ‘cluster housing’ win out over the ‘neotraditional neighborhoods’ we’ve had discussions about over the past couple of months? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each?

Government.30.45: Joel West (joel) Sun, 20 Apr 1997

I understand that there is a lot of consensus on wanting to adopt the livalble communites development approach and we are working on draft language to adopty many of the ideas iof livable communities. However, I would not go so far as to give the impression that the implementation is cut and dried. I believe that a recent article in the March/April issue of Architecture Minnesota entitled “The Law od Unintended Consequences” written by Robert Gerloff speaks to the heart of some of the issues we, as a City, will probably face in implementing livable communites. Mr. Gerloff states that, “We need to accept that undesirable consequences are a natural and predictable side effect of visionary thinking. The sooner we can identifiy and tackle these problems the more likely we are to ameliorate their damage.”

Some of the main land use points raised in his article are as follows:

1. Style versus Structure: Care should be taken not to latch onto New Urbanism’s (livable commujites) use of nostalgic architectural styles and miss the revisionist ideal, which is to create neighborhoods where people can walk to shops and schools, where housing types are mixed, and reliance on the automobile is reduced.

2. Increased Congestion: We could unintentionally create increased traffic congestion if citizens of the new neighborhoods don’t. as intended, reduce the number of trips they make by automobile. If we allow greater building density with the same number of cares, there will be increased traffic congesion. Also, will we have alternative transportation available when people find it necessary to move beyond their neighborhood, and will they use it.

3. Vanishing Retail: Neighborhood Retail is a core tenant of livable communities, but can community based retail survive today? Mr. erloff states that, grocery stores killed off mom and pop stores, bix box retailers killed grocery stores and now the Internet may kill of big box retailers. Will people tolerate higher prices in return for community vitality? How will Internet shopping affect community retail?

These items will need to be discussed as we implement livable communites. To be certain there will soon be proposed ordinance changes that will begin to implement livable communites, but the process will not end with the first ordinance changes. I see the process as evolutionary. I belive that our whole development approach will need to evolve over time and as we learn from our experience we may find that we need to revise ordinances that we had previously adopted so that the process works better.

I believe that Dan Rogness was aiming at this same point from a different angle in his comments about, Lincoln Woods. Many of the ideas we wish to implement in our ordinances will increase densities, provide parks and open spaces, and allow for more mixed housing types, but in the end how do we encourage the market to respond to these changes and actually build accessory apartments in homes or a four-plex on the same block as single family development. This may take a combination of incentives and a consistent advocacy for change in what the market sees as acceptable development.

Government.30.46: George Kinney (george) Mon, 21 Apr 1997

Molly Woehrlin has had a problem with her hard disck, causing her to be off-line. She’s asked me to copy in a message from her, as I attempted to do before (!) So — here’s Molly:

The Rice County Planning Commission will meet on Thursday evening, May lst at 8:00 pm in the Rice County Courthouse to hear a presentation from the Bigf Wood s Committee regarding a potential conservation overlay affiliated withthe Rice County Zoning ordinance–what they do will have an impact on the countryside around Northfield.

I met with Jim Stanton, a large developer inthe metro area, and someone who grew up near Webster. He is always interested in what is going on in Northfield and has been very active in developing legislative program for the MN Builders Assn.

Here are some figures to compare to what might be done in Northfield:

He has a development of townhouses,called “Nature’s Edge” in Coon Rapids, around a wetland . They cost $79,900 for 1500 sq feet total space, with only the upstairs finished. (If downsatirs is finished off the cost is $90,000)

Of that amount the land and utilities cost $12,000. The density is 6 or 7 units to the acres.

In 1995 he had a development of townhouses with a densituy of 6.7 units per acres without a wetland–but on an irregular pice of land and sold those units for $69,900.

He says if townhouses can be stack three stories night (on a hillside, so enter on second floor one side, basement level the other side and one stairway to the top floor. Then he can get 13 or 14 units per acres.

What kind of density do we have in Northfield for townhouses, Joel?

As growth has acceleratoed, the size of households (i.e. people) has been declining, and more land is being consumed per person. So we are heading in the wrong direction. We have lower density than Los Angeles and most other cities.

Government.30.47: George Kinney (george) Mon, 21 Apr 1997

Molly’s posting, continued:

The Citizens League recommends:

1. Communities should create a meaningful community vision 2. Build compact, efficient,and connected communities 3. Build communities that value public green spaces andprotect natural resources 4. Build inclusive rather than exclusive communities (mixed housing, ethnic diveristy) 5. Create a city framework to make vision a reality: a. Reidrect growth inward instead of outward by maing infill development and redevelopment more attractive to investors (how many empty lots do we have? granny apts?) b. STudy the REAL cost of development, and take steps to remove any subsidies that might exist in the current system. c. Move away from urban growth boundaries as a means to “control” growth–establish incentives instead–to prevent sprawl

Here are some questions that were posed:

Should we have minimum rather than maximum densities? Is there an alternative to zoning in community development?

News bulletin: ‘ Save SAturday June 7th for a city/League of Women Voters/ perhaps Chamber of Commerce sponsored workshop featuring specific issues and concerns raised during the April workshop, including mixed residential design, green belts and recreational spaces, range of housing options, land use planning, and fiscal impact and cost-benefit analyses.

If you are interested in helping to plan it — or have some suggestions, call Margit Johnson at 645-5726.

—- Thanks, Molly!! — Hope you’re back on-line soon!

Government.30.48: John Hatch (jhatch) Mon, 21 Apr 1997

Does our current tax structure tend to force developement of open land? A family I stayed with years ago in Stuttgart, Germany lived in a couple of apartments but owned a large garden on one of the hillsides in that city. I don’t know how many people would choose that use of land here, but at that time in Stuttgart, enough folks did that it contributed greatly to the openness and charm of that city. This was obviously a strongly held community value; they also had a wonderful park which stretched for several kilometers through the center of the city. Unfortunately, economic considerations seem to rule today, both in tax assessment and in developement planning.

Government.30.49: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 22 Apr 1997

John Hatch added an interesting comment to this discussin. Does our tax system encourage the development of open land? In some ways I believe the answer is “yes”.

The deductability of home mortgage interest, the higher rate of taxation of apartments as “commerical residential” instead of just residential, and the federal and state deductability of local property taxes are all factors which I think push the financial incentives of both supply (i.e.-developers) and demand (i.e.-homebuyers) towards the development of raw land into single family residential units.

Government.30.50: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 22 Apr 1997

Here’s a post from Chris Robbins who’s unable to post:

Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 From: Chris Robbins

I’m a member of the League who has been interested in land use planning most of my life. I now work for the Cannon River Watershed Partnership. My husband and I have one car, and when we’re in town we like to leave it at home and walk.

I think sustainable development involves maintaining a livable human environment and maintaining the physical environment in such a way that it can continue to function. It has always bothered me to see natural features ignored and abused during the development process. Local examples (past and present) include building River Park Mall with its back to the Cannon River and pavement right to the river’s edge, straightening the creek behind Greenvale School, and cutting off a wooded bluff just last year near McKinley Dr. The Arboretum is an example of a natural environment that has been cared for and enjoyed.

A successful and proven way to fit humans into the natural environment is to create compact, walkable neighborhoods laced with beautiful trails and greenways along creeks and rivers. Where there are no natural greeways, connected parks and trails can create a similar effect. Steep wooded slopes should be left alone as visual backdrops and natural habitat. The walkable scale of development fosters casual interaction with neighbors and a mix of income groups — some of our town’s most important characteristics.

Government.30.51: Molly Woehrlin (molly) Wed, 23 Apr 1997

Because IU’m broken down at home, I’m at the public library on their machine, having to master a new mouse!

It seems to me the small group of us communicating do have a kind of consensus, nicely summed up by Kinney. The next question is how to take specific action.

First of all the League of Women Voters, the city, andpehaps the Chamber are co-sponsoring a workshop on the first Saturday in June (7th) and with subgroups on mixed housing, greenbelts, livable cities and a couple of other topics–M argit Johnson is in charge.

The Park Board by late summer will briefly look at park/greenbelt issues in western Northfield–i.e. the Heath Creek and Rice Creek (Spring Brook)areas. Heath Creek is a lovely stretch of river in beautiful woods and would be ideal for a city park with a hike-bike trail. The terrain lends itself to a trail from Old Dutch Road to ARmstrong Road–in fact their is already a snowmobile trail on part of it–with space already cleared. Who is willing to take the leadership on promoting a park and trail there? It is a great connection from the HIghway 19 area down through Sechler Park into downtown or south to Dundas, on either side of the bike trail (as it is further built this summer). Is the Park Board, Planning Commission and City Council willing to get on the band wagon and talk with property owners? (A small ad-hoc committee has already started that process–but we need official support).

Then their is the precious brook trout stream, Spring Brook, with a smaller watershed that needs to be protected from inappropriate development. As Chris Robbins points out, paving/roofing over 10% of a watershed begins to harm it. Can we do some advnace planning with cities of Northfield, Dundas and Bridgewater township to protect that watershed now?

AGain, I commend the hearing on May lst at 8 pm in the county courthouse when the Rice Co Planning Commission will further discuss the concept of a conservation overlay to protect the Big Woods and to protect the landscape around us.

The other interesting event, a week later, on May 8th (Thursday evening at 8:00) Tom Daniels, head of an Agricultural Presevation Trust in Lancaster County, PA will speak on protecting our countryside and farmland. He is active in the same area as Arendt, the speaker and author that I think Phil Muessig referred to. I think it is very important that we not limit our thinking to just the present city limits and the pieces that we will annex in the near future–but take a broad look at our whole part of the county.

Along those lines, a group at the University is doing a study from the landcape architecture point of view on northern Rice County and that should be available soon–ask Chris Robbins, she sits on the advisory committee.

How can we get others involved in discussing these issues? Bring your friends to the workshop on June 7th–and will someone (?how about you, Kinney)summarize some key points from this discussion and write an “In MY Opinion” for the Northfield News.

Government.30.52: Joel West (joel) Wed, 23 Apr 1997

In regards to the question of what types of densities do some of Northfields townhouse developments have, I do know that the Lincoln Woods (Headley Court) development has an approximated density of 6 units per acre. This includes both the single family and townhouse developments. One of the central discussion points and possible code changes is to set a higher minimum density requirement in single family residetnial developments particularly. I would note that in the multi-family zoning districts in Northfield we do have relatively high minimum density requirements. The idea is that we want to see the single family and the multi family developments more integrated and not segregated.

I also agree that the current tax structure precludes people from holding vacant land. As development pressures increase and development occurs on adjoining land value of the vacant land increase placing an increased burden on the owner to pay more taxes, which in turn increases the pressure on the wner to develop the land in order to realize some income in order to pay the taxes.

In regards to the comment from Molly on specific action. We are currrently preparing a draft report that will outline the issues involved with livable communities, suggest possible code changes, and define the potential effect of those changes. This report wil be design to be discussed and refined by the City Counci and Planning Commission before implementation.

Some time previous in the posting, I believe that Tracy was interested in becoming more involved in future discussions by the Planning Commission and the City Council on Livable Communites. If you are still interested please call City Hall at 645-3006 and we can inform you as to the status of the report and upcoming meetings regarding livable communities.

Government.30.53: George Kinney (george) Wed, 23 Apr 1997

Molly’s mentioning Heath Creek and Spring Brook (and the somewhat urgent need to act to preserve them), blended with John’s questions of land value/tax structure bring us to the questions of annexation — is it good/positive/necessary? (Does not annexing mean uncontrolled sprawl — versus, I guess, the *controlled sprawl* that may occur in annexation )?

Spring Brook is a treasure — and the fact that it is somewhat unknown has probably helped preserve it. But it may soon be lost to development, unless something is done (I’m sure you can envision some developer selling houses ‘right alongside a trout stream’).

Government.30.54: Daniel Jensen (dcjensen) Thu, 24 Apr 1997

…at which point it would no longer be a trout stream.

Government.30.55: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 24 Apr 1997

St. Cloud State is sponsoring an all-day conference on May 7 titled:

A River Runs through Us: a regional conference on sustainable communities. It looks very good, and it’s only $10. I’ve got a paper flyer on it but best to contact

email: phone: 320-255-3082 fax: 320-654-5041

for more info. Anyone going to it who would like to rideshare, post a note here.

Government.30.56: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 24 Apr 1997

Ok, we seem to be shifting the discussion to action items.

I’ll summarize all the various dates of upcoming f2f meetings related to this subject in my next NCO-News. Joel, how soon can you get me the status of the Livable Communities report and the dates of the upcoming meetings?

George, did you miss or dodge that invitation from Molly re: writing up a summary of this discussion as an In My Opinion piece in the Nfld News? ;-)

Molly, I’d be willing to do a little NCO Web Cafe demo of some kind at the June 7 workshop so that people with Internet access can continue to use the Cafe for discussion, debate, collaboration, and info sharing.

It also might be good to have a series of “living room salons” or neighborhood coffees over the summer to keep the discussion going about this and continue to help others become more informed.

Molly, will local developers be invited to participate in the June 7 workshop? A major criticism of this online forum is that they’ve not been active here that I know of.

Government.30.57: Susan Hudson (shudson) Thu, 24 Apr 1997

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or, in sustainable development terms, which comes first, jobs or housing? Seems like we’ve missed the part of industry in our discussions. People will come to town when there are jobs to be had. Yes, we have some nice industry, and two colleges, and they bring much of the new residents to town each year. But do we have enough? Do many people travel out of town to work? Do people who live here make as much as their counterparts in the metro or do they give up wages to live in the community where they work? One of the earilier discussions mentioned congestion. I see our community dealing with this issue especially come September, 1998. We have located two schools, the high school and the new elementary on the same end of town. Good for school bussing, but a nightmare for the parents, students, and staff who will be trying to get to these locations using the only two roads, Jefferson Parkway and Division Street to get there. Have you ever been on Division from Woodley to the High School from 7:45AM – 8:15AM or around 3PM? Then you know what I am talking about. Now add a new elementary (where children are expected to walk to school), and in a few years a new middle school to the traffic mix. I’m glad I don’t live south of town! Shouldn’t the issues of industry and roads also be discussed?

Government.30.58: Chris Robbins (robbins) Thu, 24 Apr 1997 Just want to let people know of 2 resources I came across recently. One is the current issue of Sierra Magazine, whose cover story is on Sprawl and the alternatives to it. Also, I have a 15-minute video from Citizens for a Better Environment in Wisconsin, entitled “Back to the Future.” It shows car-oriented and pedestrian-oriented developments and is well done. I would be willing to lend it.

Government.30.59: Dan Rogness (rog) Fri, 25 Apr 1997

An article in the Pioneer Press today (4/25) talks about Washington County’s adoption of a comprehensive plan. One commissioner is quoted as saying, “we’re ready to take some fairly innovative measures to protect the rural environs, but some of us are also afraid that the cost may be too high”. Their issue at hand deals with housing clustering, linear parks and scenic roads. From the article, it appears that they dealt with a classic situation related to Northfield’s “livable community” discussion. First of all, what do people really value? And related to this, what are people willing to pay (in their taxes) to maintain those values?

Clustering, greenbelts, parkland, etc. are clearly better for the whole community. But those come at costs that many communities are not willing to pay for, including more regulations about what they can and can’t do. That’s why I tend to advocate incremental changes unless a mass of people support a significant change.

Density is definitely a key issue related to housing development, since more housing units within a smaller are saves direct and indirect costs (which ultimately support affordability). As I work in the Twin Cities area, however, I find that most established residential areas fight against higher density, and ultimately city councils vote for lower density. Outstate cities have been much more successful at achieving higher density development! Our challenge is to find ways that higher density projects work successfully, especially in relationship to quality design.

Government.30.61: George Kinney (george) Sat, 26 Apr 1997

Why the metro – greater MN difference in accepting density, Dan?? Do you know the reasons?

And yes, Molly and Griff, I will accept the challenge to write a piece (I may need assistance, however — this has been quite a free-ranging discussion). My apologies for not acknowledging your request sooner, Molly, I had seen it, but things have been truly crazy at work, and I’ve been just buzzing through lately, and (gasp) working long evenings (doesn’t he work for government??!!)

Government.30.62: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 26 Apr 1997

Thanks for facilitating this discussion, George.

And thanks to all the invited guests and other citizens for participating.

While the two-week panel has formally ended, the issue is still on the city’s front burner, of course, so carry on!

Government.30.63: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 26 Apr 1997

Dan, I thought I’d post your April 18 letter to the Nfld News about development. It’s at:

http://www.northfield.org/news/backissues/970418/opin/letter.htm

Land of opportunities

To the editor:

The Northfield News editorial on April 9 asked this community to try for that “perfect balance” in relationship to development and land use. Can anyone really define what that term represents? I don’t think so.

In a simplistic way, each community represents itself as defined through its unique and individual history. Similarities also exist, but despite Northfield’s commonness to Stillwater, Northfield is still very much Northfield. As a matter of fact, “Cows, Colleges and Contentment” would probably not fit Stillwater too well.

How should a balance be measured? Northfield’s commercial/industrial market value is 17 percent of its total value compared to a state average of 19 percent. The important measurement should really be tied more to what this community values and needs rather than to assumed averages. For example, a higher commercial/industrial tax base may only provide lower-wage jobs and “big box” retailers that may run counter to Northfield’s values.

Many of us that work for cities are guilty of planning too well with results that lack character and interaction. Rather than physically design communities for interaction, today’s market pulls us toward convenience and “bigger-is-better.” City government has gotten very good at promoting and regulating separation and protection. A book reviewer’s comment on “The Great Good Place” stated, “the carefully ‘planned’ substitutes proliferating across the American landscape today are inhospitable to the evolution of the ‘unplanned’ places indispensable to society.”

I have to admit that no hard and fast rule seems to exist for planning better communities. I’ve experienced great social interaction between families in suburban cul-de-sacs without sidewalks. I’ve seen tremendous results of community in other settings such as churches, schools and civic centers. In fact, my most intimate experience of community was at a church camp in the mountains of Montana!

Northfield is unique in so many ways, and its location near the Twin Cities will continue to make it an attractive place to live and work. I doubt that growth will be explosive, however. The Metropolitan Council recently adopted new policies that direct the expected growth of 330,000 new households by the year 2020. Two-thirds of that growth is to take place within the existing growth boundaries of the metropolitan cities with the remainder going into urban expansion areas.

Cities have many outside forces that exert pressure on development patterns, including the state’s statutory/budget constraints and significant market pressures. Northfield, then, should search for ways to incrementally influence and shape our own connections to this community. Essayist Wendell Berry understood our loss of connections, including our local places of meaning, local specialties and local voices. A “perfect balance” may not be perfect after all, but we can at least recognize our own values, limitations and opportunities that tie directly to this place called Northfield.

Dan Rogness 300 E. Fifth St.

Government.30.64: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 26 Apr 1997

Nfld News reporter Tad Johnson had an Inside Out column on April 18 titled:

Hanging on to Northfield’s sense of community depends on residents

http://www.northfield.org/news/backissues/970418/opin/tjinout.htm

Government.30.65: Chris Robbins (robbins) Tue, 29 Apr 1997

We’ve been talking a lot about higher densities. Luckily, Northfield’s new developments aren’t super low density, and we do have a lot of multi-family housing, so maybe increasing density won’t be our biggest challenge. Another principle of livable communities is mixed use. Here we have a lot of work to do. We seem to have segregated our land uses into very large blocks. Big industrial parks, commer- cial strips, and large areas of housing-only. For example, the Heath/Rice Creek area is planned for industrial use only, all the way to Decker AVe. Why not mix in some residential so that people can enjoy the greenways and trails that will someday (we hope!) be there?

Government.30.66: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 02 May 1997

Chris aren’t there discussions about the two big new housing developments accommodating some neighborhood-oriented commercial use, eg, like the Ole Store?

Government.30.67: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 02 May 1997

The May/June issue of Utne Reader is titled:

The 10 Most Enlightened Towns in America (and we don’t mean Santa Fe)

and the introduction to the story now online at:

http://www.utne.com/towns/index.html

The full text of the articles should be available online by May 15.

Government.30.68: Tracy Hartke (tracy) Sat, 03 May 1997

The “View from Loring Park” page of the latest Utne issue contains dialog from the editorial meeting discussing the cover story. When discussing whether or not Mpls.-St. Paul should be selected, Jay Walljasper says:

“Minneapolis has fallen for every snakeoil version of progress for the last 100 years… In the ’70s, this was a really progressive city. But something happened. I think what we’re seeing now in Minneapolis is the down side of liberalism. There’s a difference between populism and liberalism. Populism means listening to the people and hearing what they have to say. Liberalism says ‘The people are idiots; let’s go find out what the experts think.’ ”

It reminded me of a certain small town about 50 miles south…

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