Greenvale signs annexation agreement

repjlogo-thumb1.pngGreenvale Township’s three supervisors met briefly Tuesday night to sign the final draft of an annexation agreement with Northfield after nearly seven months of negotiation.

The annexation agreement, among other things, indicates how much Northfield would reimburse Greenvale for the property taxes the township will lose when 530 acres of undeveloped farmland goes onto the city’s tax rolls. Northfield is annexing the land to attract industrial developers in the hopes of widening the tax base and creating jobs.

Currently, no developers are publicly showing interest in buying the land, which lies on the city’s northwestern border (see map below).

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Photo by Bonnie Obremski Caption: On the left are Brian O'Connell, director of Northfield's Community Development Department (foreground) and Joel Walinski, Northfield's interim city administrator. At center is Edith Nelson, Greenvale Township clerk. On the right are Richard Moore, Greenvale Township supervisor chairman and Bernard Budin, township supervisor. Not shown on the far right is supervisor Robert Winter.

“Fair Deal” for Greenvale

“In the end, it took a while since the supervisors usually only meet once a month,” Brian O’Connell, Northfield’s community development director, said after the final negotiation meeting at the Township Hall.

O’Connell, along with Joel Walinski, interim city administrator, represented the citizens of Northfield throughout negotiations with Greenvale.

“We don’t want to give up the land of course, but Northfield gave us a fair deal I thought,” said Richard Moore, chairman of the township supervisors.

The Northfield City Council is expected to vote at Monday night’s meeting at City Hall on whether to approve the annexation agreement (see agenda). If the council approves the agreement, the Minnesota Municipal Boundary Adjustments Board will examine the annexation process to ensure Northfield’s officials followed correct procedures. If the board approves, the annexation will be final.

“Balloon” Payment

The proposed payment plan would reimburse Greenvale in the amount of about $3,854 a year for five years. That figure is the amount of money Greenvale currently collects in taxes on the property. According to the agreement, the reimbursement amount would change year-to-year as Greenvale’s property tax rate changes. In the sixth year, Northfield would pay a “balloon payment” that would equal 20 more years of annual payments. In all, Northfield would pay Greenvale about $96,362, using today’s property tax rate figure for Greenvale.

The practice of priming land for development without having any interested developers is atypical for Northfield, Walinski has said. In 1980, for example, Northfield annexed land from the adjacent Waterford Township for the sole purpose of allowing the Sheldahl company to expand, according to an article in the Northfield News.

But there were unusual opportunities associated with the Greenvale plan. Namely, three township farmers, represented by real estate agency Land Vista LLC, approached city officials about two years ago to apply for annexation. The land they offered, with the addition of a small parcel Saint Olaf College agreed to have annexed, would form a contiguous stretch of land bordered to the south by a rural portion of State Highway 19.

EDA to create development plan

In anticipation of the council’s favorable vote, a new subcommittee of the Economic Development Authority called the Business Park Development Committee has outlined some steps to building a master plan for the new land. The three-person subcommittee is prepared to present those steps to the council on Monday, along with other objectives for 2009.

One of the steps is to create an agreement between Northfield officials and the Greenvale farmland owners. The agreement would clarify what would happen if a developer becomes interested in buying property from the farmers for industrial development.

In 2008, Northfield officials discussed another possible annexation agreement with the adjacent Bridgewater Township that would potentially bring more than 400 acres into the city. Walinski and O’Connell said there currently are no formal plans to explore such an agreement further, however.

“We haven’t received any written requests for annexation from them,” Walinski said of the Bridgewater Township supervisors. “Until we get something in writing, it’s all speculative.”

Side effects

Gregory Langer of Greenvale, a corn and soybean farmer, said he believed the annexation negotiation agreement with Northfield might have caused some long-term changes in the way some townspeople participate in government.
“I definitely think some things will happen in the next year where people in the township pay attention to these things earlier,” Langer said. “I think they’ll seek out information about what’s going on with the township government and about any developmental planning sessions that happen. I say that not so much because I’m seeing more people showing up at meetings, but because there’s been a rallying of people in the township who are disappointed and disturbed that so many things happened that they weren’t aware of.”

Langer first grew interested in following the annexation process when he learned that Northfield’s proposed business park development could one day cause his fields to be split by an access road. As he interacted more with the township’s government, however, he also became interested in finding a better way to disseminate information about government happenings to a greater percentage of the public.

Langer said he would have liked to see Northfield pay even more money in compensation to Greenvale in the annexation deal, even though the amount far exceeds the state’s minimum requirement of tax reimbursement for only two to eight years. Greenvale consultant Dean Johnson at one time told supervisors that most townships negotiated for a much higher compensation than the state minimum. Langer is also unhappy at the prospect of paving over land that currently supports crops and livestock.

“Prime farmland is a precious thing and once it’s paved over there won’t be any going back,” he said.

Moore said townspeople would likely vote on whether to institute a planning commission at the annual township meeting in March. But he said he wasn’t sure such a commission would be necessary, at least not this year.

“With the economy the way it is, I don’t think we’ll need it this year,” Moore said. “The township is growing a little bit, but I see Greenvale staying ‘ag’ yet for quite a while. I don’t see a lot of big changes coming here yet.”

Map, 530 acres:

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Copy of the annexation agreement:

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Previous Representative Journalism Project reports on this topic, beginning with the most recent:

What’s next?

7 thoughts on “Greenvale signs annexation agreement”

  1. Monday night (2.23.09) the City Council approved the annexation agreement with the landowners which was attached to a “green sheet” handed out at the meeting. The idea of a master plan for the 530 Acres is dealt with on pages 2/3 of the agreement.
    The council, last June, passed a resolution which stated that there would be no housing component in this development area, which was in accordance with the Planning Commission’s work. Now the agreement comes forward with the possibility of allowing up to 20% of the development to be in housing, and when questioned about why the staff was allowed to negotiate something in conflict with a council resolution, Mayor Rossing answered that “Brian (O’Connell) had said something about this at a work session”. The staff’s presentation said that the staff felt that the “council’s hands should not be ‘tied’ “.
    Bullet #3 under the Master Development Plan states that the Comp Plan might have to be amended. (to accomplish the housing component, since bullet #1 says all must be in compliance with the Comp Plan, and the Comp Plan does not allow housing there.)

    So…. Once again ….. the best laid plans of mice and men…..
    What is the use of any plan if it is immediately considered obsolete?
    Why put this in the Annexation agreement now, if at any time when a housing component became a desired part of the development, the Comp Plan could be amended then?
    Why is the Staff negotiating based on their POV, no matter how well intentioned, if it is in conflict with a council legislative action?
    Why do we have all the angst of developing a values based Comp Plan , if it immediately goes out the window with the Staff’s negotiations?

  2. Having attended the Northfield Planning Commission meetings and hearings on the Greenvale annexation, I am also surprised to see ANY area allowed for residential. Defeats the purpose, really. I would have thought City Council members who attended Greenvale Township meetings would have caught this earlier. Staff recommendations are hard to resist, I suppose.

    The main surprise for me was that the Greenvale agreement is specific to the proposed business park. It does not seem to project into the future, as does the one between Bridgewater Townshp and the City, signed in 1999 and in effect through 2019. Our supervisors would not sign off on the Target site until the larger framework was agreed upon.

    Almost looks like the township board did not realize the leverage they had to get a wider agreement and now the opportunity is gone.

  3. Lead story on 7 am KYMN local news was Northfield Council vote to eliminate requirement to notify townships of pending annexations. Landowners will go direct to the City. As a township resident, I find this insulting. It won’t affect Bridgewater and Northfield townships, who have longterm annexation agreements which set terms on future annexations. And Waterford has its own agreement, set by the State Legislature, which I think will prove to be binding.

    But it could affect Greenvale Township, which, for some reason which escapes me, settled for a short term agreement based on the 530 acre industrial park. It does not seem to set terms for future annexation agreements.

    Frustrations of several Rice County townships about Faribault tactics in annexing township land resulted not long ago in some type of protection agreed to by Rice County. Bonnie, could you check into that please?

  4. I find Councilor Denison’s statements ( as heard at the council meeting, and reported in the NFNews) re: the annexation ordinance to be not in tune with the perspective that should be most optimally displayed by a town that is landlocked by four townships. Mr. Denison’s use of the words “control” and “Power” with respect to his preferred position for NF, is lacking understanding of positive intergovernmental working relationships.
    It is imperative, IMO, for Northfield to keep the best possible working relationships with all the townships if we ever expect to grow without messy and acrimonious hostile annexations.
    The Bridgewater/Target annexation process put a negative document about NF ‘s process ( written by Ms. Scotillo, the state officer then in charge) into the permanent state records; I would hope that would be the last time that that sort of record would need to be entered.
    Northfield grew out of its agricultural surroundings. That should be remembered and honored in order to preserve the best outcomes for all parties.

  5. Yes, the importance of agriculture was the general theme at the Waterford Township Open House Tuesday night, April 7. The topic of annexation drew a crowd, with people standing at the rear. My hero, Supervisor John Dudley, had already given a bit of history before I got there. Supervisor Liz Messner spoke on their vision for the future. Supervisor Frank Wergin took some questions from the audience. There were 3 or 4 disgruntled businesse owners who got off topic for awhile, but generally the flow of information was good.

    Bridgewater Supervisor Leif Knecht’s critical remarks about the Waterford annexation agreement and Waterford Supervisor Dudley’s rebuttal stand out in my memories of the evening. Northfield Mayor Rossing called for improved communication, to begin the following night at the Jt. Govt Meeting at Northfield Township Hall. Anybody go to that one? Please clue me in.

  6. Steph: I missed the first part of the meeting as I had to attend the LWV board meeting, but I got there about eight o’clock , and was, as always, impressed with the quality of the ‘direct democracy’ which is embodied in the Township meetings.
    Any one who is interested in political process , and hasn’t witnessed one of these, needs to attend. Waterford is the most picturesque because of the marvelous old community hall with a shade of green paint on the woodwork that hasn’t been seen since about 1800, and the expertly applied wallpaper which looks like it has been there for at least fifty years.

    But the most impressive thing is the level of discussion, which even if adversarial in subject usually remains civil. But civil doesn’t mean empty; there is lots of substance in the comments and also the responses, back and forth. Our city officials don’t come off quite as well, too much reliance on happy talk and jargon.

    For me the strongest point of the evening, the basic premise of the divide in how people think about ag land, was voiced by one of the Waterford supervisors who said that those who do not farm tend to look at the acreage as empty land, not ‘productive’; but in fact each farm is a business, an important family business, and deserves the same evaluation of productivity as a Kwik-Trip for instance, or any other small business.

    In my opinion, Northfield made a big mistake in the recent ordinance change, an unnecessary mistake, and a very unfortunate one for a community which is landlocked by four rural townships. NF didn’t have to make the change, regardless of “our lawyer’s advice”, and it just plain appears bad/unfriendly/possibly even self serving.
    If it was such a big legal issue, where were the lawyers when the twp. agreements were written; and where have they been all these years? A municipality may make any law that is MORE restrictive than a state statute; they just can’t be more ‘loose’. I don’t blame the Waterford residents for wondering what the future holds for them…

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