Annexation process begins for West Armstrong Business Park

wabp-sshotP. 13 of this week’s EDA packet has a summary of “formal annexation requests to the City of Northfield” from Robert Gill and Ken Prawer for 456 acres in Bridgewater Township. See the PDF of the West Armstrong Business and Industrial Area Concept Plan. This is likely to be controversial because of the current (1999) annexation agreement between the township and Northfield, as well as the park’s location between Heath Creek and Spring Brook (Rice) Creek. (continued)

Here’s a Google map of the area, with a few of my markers. View West Armstrong Business Park (proposed) in a larger map.


Heath Creek and Spring Brook Creek watersheds Heath Creek and Spring Brook Creek watersheds  
Here are a couple of Heath Creek and Spring Brook Creek watershed maps from an (old) page on the Carleton web site titled Environmental Aspects of Transportation Planning in Northfield.

Update 7/12: Below is a land owner map of the area, courtesy of Bruce Morlan and his Politics and a Pint blog post.


See also:


… on July 1, 2009, Mr. Robert Gill and Mr. Kenneth Prawer submitted formal annexation requests to the City of Northfield. The City Council is expected to give City staff directions on how this request should be addressed at its July 20, 2009, City Council meeting. The proposed annexation consists of 456 acres and, if annexed, would most likely be developed as business and light industrial.

The Bridgewater Township Board has been notified by the applicants that they have submitted applications to the City of Northfield. The City of Northfield currently has a signed annexation agreement with Bridgewater Township to allow up to 150 acres in a five-year period with no more than 60 acres in one year. Some of the proposed annexation area is not included in the annexation agreement. Therefore, as a result of these conditions, the annexation agreement would need to be amended to enable these annexations to be completed.


  1. The Council can request that the Planning Commission hold a public hearing on the annexation requests, and then make a recommendation to the Council.
  2. The Council can decide not to pursue the annexation requests. If so, the application forms and fees would be returned to the applicants.
  3. The Council can delay the consideration of the annexation requests until a market study can be completed for the Northfield area.


  1. Tracy Davis said:

    This could be REALLY good news for Northfield… if it’s done properly. That’s a big IF, but I’m an optimist.

    July 8, 2009
  2. Tracy, can you elaborate and what could make it a “good” development and what wouldn’t?

    I have a lot of concerns, but let’s start with:

    1. Why is this necessary when the city (as the News article points out very clearly) just annexed 500+ acres for a business park in Greenvale Township? Nothing’s been built on that land; it seems ridiculous to be grabbing more at this point.
    2. On a similar note, part of this land falls in the annexation area from the annexation agreement. Why not just develop that land first instead of breaking/revising the agreement?
    3. My understand is that this will be relatively heavy-industry — I assume something similar to the Cannon Road/Riverview Lane area. What about the presence of the homes on Old Dutch Road and Edgebrook Drive?
    July 8, 2009
  3. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    As (former) Chair of the Dundas Planning Commission I asked staff to compute complete costs of ownership so we could assess “impact fees”. I was told that impact fees were not allowed in Minnesota (so I dropped that idea). Now I find a UMN report that states:

    Reasonable Relationship Test. This liberal approach is the one adopted by the Minnesota Supreme Court [8], and is often confused with the rational nexus standard because of its similar approach. The “reasonable relationship” standard may consider many factors, including spatial factors, temporal factors, amount, need, benefit, and the earmarking of revenues for the specific purpose for which they were collected [9].

    So, perhaps I was misinformed. Impact fees should be one way we ensure that the people who benefit from annexation (the “developers”) pay the full costs of their projects, so that we are not adding the insult of paying for part of the growth to the injury of the more traffic, more stress and more crowding as borne by the people who may not want that growth.

    July 8, 2009
  4. kiffi summa said:

    Bruce: your comment (#3) is very interesting because I had also always understood that MN does not allow ‘impact fees”.
    Sounds like a sophisticated legal evaluation will be needed to unravel the implications.
    Do you have any idea what the case law behind this “reasonable relationship” standard is?
    Sounds like a good topic for David Hvistendahl’s “Law Review” radio show.

    July 9, 2009
  5. Kevin Ward said:

    There’s nothing good about this…at any level.
    As a homeowner on Edgebrook Drive, I’ll be staring at heavy industrial development on 3 sides! I imagine if somoeone tried to do this in any of the open spaces just North or East of our golf course community we wouldn’t even be discussing this. I’m sure the homeowners in that fine community would love staring at smoke-stacks out their front windows! If this passes, our home values will undoubtedly tank immediately, even if no development takes place for the next 10 years. Just the knowledge that our fair neighborhood will eventually be surrounded by god knows what kinds of lovely, gray, concrete monstrosities is enough to chase away potential home-buyers.
    As someone who loves Northfield and appreciates the need for development in the long term, why are we trying so hard to Faribault-ize our town by surrounding ourselves with huge open tracts of half-hazard placed industrial land? Cows, Colleges and Contentment? Not likely…as Hwy 19 and surrounding surface streets are laid waste by even more trucks at all hours of the night. Do we really need 1,000 acres of concrete replacing 1000 acres of greenery? Apple Valley here we come!!Maybe we should re-logo our town to Cows, Colleges and Commercial/Industrial Commerce!!

    July 9, 2009
  6. David Ludescher said:

    Mr. Ward: Is Edgebrook Drive in Northfield now? How about if the annexation is approved?

    July 9, 2009
  7. David,
    Edgebrook Drive is still in Bridgewater Township, and is not officially affected by the annexation — except Robert Gill’s house, which is included.

    There is a small greenspace that will buffer the Edgebrook Drive homes (a total of 4.3 acres), but, Kevin, I’d certainly can see that you wouldn’t find that adequate. Even if it were, there’s still the issue of straining Old Dutch Road/90th Street, Decker Avenue (which isn’t even paved), and Armstrong Road. I don’t know that upgrades for any of these roads are planned.

    I am curious if Northfield would be so neglectful of these homes if the properties were within the City, and not the adjacent township.

    July 9, 2009
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    Bruce, can you send me the map you have that shows the names of all the landowners that surround this proposed business park? Or post a link to it?

    July 9, 2009
  9. Kevin Ward said:

    Sean is correct, Edgebrook drive is not and will not, as part of this proposal…at least for now…be in Northfield city limits. However, we will have all the benefits of increased truck traffic, noise, 24hour lighting, etc., etc., etc., that comes with commercial development next to residential homes. By the way, the 4.3 acres of buffer equals approx. 50 feet between the back yards of homes and commercial development, that’s roughly the width of a downtown street and sidewalks.
    As a practical matter, if the city presses forward with this and Bridgwater somehow approves it, how can any development like this be allowed without sufficient plans for heavy industrial traffic increases. Not one of the access roads currently feeding this area are capable of this, nor is hwy 19, in it’s current form capable of handling more heavy traffic. Didn’t the state already say that we were not likely to see any changes to 19 in the next 10-15 years? How does that jibe with any of this new commercial development?
    Also, part of the plan being pushed but not discussed openly..yet, is the desire to bring in a railroad spur right up into our backyards. Why do we need railroad spurs? Surely not for commercial office parks…no, typically it’s to allow large heavy industrial commercial development. So, as I mentioned in my last entry…are we about Cows, Colleges and Contentment? Or, shall we change contentment to Commercial/Industrial development?

    July 9, 2009
  10. Jane Moline said:

    I am sympathetic to Kevin Ward’s concerns, but if we had limited residential housing to the city limits instead of allowing sprawl that has reduced farm land and open space on the outskirts of the city, we would not have to worry about the affect of industrial development (along an industrial corridor) affecting residential clusters.

    This area (owned by those requesting annexation) is environmentally significant AND has faboulous potential in planning future industrial sites, having access to a major highway (19) AND rail. Northfield would be foolish to pass up annexing–and then should plan plan plan to mitigate environmental concerns. To deny these landowners the right to sell to industrial development is the same as a “taking”.

    Alternatively, everybody pony up tons of taxes so the city can run the space as a park, and we can forget about economic growth. (We are happy to have industries come to Dundas.)

    July 9, 2009
  11. Jane,
    I agree that we should work to stop future unincorporated sprawl, but Edgebrook Drive is there now (as are a few other small subdivisions). And in this particular case, most of the industrial development occurred after many of these houses were built — the oldest building I know of is the Ryt-Way/3M building, built in 1974.

    Regardless, we can’t ignore it just because it “shouldn’t” be there.

    Alternatively, everybody pony up tons of taxes so the city can run the space as a park, and we can forget about economic growth.

    I’ll again go back to the Greenvale Township business park. Why is that not adequate to support whatever destructive “economic growth” you think is so needed? I don’t see why we need to designate more land to provide for the apparently nonexistent appetite for more commercial/industrial land.

    July 9, 2009
  12. Kevin Ward said:

    Jane makes a fair point…which is, I think, that we should have not allowed homes to be built there 30 years ago. We all should have known that 30 years in the future the better plan would have been to allow all this green space, at the main gateway to our city, to be paved over with 1000 acres of concrete and industrial wasteland. I appreciate the plight of the landowner who wants to cash in on his holdings. I’m a bleeding heart conservative who believes we have the right to improve our’s and our familie’s lives through the development of our own personal resources and hard work. However I also believe that the persuit of that should not be at the expense of others. This clearly is at the expense of others, so compromises need to be made at some level. One possible solution would be a much larger green buffer, with trees planted now so they have time to grow. Walking/biking paths might even be included to allow movement of children via passages away from the increased truck traffic. Massive road improvements will be needed anyway…(by the way, who’s paying for that Northfield?)…so paths may need to be considered. I’m still perplexed though…why does Northfield think it needs so much industrial land? Seriosly..1000 acres? Don’t buy the lower home-owner taxes argument for one second. More revenue means more spending and government loves to spend because it’s not really their money. But assuming that the best case scenario happens, which would be taxes that aren’t raised as much as they might otherwise be raised, you can bet that the educational lobby interests will be right there to pick up the slack asking for larger levys because, heck…your taxes are not going up as much as they maybe could have.

    In the end, what you really will have is property taxes that don’t go down…1000 acres of concrete at the very gateways of our community, massive increases in large truck traffic, increased air, water and ground pollution and 20 homeowners and their families, whose quiet homes on the edge of town is their own little version of paradise, trampled on by the call for progress…excuse me if I don’t get too excited.

    July 9, 2009
  13. Kevin Ward said:

    Has it occured to anybody that the most recent EPA study ranking Northfield as having very good air quality around it’s schools(children)has a little something to do with the fact that we DON’T have a lot of heavy industrial land use in our town? If we’re in such a hurry to be like Faribault, with their “bad” air quality ratings, maybe we could plan, plan, plan an exodus route for those of us who prefer our kids not have to wear gas-masks to school.

    July 9, 2009
  14. Griff Wigley said:

    Just an FYI, I took some video of the site today and hope to have that up in a day or two.

    I also happened to meet and briefly chat with Bob Gill at his house at the end of Edgebrook Drive. Just to clarify, that house would NOT be part of the annexed property; his farm house on Old Dutch Road would be.

    July 10, 2009
  15. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I disagree w/Jane Moline (Comment 7) on a number of points. Opening up a second large industrial park without cost/benefit studies to support them makes little sense. Don’t forget that Rice County, thanks to former Commissioner Jim Brown who represented our area, opened up over 1000 acres to highway commercial along I-35 from Big Steer on the north to Cty 1 on the south. They did this without money for infrastructure and there are still no takers. Heath and Wolf creeks are listed as potential locations for wastewater systems. Any businesses who go out there will start up on their own septics.

    As Jane Moline said, Bridgewater gives Dundas industrial land free from the total in that annexation agreement. That was because Dundas does not have a couple other townships to take from, like Northfield does. In return, we got 3 seats on their Planning Commission so we could help guide development.

    The DeManns have sold various parcels (including College City Beverage?) for development. It is understandable they would look more kindly on development than those who would be negatively impacted.

    July 10, 2009
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Stephanie, our Guidelines here require that you address the person you’re disagreeing with in the first person.

    So instead of “I disagree w/Jane Moline…” it needs to be “Jane, I disagree with you…”

    Instead of “The DeManns have sold various parcels…” it needs to be “You and Chip have sold various parcels…”

    Can I edit your comment?

    July 10, 2009
  17. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    Well, Griff knows how I feel about straw polls, but apparently the Northfield News has not read my comments. But their current straw poll on this issue has a leading question …

    If it will lower my taxes, I’m for it

    In a smart world it would be an important function of city staff to show the total impact of the proposal and to be able to answer the question … what does the city project tax rates to be over the next 20-30 years (including projected infrastructure repair bonds) in four scenarios …

    • without the proposed change (in this case, annexation)
    • with annexation assuming:
      — low, slow economic growth/recovery model (and how likely)
      — medium economic growth/recovery (this should be the projection deemed “most likely”
      — high, fast recovery (a Minnesota miracle) (probably the developer’s planning factors)

    These rates would be plotted against time for the duration of the analysis. Like global weather, these graphs are only as good as the assumptions and the models, but without them we are shooting at noises in the dark. Either way decisions will be made, but with some quantifying of the risks we can make informed decisions. The Crossings, although not a monetary loss to the city (or so I am told) is still a vacant-lot looking complex, suggestive of what happens when the city buys the brochures but not the supporting analyses.

    July 10, 2009
  18. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Sure, change it to “Jane, I disagree with you…” By the same token, her comment should begin, “I am sympathetic to your concerns, Kevin, but….”

    However the DeMann family includes the parents and relatives, not just Jane and Chip. College City Beverage is on DeMann Sr. property, I believe. The last proposal Chip had for housing off Railway Street (along the river and RR) did not fly, but the neighborhood is on the alert for the next one and the access problems connected with it.

    July 10, 2009
  19. Jane Moline said:

    First of all, Griff, Chip and I have not sold any of our land for development. Chip’s parents and uncle sold the land for College City Beverage. They are good neighbors to us and we are happy that they could find a home in our neighborhood rather than going to Lakeville.

    Chip and I own 65 acres in the city limits of Dundas. However, I am concerned, Stephanie, that you infer that land ownership makes my opinion tainted, especially considering the years I have dedicated to protecting the environment on our farm.

    It does give one a different perspective when we have lived on, farmed and cared for this land for 29 years, and Chip’s grandparents for many more years before us.

    Kevin, in #9, points out that his home was developed many years ago, and he should not be punished for what some one did 30 years ago. Limiting industrial development along a major transportation corridor due to the decisions of the county and township zoning of 30 years ago is not fair, either.

    We have to live with those mistakes of the past, and Kevin has suggested a reasonable approach–bigger “buffer zones” and other mitigations that make the property more attractive to both the neighbors and the industries that may use the sites.

    Sean Hayford O’Leary in #8 suggests that we should “use up” the Greenvale Township annexed land before thinking about other sites.

    Unfortunately, commercial/industrial businesses will not shop for land like you might shop for coffee beans–taking the the beans out of the chute as they drop out in order of how they are dumped in. Land develpment is a bit more “messy”, with the buyers looking for different factors–including transportation lines like highway and rail, and access to workers and their housing, and many want a pleasing, attractive-looking building and location. It is in Northfield’s best interest to have several choices for a commercial/industrial customer IF Northfield would like such employer/taxpayer/businesses located in this community. For that reason, annexing more potential industrial land is a good move for the city.

    The next step would be to plan and require concessions from the landowner that make the property more attractive to neighbors and occupants–including strict review of environmental issues. This is critical for the proposed site due to the watershed areas and two creeks. Potentially, this may mean fewer industrial sites, clustering of the sites, and other building requirements (including restrictions on impervious surfaces, adding rain gardens, and maybe even green roofs.)

    Kevin, in #10, points out that we need to protect our air quality from heavy industrial use–I would say there are no heavy-industrial users in Northfield now, and that is a good thing–and would not have to change with the annexation of this land. By appropriate zoning, Northfield can make sure there is appropriate land available for appropriate users.

    I was somewhat serious about raising a bunch of money and buying the land to avoid industrial development–I think there is something to be said for putting our money where our mouth is–we give a lot of lip-service to the importantance for us to preserve open space/green space and environmentally fragile areas, but not, it seems, if we have to pay for it ourselves.

    And Kevin, in #9 infers that big industrial development will cost city taxpayers in the long run. However, that is not borne out by any studies–there are numerous analysis that show that commercial/industrial users are “net taxpayers” while residential development is a “net service user”, meaning the commercial businessess are subsidizing our quality of life. (Note that Northfield has a checkered past on this one–they have sometimes extended services before there is development, paid for services rather than expecting the developer to pay (as would be proper) and otherwise had some strange and “special” outcomes, but that would be for a different thread.)

    I still think it is in Northfield’s best interst to annex this property. Annexation does not mean that they have to immediately extend services or immediatedly develop–it would be a first step in properly planning for the future of this property.

    July 10, 2009
  20. Kevin Ward said:

    Jane, I appreciate your well thought out and informed responses very much. While there is room to differ regarding the economic/lifestyle/social and indeed environmental benefits and/or impacts of adding heavy industrial zones to a small town like Northfield, it’s good that an intelligent conversation like this one can take place amongst all parties. One of the biggest issues I have with this whole process is that like the greenvale area, the city could annex this property with no plan in place, whatsoever, for how it will manage the development of it. Thus we the homeowners who will potentially be the most impacted by this are left holding the bag. For, without a concrete plan in place that we can point either positively or negatively to, we are left in a sort of home value and lifestyle limbo. Once annexed, the value of all our properties WILL be negatively impacted because we will not be able to say to a prospective buyer(should any of us want/need to sell) that there is a plan already in place to protect and isolate our neighborhood from the noise, traffic, pollution and view restrictions caused by large concrete buildings, etc…so you, Mr. & Mrs. Buyer can rest assured that the tranquility and lifestyle you see now in this neighborhood will be there even after they begin construction. In essense we will be held hostage by the very land we live on because the city has no specific plan. Now, should the city decide to do the decent thing…which would be at minimum to commission proper studies regarding environmental impact on the local watersheds, economic impacts of commercial annexation on adjoining property owners, and then suggest/discuss multiple options for either mitigating or off-setting the impacts addressed by these studies, then maybe we as homeowners can begin to at least wrap our arms around what is likely to be a no-win but somewhat less disturbing and economically destructive eventuality. I for one am not holding my breath.

    July 10, 2009
  21. Kevin Ward said:

    BTW…Jane, just a quick correction, I did not say that allowing commercial development would cost taxpayers more money. I said, that the influx of “net” tax-dollars as you put it, will not be the boondoggle in tax-savings or reductions to homeowners that this is already being pedalled as potentially having. Instead it will simply give those looking for more tax-payer subsidized initiatives the mis-leading ammunition they need to fool people into thinking they’re getting a good deal.

    July 10, 2009
  22. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I’d like to go back to Sean’s comment (2):

    “On a similar note, part of this land falls in the annexation area from the annexation agreement. Why not just develop that land first instead of breaking/revising the agreement?”

    Yes, let’s not forget that only about 230 acres (Section 2) are subject to annexation. I fully expect that the majority of the township board will, after due consideration, act in the interest of the township and hold to the terms of our 20-yr agreement. If they cave to pressure from Northfield and open the agreement for amendments, they may find themselves unseated in coming township elections.

    July 11, 2009
  23. Tracy Davis said:

    I hope that it will help this discussion to note that the City is in the process of interviewing consultants to do analysis and planning for the newly annexed Greenvale area and the prospective annexation area in Bridgewater.

    See details here:

    This doesn’t mean that anything will actually be built in either the Greenvale or Bridgewater locations; it SHOULD mean that proper analysis and planning is done to determine what is the best use of available land considering the need to increase the commercial tax base, maintain and support the quality of life for existing residents in the Northfield area, protect our environmental resources, etc. I can guarantee that no one I’m talking to is envisioning smokestacks or warehousing facilities.

    I sort of bulldozed my way onto the committee which is reviewing the 24 companies which responded to the RFP. We had Rick Estenson on our podcast to talk about this a couple of weeks ago:

    The review committee is made up of Community Development Director Brian O’Connell and Economic Development Manager Jody Gunderson from City Hall; Rick Estenson, Rhonda Pownell, and Steve Engler from the EDA; Nfld Chamber president (and builder/developer) Jeff Hasse, Tom Stringer from the school district, and Alice Thomas and myself from the Planning Commission.

    The RFP is fairly comprehensive; none of the 24 companies responding were equipped to handle such a contract entirely in-house. All needed to bring in additional expertise in various areas whether it be fiscal & market analysis, site planning, whatever.

    The review group seems quite unified about not looking for conventional industrial development/business-as-usual; there is a lot of emphasis on environmental responsibility and low-impact development. The review group seems fairly evenly split between the practicalists (we can’t just build air castles and hope there’s a market), the idealists (let’s create something so cutting-edge and groundbreaking that cool companies will flock to it) and the tweeners (we can have aspects that satisfy both if we do it right).

    The review committee has narrowed it down to four companies who I believe we’re scheduled to interview on July 21.

    I’ve been meaning to write a post about this, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    July 11, 2009
  24. Jane Moline said:

    Kevin, I agree with your comments in 17 and 18 — we should not be patsies for supporting boondoggles–prudent government means we must and should get involved, including discussions, but also attending meetings and keeping our voices in the mix when policy decisions are being made.

    I have really thought about this one a lot (the Prawer/Gill property), and I wonder why no one has thought of just annexing a little bit at a time (which is really a lot for the current needs)–say the 60 acres allowed in the Bridgewater agreement–and then 60 more the next year and then 30 to come to the 3 -year total limit of 150. And then you could do it again-until you have all of the property annexed. (And you can always negotiate for more if you have an actual user that is interested–you needn’t annex everything at once.)

    60 acres would be plenty to chose from for a light industrial user–and with more “in the pipeline” there would be more if someone actually had interest in developing the first 60. This would also give the city time to actually come up with a reasonable plan,time to plant future buffer areas, and time to determine if rail access is affordable.

    I still think that we should be looking at the public-use considerations of this land–should we be thinking about a park area that would help sustain the watershed? We have left the preservation of this property to the owners, who have cared for it, paid taxes on it, and done their best to keep it well–what about a community farm for part of the land? I think a lot of people would like to have greater access to “locally grown” food stuff–is there a way to combine light industrial, park and farm?

    July 11, 2009
  25. BruceWMorlan said:

    At Politics and a Pint ( I have a excerpt from a planning map (Northfield 2020 or the like) that shows this as low-density housing. Is this still current? If so, the neighbors are being double-teamed by the surprising size and by the change in purpose. As I have repeatedly said, one of the critical tasks of Planning Commissions should be to prevent the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” syndrome, in which people wake up (figuratively) to find bulldozers (figuratively) in their front yards.

    July 11, 2009
  26. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce and Kevin: Do either of you think that the City has an obligation to protect the interests of a homeowner outside the City limits?

    Apparently, Edgebrook Drive is not in the City, and doesn’t want to be annexed. So, why should it be a concern of the City? Isn’t it an issue that should be addressed with the Bridgewater officials?

    July 11, 2009
  27. Kevin Ward said:

    Fair question David…First, to my knowledge we weren’t given the option to be annexed, though I doubt anyone here actually wants that. But more to the point of issue…the question of whether the city has an obligation to Edgebrook Drive can be answered best via an analogy. Imagine you lived in a nice house, on a nice street then one day someone came to you and told you that the city has decided to let a local developer change the zoning on three sides of your house such that they could buy the houses around you, tear them down and build an industrial park in their place…on all three sides. Does the developer owe you any consideration? In this analogy the city is the developer and bridgwater township is the city. We are the homeowner about to be surrounded on three sides…literally, by industrial park(s). So, what is the answer? Nobody ‘owes’ anybody anything, anymore than someone owes you an apology for stepping on your toe, or a thankyou when you’ve done something nice…sometimes the right thing is not about what is owed, but simply what is the right and neighborly thing to do in a civilized community/society.

    July 11, 2009
  28. David, it’s rather flippant to simply ask, “why should it be a concern of the City?” There are two consideratons: first, Edgebrook Drive will eventually be annexed into the City, and whenever that should happen, it’s awfully dumb for Northfield to have so awkwardly mixed heavy industry and light residential.

    Second, even now, the township and city are interdependent, particularly with regard to roads. This development would put traffic on township- and county-maintained roads.

    Also, to point out the obvious, the Bridgewater supervisors have to sign off on this (no longer required by Northfield ordinance, but still covered by the annexation agreement), so the City can’t afford to completely ignore Bridgewater residents.

    Tracy, the master planning you mention sounds promising, but I’d be more convinced if the master planning occurred before the annexation. The simple fact is that agriculture of the bread and butter of all four of the surrounding townships. They, therefore, have a natural interest in preserving open space. While the community of the Northfield benefits from open space, the City basically benefits from filling it up. So it makes me nervous to put beautiful, historic land under the control of the City with no plan in place.

    July 11, 2009
  29. David Ludescher said:

    Kevin: Good answer. Perhaps Edgebrook Drive residents should also ask for annexation so the residents can have some say in the development that may surround them.

    However, as I read Northfield’s Comp Plan, having residential mixed in with other types of land use is encouraged. So, you might have an uphill battle.

    July 12, 2009
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for the land owners map, Bruce. I’ve added it to the blog post above.

    July 12, 2009
  31. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    No better way to get a feel for this topic than to attend a township meeting. See p.2A under “What’s Going On?”

    Bridgewater Township meeting Tuesday night, 7 pm at our township hall on Railway St. S. in Dundas. Brian O’Connell is coming concerning annexation, Gary Wagenbach is expected to take questions on purchase of farmland to protect it from development. David Bly will also be there.


    July 12, 2009
  32. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    That’s this coming Tuesday night, July 14, at township hall.

    July 12, 2009
  33. Griff Wigley said:

    From the July 10 Friday Memo, this from ED Director Jody Gunderson:

    Mr. George Kinney, a member of the
    Environmental Quality Commission, and
    Mr. Bruce Anderson were in attendance
    to discuss an Environmental Protection
    Agency grant opportunity for “Climate
    Showcase Communities”. Mr. Kinney and
    Mr. Anderson believed the Prawer and
    Gill properties would provide a
    compelling grant application. Mr.
    Kinney said the EPA will award
    $300,000 to $500,000 to 30 communities
    in the United States, but was not
    certain that the grant could be
    assembled to meet the July 22, 2009
    deadline. The Board asked City staff
    to investigate the possibility of
    hiring a grant writer capable of
    devoting the time necessary to meet
    the July 22 deadline.

    July 13, 2009
  34. Tracy Davis said:

    Sean, it would be difficult to persuade our elected officials to spend City money hiring consultants to do a thorough plan for property over which the City has no control. In an ideal world the planning could come first, but that isn’t usually an option.

    July 13, 2009
  35. Kathleen Doran-Norton said:

    In the 1999 annexation agreement between the city of Northfield and Bridgewater township, the city and the township pledged to work together with each other and with all potential partners to protect Spring Brook.

    This promise is the prerequisite for any discussion of annexation.

    Bridgewater Township is holding a work session Tuesday, July 21 7 p.m. at the town hall on 500 Railway Street to identify what partners, possibilities, information, funding, research, and volunteers exist to take action to protect Spring Brook in perpetuity.

    If you are live in the township or are a city resident, and particularly if you participate on any city commission or board which relates to parks, trails, the environment…or if you have a personal interest in protecting this rare natural resource in our community, I invite you to join us next Tuesday night.

    It’s time to fulfill the promise we made.

    Kathleen Doran-Norton
    Bridgewater Township Supervisor

    July 15, 2009
  36. Beth Kallestad said:

    If anyone is interested in reading about the current water quality conditions in Spring Brook, check out the Cannon River Watershed Partnership’s website at on the Project page under past projects. The stream has some problems with E. coli bacteria and turbidity (cloudiness) after rain events. There are still brook trout and with a little attention this stream could be great.

    The current conditions are far from the “natural state”. This land has been farmed for a long time. My challenge to the municipalities – figure out a way to have development AND good water quality/natural areas. Could Northfield become a showpiece for how to do this right? It’s possible.

    July 16, 2009
  37. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Beth, are you coming to Tuesday July 21 township work session? We will talk more on this then. Supervisor Doran Norton (comment 32) invites everyone interested. Hugh Valiant of DNR fisheries office in Waterville will be the expert on trout streams.

    Your emphasis on impacts to streams from existing farm operations bothers me a little. As a former CRWP staff person told me, shedding of water off a large industrial site could be far more deadly. That is why I recommend a development of no more than the 230 acres in Sec. 2, as allowed by our annexation agreement. That is big enough.

    July 17, 2009
  38. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    The last one titled “Proposed changes to the annexation agreement” was given to township supervisors mid-January, but this is the first digital version in color. It is key to understanding that the western half of the Gill/Prawer proposal (red dashed horizontal lines) lies outside the area listed in the 20-yr annexation agreement and is not subject to annexation.

    Why would the landowners and Northfield EDA spend thousands of dollars for a consultant to generate maps which do not conform to the Bridgewater Annexation Agreement? As one City Council member said, one of the supervisors led them to believe they could get the changes if the terms were right. How disillusioning. It takes two out of three supervisors to vote YES to open up the agreement for amendments. There has been no such vote.

    July 28, 2009
  39. Why would the landowners and Northfield EDA spend thousands of dollars for a consultant to generate maps which do not conform to the Bridgewater Annexation Agreement?

    Stephanie, that’s a great point. The annexation agreement is only half-way through its intended life. If an annexation agreement is simply changed depending on what the City wants, what’s really the point of that 20-year planning? (And I would remind everyone that this agreement has only been in place for 10 years — half its intended life.)

    Northfield has had great talk about making this a sustainable business park, but thus far there has been zero real commitment. As Brian O’Connell said at the July 14 meeting, Northfield does not yet even have ordinances that would address the protection of Spring Brook and Heath Creek. I’d like to see real commitment — ordinances, master planning, and the approval of experienced river scientists — to doing this in environmentally sensible manner. Then Bridgewater should consider changing the agreement.

    Tracy mentioned earlier that it’s asking a lot of Northfield to invest significant money and effort for land not currently in the city. That’s true, but it’s asking even more of Bridgewater to gamble this bucolic farmland and natural streams on Northfield maybe doing what they say they want to do with this development.

    July 28, 2009
  40. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    After the Gill/Prawer property walk last night, it is even more clear what the township loses if this becomes an industrial park. Prawer let us through his gate to the pasture w/Spring Brook running through it and CRWP’s Ross Hoffman was our guide. There are trout from that point on westward to Decker Ave and beyond, so if we can save Section 3 from annexation we still have some precious acres left (see map on link below). Red broken diagonals show what is OUTSIDE the agreement.

    Both government bodies are obligated to come up with a stream protection ordinance, as Kathleen has made clear. It occurs to me that some people may think this is a give-and-take where if township is satisfied with the stream protection, they will grant the amendments adding Sec. 3 and increasing the pace of annexation. I believe that to be incorrect. These are separate issues.

    First meeting of volunteers to work on stream protection is at CRWP office Friday, July 31, 7:30 am (yes, that’s AM). Mary Savina will present info. Be great to see some of you there.

    July 29, 2009
  41. kiffi summa said:

    Stephanie : I happened to watch a re-run of the 7.20 council meeting in which the annexation request was discussed. Councilor Buckheit, as always, asked some pertinent questions, but comments from most of the councilors seem to have no idea of the basic philosophical question of Northfield absorbing this adjoining rural land and especially from a perspective of reasonable future use.Too much happy talk about green principles, of which, at least so far, Saint Olaf seems to be the principle practitioner.

    I can understand Northfield wanting to ‘protect’ itself from ‘unreasonable’ development on its immediate outskirts, but that does not seem to be the momentum of the discussion. I also understand the constantly proffered idea of lessening residential taxes by ‘industrial’ growth, but that rarely happens to the degree expected, and certainly would not in this era of declining manufacturing.

    What especially bothered me were the comments of two councilors: Pownell and Denison. Ms. Pownell spoke repeatedly of the “strategic” advantage to Northfield, without ever saying what in her opinion the oft-mentioned ‘strategy’ was, while also favoring the most aggressive timeline offered by staff; Councilor Denison said that he didn’t mean to offend Bridgewater ( ! ) but that Northfield could do a better job of managing that land .

    From what I understand, Stephanie, there are some good practices being implemented in the use of that agricultural land … no-till planting etc.

    Could you please explain a bit more about the current farming practices that you find to be good land management, what are the current landowners stream protection management practices, etc.

    It is very difficult for me to resolve the competing interests here; I don’t like the idea that always seems to say “NF can do it better”; I haven’t seen that,uniformly, in land use practice. And I should qualify that by saying that a guiding principle is not always the basis for discussion.
    I find it offensive, that with all the talk of intergovernmental co-operation and regional planning, an attitude of “NF can do it better” is even voiced.

    So it would be really be helpful for me, Stephanie, in looking at this, if you could explain not just your personal opinion, but what you have gleaned from your township meetings, and discussions with Bridgewater and Dundas residents.

    July 31, 2009
  42. Councilor Denison said that he didn’t mean to offend Bridgewater but that Northfield could do a better job of managing that land.

    I think Jon Denison is right — Northfield could do a better job managing the land. The City has considerably more money, infrastructure, and staff at its disposal. But history certainly shows that they almost certainly won’t manage it better.

    Let’s look at other recent annexations of Bridgewater land: Bridgewater and the Middle school are decent uses of the land, but I would hardly call a school built on a dangerous state highway (and set back so far it practically requires a car to get from the road to the building) good planning or “management.” Target and Cub are probably land use at their worst: the land dead and paved over. And these are supposed to be enjoyable destinations! We think they’ll do better with an industrial park?

    While I know little about the farming practices on this land currently — I also would like to hear Stephanie talk about that — there’s something inherent to farming: the land needs to be alive. You could build a factory on a severely polluted brownfield, and it could function just as well making widgets as it would in rich agricultural soil. Even “conventional,” nonorganic farming has a symbiotic relationship with the earth. Its health is essential to the farmer’s business health.

    So as much as Northfield talks about its “green” plans for the development (and I appreciate your calling them out on that, Kiffi), that critical connection just does not exist for a business/industrial park.

    July 31, 2009
  43. kiffi summa said:

    I understand, Sean what you’re saying about the ‘living’ vs. the ‘dead’ land. This was a huge concern just over the 36 AC of cornfield that became a Target/Cub.

    Rice County has some of the finest farmland around, rated most productive…
    Why would we wish to surrender this land to other uses when it is obvious that in the future (or now ? ) we need better and more local ways to feed ourselves.

    I have the same concerns about the “NW territories” annexation, and although that land is not as ‘rich’, I think industrial development as an end use is ludicrous…
    UNLESS … that ‘industrial’ use is a gigantic array of hydroponic greenhouses.
    Then at least you are preserving the integrity of the land , and using it in a way which is economically benefitting to both its old, current, possibly new, and future owners, as well as all the surrounding people.

    My ongoing and persistent complaint about our city leaders, and the professional staff that is employed to guide those elected leaders, is that they mostly REACT.

    The appetite for a visionary philosophical discussion… which leads to a guiding policy… is miniscule at best.

    July 31, 2009
  44. john george said:

    Sean and Kiffi- Just some thoughts on productivity of land, the 36 A. of cornfield that became the Target/Cub complex could not support one person on the corn it could produce, considering the cost of production. If it had been converted to a vegetable plot, it could probably support about one family if they were able to sell all their produce. The money for that produce would have to be brought in from somewhere. With the big box retail there, if my mere observations of how many people actually work there are correct, it would appear that hundreds of people are being supported by the land, if you look at only the economic effect. I understand your concerns about the esthetetics of the land use, and they have merit, but commerce will almost always trump agrarian use of land. If it did not, then large cities would have died out long ago. Industrial use of the proposed annexation will add much more to the economy than the present agrarian use.

    July 31, 2009
  45. David Ludescher said:

    John: You didn’t include the $280,000.00 in taxes Target will pay this year.

    August 1, 2009
  46. Kevin Ward said:

    John, it certainly is and will always be hard to make the argument that agrarian production is a better use of land when blacktop, warehouses and smokestacks can produce so much more, at least for as long as we utilize the argument that best/most productive use means only how much tax money that land can generate. In fact it wouldn’t be a stretch(at all) to include golf courses, parks, playgrounds, etc. They don’t generally produce a tangible tax-benefit either, when compared to that which an industrial park might produce. You could fit a lot of distribution warehouses on the space a golf course takes up. I wonder, though, if the homeowners around it wouldn’t mind the loss of view, etc. since, afterall, it’s being utilized much more productively. If we did an inventory on how much park land we have in town…imagine what we could do for our tax base if we just “utilized” this space more “efficiently” as well. The reality is that there are always ways to better exploit our spaces for higher tangible profits…but let’s not forget the intangible benefits of a little greenery, some agrarian spaces(superfluously productive or not), playgrounds, parks and even golf courses. I’m as capitalistic as they come but even I know we have to take the dollar signs out of our eyes long enough to see what we have here in Northfield is bigger, more unique and special than even the most productive industrial park can possibly provide.

    August 1, 2009
  47. kiffi summa said:

    Once again , John, IMO you have made an irrelevant argument. It is the paving over and taking out of production of farmland of that high quality that is the issue I was speaking about … a factory can make “widgets on a polluted, “dead’ piece of land as Sean points out.
    The issue is when will we learn to save/bank our good agricultural land ??? and at what cost will we try to reclaim it after we have trashed it?

    Use the pollution and reclamation (partial) of the lakes and rivers of our land as an example/instruction.

    August 1, 2009
  48. kiffi summa said:

    Thank you, Kevin.
    The only improvement I would add to your fine argument is the word “potential” in front of “industrial park” in your last line.

    August 1, 2009
  49. kiffi summa said:

    David: as to taxes, have your taxes gone down since Target has been here?

    That position … that taxes will go down when Target, or any other large Business comes … does not prove itself out.
    Look at the numbers on both your home and downtown business tax bills.

    August 1, 2009
  50. “With the big box retail there, if my mere observations of how many people actually work there are correct, it would appear that hundreds of people are being supported by the land, if you look at only the economic effect.”

    You make a good point, John, but I have a couple of objections. First off, Target and Cub produce nothing. They move money and merchandise around, but in fact, Northfield already had two much-better-located grocery stores and a general store that provided the same function.

    Second, they’re still inefficient uses of space, no matter how much more money changes hands than on a farm. A farm requires a given amount of space to produce a given amount of food, but the functionality of Target and Cub could easily have been done with a tiny fraction of the footprint — and, as Kiffi reiterated, on much lower-quality land.

    Let’s bring it back to the Spring Brook Industrial Park. While I would rather it be “somewhere else” (say 500 already-annexed acres in Greenvale Twp?), if it were to go through here, we should ask similar questions about land use. There’s been focus on the environmental effects on the stream and the buildings’ energy use, but what about the environmental impact of covering up all that land? There’s no more basic a natural resource than open space. While warehouses legitimately need a certain footprint, the concept plan shows an excessive amount of land being sold for each business lot.

    August 1, 2009
  51. David Ludescher said:

    Kevin: That’s a fine argument, but “we” don’t own the land, and “we” don’t have the burdens of ownership. We are the citizens of Northfield.

    If the majority of the citizens want to keep the land agricultural, the City should buy it, or provide the financial incentives for the farmers to keep it agricultural.

    I don’t know what keeping land agricultural is worth; but in the case of Target, we have a pretty good idea of what it would cost. I wouldn’t want to trade the $288,000 in taxes per year for 60 acres of corn. At 200 bushels per acre, the corn would have to yield a profit of $24.00 per bushel.

    August 1, 2009
  52. john george said:

    Kiffi, Sean & Kevin- I don’t think I am making “an irrelevant argument” in my comparison. There must be some return for the city to justify the cost of annexation. I am just pointing out that commercial use of land gives a greater return in tax dollars than agriculture, as David L. illustrated. I’m not saying this is a justification. I just think it is a fact of life.

    My son found some statistics about land use in one of the Landscape Architecture courses he teaches. I think there has been about 500,000 sq. miles of land that has been paved over/built upon in the last century. This, and the Army Corps of Engineer’s penchant for re-chanelling rivers to accomodate faster freight transportation, has so changed the run-off characteristics of given watersheds that it is hard to predict future flood patterns from historical data. There is really little wonder that there is so much flooding along the Red, Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

    Back to the issue at hand with the Spring Creek proposal, it seems that Northfield has not been able to attract or even keep businesses that want to expand and thereby contribute to the economic growth of the community. The reasons given so often center around available land. It seems there is a division within the community regarding future growth between making room for businesses that will increase the economic base and those who view this as a threat to the “land.”

    Another thought about how increased commerce has not lowered property taxes, I think that those who expect this to happen are believing a myth. It doesn’t matter how much tax is collected, there will always be more “future needs” for the city than anyone is aware of right now. I think this is a good lesson to observe for those discussing single payer health coverage in another stream here. Increasing the amount of people paying into a system (like increasing the tax base of a community) will not lower the costs of these services to individuals of the community if there is no decrease in the costs of the services themselves. Northfield will stand to gain more taxes out of this annexation and its developement, but it isn’t going to lower any individual’s taxes.

    August 1, 2009
  53. john george said:

    Sean- Just a thought on your comment

    First off, Target and Cub produce

    Wealth can be increased without producing any product. Cub and Target provide a service to the community in that they are able to bring products into the community for use by its citizens that cannot be normally produced here. This service has a value to its users in saved travel time and distance. It also provides jobs in the specific locations that cannot be provided through agriculture or esthetic uses. It reminds me of the lyrics to a song out of my younger years

    They took all the trees and put’em
    in a tree museum. And they charged all
    the people a dollar and a half just to

    Service does have value and it does increase wealth. We need to establish how to have the correct balance.

    August 1, 2009
  54. Patrick Enders said:

    David, you wrote,

    At 200 bushels per acre, the corn would have to yield a profit of $24.00 per bushel.

    Perhaps another boomlet in corn-based ethanol would do the trick! 🙂

    August 2, 2009
  55. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    First off, I congratulate you (David Ludescher) for raising the difficult issue of who should pay to retire farmland from the development process. Bridgewater Twp has more than a few members of it’s “tribe” who are desperately trying to preserve their rural lifestyle, and who are confronted with trading land for peace as the city grows. It is easy to see that if you want to preserve 85-90% of existing farmland as farmland, you must get enough for the land you do give up to buy out 7 to 10 acres (at least the development rights) per acre annexed. Unfortunately, they are unable to figure out how to do that trade, so every acre given to the city is a one-way transfer.

    Here’s a quick puzzle for you. Question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: one bite at a time. Question: How do you lose all your farmland? Answer: one acre at a time.

    Places like Egypt (who have a several thousand year head start on us) now find themselves importing the majority of their food and struggling to reclaim desert back to farming while at the same time they continue to turn farmland near their cities into housing and industry.

    The strong-arm solution is to just take the land from the people (so much for property rights), the just solution is to buy the development rights for a fair price and retire the land to perpetual farming (at least until we stop honoring our promises, again). The political question is how to do the later before the former becomes necessary.

    David L., your comment goes directly to the heart of this choice, are we collectivists who simply take, or are we free people who offer fair market value for what we want? I vote for freedom.

    August 3, 2009
  56. Kevin Ward said:

    Kifi, John, David…Let’s be clear also that I fully understand the need for land use that creates jobs and economic growth but we have already annexed several hundred acres, and the existing annexation agreement between Bridgewater and Northfield already allows for a couple hundred additional annexed acres over the next 10 years that will allow for rail access to developable land for whatever “green” project land use that a rail line and the city might want to build.(Yes, that was a facetious comment, I know).

    My point is that it seems excessively greedy at best and irresponsible and disrespectful to the neighbors here at worst, to think that you need more land now without even having a semblance of a master plan in place for it nor a response for those to whom your lives and quality of life you will be irreparably harming with this plan of action. Show us that the “green” development proposition isn’t just rhetoric to gain support.

    To the city I’d say back your supposition with a demonstrable plan and let the community and the residents of Northfield and Bridgewater have some input. Get some back-bone and show a little foresight into the how, what, why, and where we can and need to supply responsible growth options for the greater good of Northfield. Leave the tax argument at home. Anyone who’s actually studied the effects of increased tax revenue on homeowner and local business taxes will tell you that it’s a net-negative argument. Taxes rarely/never go down so the argument that’s always left is, “Well they didn’t/wont’ go up as much had we not developed the land the way we did.”

    This argument is no more provable or viable than the one being foisted upon the American people today by Washington regarding the various Bailouts and Stimulus packages. Job losses continue to rise, and the recession continues to deepen, yet they tell us it would have been so much worse had they not spent $3 trillion+.

    I wonder if a bank robber could use that argument in court. “Your honor, had I not stolen their money just think of all rediculous things they would have spent their money on themselves. I, in fact, saved them from themselves by doing it!” Sound familiar? “People of Northfield, had we not paved over that farmland, just think how higher your taxes would be today! And, since we are much better at managing your lands than you are (Bridgewater Township) clearly you must see the benefit of all this.”

    August 3, 2009
  57. kiffi summa said:

    Kevin; I must admit to being ashamed of the council comment about Northfield being able to manage the land better than B’water could, but consider the source of the comment.

    The only reason for Northfield to annex this land would be, IMO, for the protection of it as a natural resource, and farmland.

    Bruce: as you say in the previous comment ( 48) with your Egypt reference… when will we realize the future NEED for agricultural land as a valuable, and possibly even life sustaining, necessity?

    The council, if responsible, MUST have a discussion on this annexation based not on we WANT more land, but on what is the ultimate best position of NEED to support the possible annexation of this land.
    But ultimately it is the responsibility of the B’water residents and their elected officials to prevail in their wishes.

    August 3, 2009
  58. john george said:

    Kiffi- This may be your reason

    The only reason for Northfield to
    annex this land would be, IMO, for the
    protection of it as a natural
    resource, and farmland.

    but I don’t think it is the only reason.

    The question at the heart of annexation is whether Northfield is going to grow and how that is going to be accomplished? Are we going to provide for additional manufacturing facilities of additional housing developements? At some point in time, I think we are going to run out of former Carleton and Olaf educators who wish to retire here. One aspect of the Prairie Creek additon is that it is next to a current industrial park. It seems logical to me to concentrate industrial use in that area, if only for the convenience of services and transportation access.

    I think Kevin has a good point in his reference to a master plan. Can this plan set a direction for an area and still be flexible enough to change with future needs without being so wishy-washy that it is no plan at all?

    August 3, 2009
  59. john george said:

    Oops! This question

    Are we going to provide for additional
    manufacturing facilities of additional
    housing developements?

    should read

    Are we going to provide for additional
    manufacturing facilities or (not of)
    additional housing developements?

    August 3, 2009
  60. Barry Cipra said:

    john, what in the name of Woodstock is Joni Mitchell doing in a posting extolling the benefits of big-box development? I too recall those lyrics, especially the next few lines:

    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    August 3, 2009
  61. David Ludescher said:

    Kevin: This annexation is a request by the landowners. The market will decide if the land is “needed”. There is merit in the argument that if Northfield gets more tax dollars, it will just spend it on things like libraries and bike trails. But, at least we justify doing those nicer things.

    Lastly, I can sympathize with you. However, residences in rural areas is not a good use of farmland either. No one promised you that it would always be farmland.

    August 3, 2009
  62. Ray Cox said:

    Bruce…I’m with you. At what point do we ask “what is enough” and for what purpose? I often think the major benefactors of expanded growth in a city is the city government itself. If we don’t expand our tax base, then the city will have only one choice—increase taxes on those of us who remain here. If they do that, then we all will become quite familiar with the growth of government. So, the way to make that a bit harder to discover is for the city to grow in tax base. Then government can grow and no one is the wiser! We are now seeing some interesting twists to that idea, now that most property is falling in value. The direct result is an increase in real estate taxes while the value of your property is falling….an entirely new event for most people.
    So, is growth good…is growth necessary….???

    August 3, 2009
  63. Kevin Ward said:

    David, I fully understand that the land around me is only protected to the extent that existing agreements, zoning laws, cuilding regulations, etc allow. It’s no different than if I were to live in town and have the zoning changed on the house next door so that they could build a manufacturing plant. I realize that’s an extreme comparison but it takes me back to my original argument. I’m not foolish enough to think that change doesn’t happen and growth can be stunted. You won’t find me anywhere near the anti-growth crowd as I fully support smart, well thought out and planned growth. That’s not what this is. I understand the landowners are instigating this as is their right. What irks me and those around me is the potential for a city led land-grab mentality without so much as a basic plan in place. 1. No plan leaves our neighborhood in limbo regarding future home values, neighborhood viability, and home sellability. 2. No plan means no legit discussion on how this will affect the watersheds in the middle of this. 3. No plan means no direction, no direction means Faribault-style commercial development(It’s everywhere you look). 4. No plan means no road-impact considerations. 5. No plan means my family and others in our neighborhood are trapped. Would you buy a house in a neighborhood about to be surrounded on three sides by a “yet-to-be-planned” but zoned industrial park? Even if we wanted to sell to relocate into a non-industrial area…we will not be able to. At least with a plan, there can be a discussion as to how it should be executed so as to limit the impact on those of us in it’s path. The current agreement between Bridgewater and Northfield allows us 10years to do so.

    August 3, 2009
  64. kiffi summa said:

    Kevin , you said “”You won’t find me anywhere near the anti-growth crowd as I fully support smart, well thought out and planned growth”…

    It may surprise you to find out that’s WHY the “anti-growth” crowd is the ‘anti-growth crowd’ !

    Think it through to the best plan that supports the best principles, and serves the most need , and you have smart growth.

    You are raising all the questions that are always raised as poor planning and faulty thinking, so right now you ARE in the anti-growth crowd.


    August 4, 2009
  65. David Ludescher said:

    Kevin and Kiffi: Bruce and Ray bring up some interesting points about “smart growth”. Their responses go more toward smart government growth of public needs.

    Ray has had first hand experience with this problem in the Legislature. We need a decision rubric for public spending decisions. How do we decide if we need a $12 million, $3 million or $0.0 million expenditure for the Safety Center? What is the smartest growth?

    August 4, 2009
  66. kiffi summa said:

    David: the smartest growth for the safety center is that solution which adequately satisfies the space needs for the firemen, re-uses the existing building, and by doing both those things without overburdening the finances of the city or the taxpayers.
    And I think that would begin by acknowledging the “minority report” rather than opposing it.

    August 4, 2009
  67. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: Agreed.

    August 4, 2009
  68. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Kevn Ward says in comment #52:

    “What irks me and those around me is the potential for a city led land-grab mentality without so much as a basic plan in place.”

    Yes, that irks me too, Kevin. As you recall, the Northfield City Council voted on July 20 to move ahead with the annexation process as described by staff and, in a separate resolution, voted to waive the requirement for a concept plan. Any hope I had that the township would receive due process in the handling of this matter ended that night.

    Mayor Rossing picked up on the theme at the property walk on the trout stream the following week. When I brought up the fact that, according to the concept plan map, development would begin on the north side of the creek, I was told that was mere speculation and there was NO PLAN.

    So, the approach has changed. Yes, a consulting firm has been hired to do a “master plan” for both industrial parks. But that comes later. We need not expect environmental review either. According to the DOA planning office, an EAW may be required when a specific project comes forward. It seems that Larry Larson of Land Vista LLC will be scouting for projects for both industrial parks.

    I have been surprised at the Northfield Energy TF people who, instead of promoting green industries for the Greenvale Industrial Park, are anticipating federal money to develop the more sensitive Bridgewater site. How disillusioning.

    Fortunately, a stream protection ordinance for Spring Brook was required by the terms of the annexationi agreement and work on that is underway. Northfield won’t be able to drop the ball this time, like they did ten years ago. The jig is up.

    August 16, 2009
  69. Just a note of the addition of several relevant documents to the Bridgewater site. Supervisor Kathleen Doran-Norton has set up a Water page, primarily pertaining to Spring Brook/Rice Creek. The most critical document is the 1999 Spring Brook Committee Report.

    I’ve also tagged all blog posts related to the Gill-Prawer annexation here

    September 3, 2009
  70. Griff Wigley said:

    In the Sept 18 Friday Memo, Jody Gunderson writes:

    The Economic Development Director has been gathering information for Hoisington Koegler consultants as they prepare to begin the master planning of the proposed business park. The Economic Development Authority Board will have a joint meeting with the Master Plan Steering Committee on Thursday, September 24. The purpose of the meeting is to establish the expectations of the EDA Board and Steering Committee as the master planning process proceeds.

    September 21, 2009
  71. kiffi summa said:

    Griff : The reason you can’t find it on the city’s web page may be that it was NOT a public process, The ‘steering committee’ has been described as something requested by the consultant, and it is made up of what some might refer to as “the usual suspects”.

    The entire EDA is not on it, although they are tasked with being the lead agency on the business park development.

    Questions you might ask are: 1. Who selected the committee members? 2. Was the entire EDA privy to, and had input to, the selection process? 3. What was the consultant’s reason for wanting a committee of this nature as opposed to the EDA? 4. What will be the impact of this committee as opposed to the EDA? 5. Will this committee be a voting body, and if so how will that impact the EDA process? 6. If this is a ‘community opinion/input’ process desired by the consultant, why was it not open to application?

    When you get the answers to those six ?’s, let us all know… maybe there’ll be more…

    September 21, 2009
  72. You can attend a meeting of the EDA Master Plan/Steering Committee on Thursday @ 6 pm – it’s on the meeting notice list for the week. Members can be found in the 9/10 meeting packet: link text

    September 22, 2009
  73. kiffi summa said:

    Well, here’s one really good outcome ( there were more) from the steering committee meeting last night: Mark Koegler, owner of the HKgi consulting firm doing the Master Plan for the annexation, announced that all the meetings of the steering committee would be open to the public.
    That does not mean public input sessions, as they will be work sessions for the committee, but the public is welcome to attend and listen.

    That is a different perspective from the EDA leadership which had said, as late as yesterday in their meeting packet, that this first meeting would be public, but not successive meetings.

    Thank you, Mr. Koegler.

    There will also be at least two public input meetings along the way; my personal POV is that Mr. Koegler, having worked on a previous Master Park Plan, and a previous Comp Plan (maybe more that I am not aware of), is well aware of Northfield’s ‘personality’ and engaged citizenry, and has not only the confidence, but the expertise to provide for a good amount of public input.

    September 25, 2009
  74. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Members of Northfield Planning Commission were surprised to learn at their meeting Tuesday night that they will hold a public hearing on the proposed Gill/Prawer annexation on Tuesday, Nov. 24. They requested materials for study ASAP. That’s about ten days away and looks calculated to be sure of low attendance. Please spread the word and look for a public notice in NNews. St. Olaf break officially starts Nov. 25, but many leave the day before.

    November 11, 2009
  75. kiffi summa said:

    Stephanie: It is my impression that since the Planning Commission is  the responsible entity to hold the Public Hearing, not the Council, they can schedule it to suit their comfort level (as far as time to go over their study materials for same).

    Now that would be considered a big revolt, but I think it would be correct for them to do so, after all the Public Hearing is theirs to conduct and they should feel in command of the pertinent materials.

    After all the extreme discontent with the Land Development Code, I think they’re in a ‘testy’ mood anyway, they’ve been having extra meetings for months.

    Just a heads up: the first meeting of the Consultant Group Steering Committee and the EDA, on the “Northwest Territories” annexation  (530 Ac. in Greenvale) is from 6-8 PM tonight, Council Chambers.

    November 12, 2009
  76. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Kiffy, the Planning Commission certainly did not set the date of this hearing to suit their comfort level. The date was dumped on them at their meeting of Nov. 10.

    SEQUENCE: A NNews reporter told me on about Nov. 5 that there was a public hearing on Gill/Prawer set for Nov. 24. I checked with some Planning Commission members who knew nothing of this and did not believe such a date had been set. I then asked Joel Walinski about this after our stream protection meeting at St. Olaf on Friday, Nov. 6. He checked his calendar and confirmed the date.

    Dan Olson confirmed the date when members of the Planning Commission asked him about it at their meeting Nov. 10.

    The Planning Commission had no materials to go on at that time. If they had been able to move it to a later date they really should have, given the problem of timing it for 2 days before Thanksgiving. There was one public notice (last Saturday paper) and evidently staff thinks they have handled it correctly.

    See you the night of Nov. 24, I hope.

    November 18, 2009
  77. Griff Wigley said:

    Posted to the Nfld News today at 5 pm: EDA backs annexation proposal.

    The recommendation, which passed 4-2 at the EDA’s regular meeting, will be sent to the council for consideration.

    Board member Victor Summa and EDA Vice President Steve Engler both voted against the measure, saying that the board did not have adequate time to review the information presented to the board by city staff and ask questions. “I wasn’t voting against the proposal, I was voting against the process,” Engler said after the meeting.

    November 19, 2009
  78. Griff Wigley said:

    Sat. Nfld News: Weighing the options on a second annexation.

    At its meeting on Sept. 14, the Northfield City Council asked three of its boards and commissions to weigh in on the proposed annexation of 456 acres of land in Bridgewater Township owned by Kenneth Prawer and Robert Gill. This week, the city got its answers — from a few expected sources, and at least one unexpected one. The information the boards returned to the council will be reviewed at the Planning Commission’s meeting Tuesday.

    November 23, 2009
  79. Griff Wigley said:

    Reminder:  the Northfield Planning Commission is hosting a public hearing on Tuesday, 7 pm at City Hall re: the Gill-Prawer annexation request. Agenda and packet here.

    November 23, 2009
  80. Patrick Enders said:

    The EDA’s letter endorsing the annexation is on page 47 of the packet you linked.

    The Park and Recreation Advisory Board letter is on pages 48-49.

    The Environmental Quality Commission recommendations are on pages 50-52.

    November 23, 2009
  81. Patrick Enders said:

    Unfortunately, the unsolicited ‘Rice Creek (Spring Brook) Concerned Citizens Group’ report is not included in this PDF. The citizens group authors include Paul Jackson, chair of the Environmental Studies Department at St. Olaf College.

    Any chance of finding this report posted online for our perusal?

    November 23, 2009
  82. kiffi summa said:

    An e-mail circulating is asking people to look at an article in today’s (11.23.09)  Winona Post newspaper. The article is entitled: City Wants Closed Door Meetings with Wilson Twp. Officials”.

    The relevance here is that the attny for the city who is requesting a closed door meeting is Chris Hood, the newly selected candidate for NF City Attorney. An attorney must work for their client; that is their obligation; the question here is should that obligation go against recognized state law?

    The recognized authority on open meeting law, Mark Anfinson, says in the article that he finds it ludicrous that this would even be suggested in this instance, as it is  so clearly inappropriate in the law…

    Can I get Shakespearean ? , and say “oh, what tangled webs we weave”…

    November 23, 2009
  83. Ross Currier said:

    So, what happened at the Planning Commission-hosted Public Hearing last night?

    November 25, 2009
  84. kiffi summa said:

    Council Chamber packed to overflowing.
    Tracy did a GREAT job of handling Public Hearing; humane, which is what a PH should be.
    Very informed and eloquent comments from many people.
    Planning Commission seems to be tasked with only replying as to whether annexation synchs with Comp Plan; this …IMO… a new tactic being employed ostensibly to facilitate decision making (i.e. last weeks council decision process/packet layout on Safety Center) but in fact putting THE BIG PICTURE somewhat outside the relevant comment area requested.

    Here’s the question: Can the Planning Commission, a very principled and thoughtful group, comment on the annexation in a qualified manner which says their approval is based on the uses the land is eminently suited for and eventually put to over the next 10-50 years, and even beyond?

    November 25, 2009
  85. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    See NNews report of the hearing (p.3 of Wednesday paper). All three of my supervisors spoke. I was pleased that the Stream Protection report is available to the Planning Commission, however it is only a set of recommendations upon which to base an ordinance. Many thanks to Suzie Nakasian for pressing Brian O’Connell about having an actual ordinance drawn up. He does not want the delay, obviously.

    The committee that chose Flaherty & Hood over Maren Swanson really knew what they were doing. This firm has been doing work on annexation for Northfield for a couple years at least. They posed the language for a bill carried by Sen. Bakk to put townships at even more of a disadvantage. We fought that bill all last session.

    The Winona Post report Griff provided gives just one example of Chris Hood’s work. I suppose this firm begins working for the City of Northfield Jan. 1.

    November 26, 2009
  86. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s the Nfld News article on the hearing: 50 attend hearing on Bridgewater annexation proposal.

    The Northfield Planning Commission got an earful Tuesday night from farmers, fishermen, scientists and businessmen, all of whom were concerned about one thing: the potential annexation of land in Bridgewater Township.

    But despite a number of wide-ranging worries, some speakers at the commission’s packed public hearing over the proposed, 456-acre annexation west of the city expressed a little optimism about the project — if it is done right.

    November 28, 2009
  87. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Valuable information was presented at the hearing Nov. 24, but I have to say I was disappointed that groups like LWV and CRWP, calling for things to be “done right” but declaring themselves neither for nor against the annexation, seemed to set the tone for the evening. Individuals following them to the microphone with many questions and complaints, but did not go so far as to say they were opposed.

    And so, we have Chair Tracy Davis on KYMN Saturday morning, saying that people had concerns but only one speaker was “flat out” opposed. I guess that was me.

    To be clear, I accept annexation as a fact of life. The township and the City signed an agreement in 1999 which set the terms for annexations for the next 20 years. As Supervisor Kathleen Doran Norton said in her statement at the hearing, Sec. V says the City will not request annexation except under terms of this agreement. This annexation is in violation of our agreement and I oppose it.

    November 30, 2009
  88. kiffi summa said:

    Stephanie raises a very strong question here… How will section V of the annexation agreement be addressed?

    The flat out statement that has been made is that the agreement will have to be re-negotiated. So what should the process be?

    Should the annexation be put on hold by the City/NF, until they have discussion with the Bridgewater supervisors? Should the B’water supervisors have to poll their constitutents before they come to a conclusion with Northfield?

    If B’water, et al, does not wish to acquiesce, should NF deny the request?

    November 30, 2009
  89. kiffi summa said:

    I am using this annexation thread because I don’t where the NW territories (Greenvale 530 acres) thread is at this point…

    Hoisington Koegler, the planning consultants that have been hired by the city to master plan the 530 Acres (and additionally the Prawer-Gill properties if that annexation goes ahead) is holding a design charette today and tomorrow , at the South main building of the Community Resource Bank, and THERE IS A PUBLIC COMPONENT OF THE PROCESS FROM 4-6 PM EACH DAY. The public portion is a “pin-up session” to gather input or reaction to the initial planning ideas.

    There was virtually no promotion of the public part of this charette process although the consulting firm was clear about their intent for that to occur, and at this late time it is hoped that enough people will find out about it and become involved to benefit the process.

    December 1, 2009
  90. Tracy Davis said:

    The Planning Commission’s recommendation to the City Council on the annexation request from Bridgewater property owners is on the agenda for the 2/9 City Council meeting. I blogged the PC’s recommendation here.
    .-= (Tracy Davis is a blogger. See a recent post titled Recommendation on Bridgewater annexation request) =-.

    February 5, 2010
  91. Kiffi Summa said:

    If the council wanted to facilitate the process of annexation discussion with Bridgewater, the city could work on the relevant part of the stream protection ordinance first, get that part out of the way, and reassure the Bridgewater people that the creeks will be protected. (assuming that the ordinance is stringent enough).

    That would be a ‘good faith’ action that might satisfy at least one part of this process.

    Then, of course, there is the issue of the fact that part of this annexation area is not within the boundaries of the current annexation agreement.

    Dealing favorably for all parties with those two issues might move the entire process along…

    February 11, 2010
  92. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Yes, Kiffi, you are right on both points.

    I posted a comment on Tracy’s blog yesterday, that I will summarize here.

    I was disappointed at the 5-1 Planning Commission vote recommending the annexation on Jan. 7. If Ron Griffith and Ross Currier had been on the Commission, I dare say things would have turned out differently. And, if the violation of open meeting law had come to light earlier, more PC members might have been hesitant to rubber stamp the staff recommendation.

    The Council vote Feb. 9 was just as disappointing. Buckheit did object to the materials in the packet as more propaganda than fact, but then voted to give preliminary approval anyway. Jon Denison made the motion and Rhonda Pownell seconded it, as has become the routine.

    February 11, 2010
  93. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: I searched for an annexation thread on which to make this comment, so feel free to move it around to your best ‘use’…

    At last night’s council meeting , item#9 on the regular agenda was a motion to “Approve Annexation Policy Positions”.

    Brian O’Connell presented the issue to the council , telling them that this was an effort to present “… documented thought re: what the city thinks its position is…” and he went on to explain that he had prepared this document from his notes of the Council’s work session on annexation. He asked, “Does this document accurately reflect what we talked about that night?”

    This was a fascinating discussion for any small town politicos or policy wonks.

    The council’s new City Attorney, Chris Hood, began by saying that there are lots of contingencies or specific circumstances (re: annexations), and that there was a need to reserve discretion to remain flexible.
    He then said he did not see a need for a ‘policy’, and recommended that each annexation be looked at with specificity.

    Mayor Rossing asked if there was a need for such a policy now. Attny. Hood replied that he felt that it was better to reply on “broader principles” as a base. ( I assume he meant Comprehensive Plan, etc.)

    Councilor Denison asked for comparisons with other cities; Mr, Hood replied that TYPICALLY such policies are NOT seen in other cities, and that maybe those other cities were not as “process oriented ” as NF; the desire for a policy maybe being an outgrowth of that “process oriented” characteristic, but reiterated again, no, typically NOT seen.

    Councilor Buckheit could see a value as to establishing a baseline for policy decisions, recognizing the guidance of the Comp. Plan.
    Councilor Zweifel felt a matrix format would be more useful as an evaluation tool.
    Mayor Rossing emphasized that it was good to have a policy document that expressed the COUNCIL’S policy( i.e. speaking in a unified voice).
    Councilor Pokorney made a good point that the current issues of Waterford and Bridgewater should not be a part of this document; it should be “general”. He wanted to be sure this was not seen as “staff driven”, saying “we (council) spent over an hour ( i think he meant at their work session) discussing this subject”.

    Attny Hood reminded all that in the end, annexation is largely guided by MN statutes, and the vote was unanimous to pursue a policy document.

    A fascinating discussion…

    April 7, 2010
  94. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Tuesday April 13, is the long-awaited Northfield Council work session with Waterford Township, I believe. That should be interesting.

    Second Tuesday would ordinarily be a conflict w/Bridgewater Township monthly meeting. However, Clerk Janalee Cooper reminds me that Bridgewater has changed its monthly meeting to second Wednesday. All in all, it will be a busy week.

    April 11, 2010

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