Thoughts on Annexation in the Northwest

DairyCows.jpgI was asked by Suzanne Rook of the Northfield News for comments on the proposed annexation of land in the northwest. Some of you may have read her article in Wednesday’s paper on the joint EDA-Planning Commission Work Session last Tuesday night. It is my expectation that she is writing a piece for Saturday’s paper.

Several of the people who read my comments have asked me to post the complete statement on Locally Grown. I have done so below.

There will be a public hearing on the issue at next Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.

Suzanne –

You asked for my take on the upcoming annexation request. I will attempt to briefly summarize my perspective. I would also suggest that you directly contact the other two-thirds of the “Troublesome Trio”, Ron Griffith and Alice Thomas, who, along with myself, continue to ask questions about this request. You might also want to speak to the Chair, Greg Colby.

I have served on the Planning Commission for five years. During that time, I have learned that one of the most alarming actions, if not THE most alarming, the Planning Commission can take is going against perhaps the most primary and important document of the Commission, the Future Land Use Map.

When the concept of this annexation request was first introduced to the Planning Commission, almost all of the land being considered was located outside of the city’s Priority Growth Area. Best Practices indicate that a city should use up the available land (in our case, several hundred acres) before annexing in additional land. Generally, the answer to such a request would be a straight-forward “no”. We, I guess I’m referring to the “Troublesome Trio”, have just been, at least in my mind, asking for the compelling reasons for which we should ignore the standard and recommended procedures and grant the request.

Over the past year, the land for which annexation is being requested has been back-filled with additional acres so that now about 40% of the land is within the Priority Growth Area. The total area now being considered is 530 acres. Folks with a history in this area have suggested that it is the largest request in anyone’s memory.

As you may have heard in the two joint EDA-Planning Commission Work Sessions that you attended (I’m not sure that you were at the the first of three, back about a year ago), everyone agrees that Northfield needs additional commercial land, for tax base and job creation. At least according to my sense of the situation, it has been the Planning Commission’s unspoken agreement that we would only annex land for commercial purposes, at least for the foreseeable future.

The City Council, about a year ago, voted to sweep aside the usual requirement that there be a Concept Plan for any land annexed into the city. Therefore, the Planning Commission has been forced to consider this request with only a colored pencil drawing representing, I guess, a vague idea of how the land might be developed. As you may have noted in the staff’s report, “The applicant will not be required to adhere to the concept plan”.

This apparently meaningless drawing shows about 30% of the land being developed as office space, 25% of the land being developed as mixed-use or housing, 25% as light industrial, 10% as retail and 10% as public space. The land to be developed as light industrial, what we’ve been told for about two years is Northfield’s greatest need, doesn’t even occur until Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the project. I can’t speak for the rest of the Commission but at least for me, if we’re going to “break the rules”, we should only do so with the assurance that the end result will be the meeting of the community’s greatest need.

Then there is the size of the parcel being considered for annexation. The City’s Comprehensive Economic Development Plan says we need 120 acres. The EDA has told us that they disagree and that we need 220 acres. The Chamber of Commerce has argued that we need 200 to 300 acres. I hesitate to speak for the “Troublesome Trio”, but I think we’ve just been asking for the data on which they base their recommendations which differ so substantially from the CEDP. Again, I would be more comfortable “breaking the rules” if the reasons were clear and explicit.

At least for me, it comes down to wanting to hear the compelling reasons for “breaking the rules” for this particular parcel, I would like to hear the basis for annexing in almost four times the recommended amount, and I would like to hear how the ultimate decision-makers, the City Councilors, are going to assure that this land be used for light industrial and not housing.

I hope this statement has been helpful to you. If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Thanks much,



  1. Anne Bretts said:

    So what alternative sites for 120 or 200 or 300 acres lie within the appropriate comp plan designation? Who is asking for the annexation? Have they given no reasons at all for the request?
    It would really help if you could fill in the blanks a bit.

    April 25, 2008
  2. Tracy Davis said:

    Ross, thank you for posting your thoughts. As you know, I’ve tried to schedule any of my necessary travel between Planning Commission meetings, but as it’s turned out, the process delays will result in my missing two very important meetings – last Tuesday’s, and May 6 – so it was most helpful to read through your thought process, and consider the issues and values that need to be weighed in making this decision on annexation.

    My single largest concern is that we MUST choose some mechanism for designating any land annexed in this area so that it is used for its intended purpose (commercial) and not sold to a residential developer who can make a sweeter offer to the landowner after the land becomes part of the municipality.

    April 26, 2008
  3. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Ross. I agree that the policy change eliminating the Concept Plan requirement and disregarding the Future Land Use Plan should set the red flags waving.

    I was Planning Commission Chair during the last annexation boom during 2000-2002 when the Planning Commission recommended caution, especially as our Comprehensive Plan was being revised, but the Council acted to annex several hundred acres (which seemed large at the time, but shrinks in comparison to the current request) for residential development. My own red flag in this deal is that the city’s plans are currently being revised and pushing this annexation through before new, substantially changed, land use regulations are adopted is potentially suspicious or, at least, will be likely to raise questions about grandfathering non-conforming uses.

    I’ll be at the hearing, but I hope the Troublesome Trio and their Four Friends on the Commission will demand (and continue the hearing until they get) answers to these questions:

    1. “Bruce Morlan questions” quantifying the the impact on the waste water treatment.

    2. Has the city done a detailed fiscal impact analysis of the proposed development including a projection of the infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, electric, gas) construction and maintenance costs, costs of servicing the new development (police, fire, etc.), as well as estimating of the revenue to be derived from the project (property taxes, fees, etc.). And could these numbers be made public?

    3. Has the city assessed the environmental impact of this development? Does it impinge on park and open space planning efforts now underway?

    4. If this development planned to create more jobs? How many and what impact will these workers have on housing, school district, library, and other city resources? Are the costs to the city for providing additional services met by additional tax base (and how does the city know)?

    5. Why now rather than after the new comp plan and land use regulations are adopted?

    And, I’d like to see the Commission consider the political impacts. It’s not your job to answer the political questions, but knowing that providing additional land for commercial development is an identified need in the community, that business leaders and the EDA back the plan and, as a result, the Council is going to feel pressure to approve this request, what alternative recommendations can the Commission propose which might be politically palatable but not just allow the annexation without additional controls?

    I agree that Northfield needs more land for commercial/industrial development…but that doesn’t mean that any proposal to acquire it has merit. We need more data.

    Good luck and keep up the good work.

    April 26, 2008
  4. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: The landowners are only making one request – to be annexed into the City of Northfield. Being annexed does not grant them any development rights, nor any right to city services.

    There are substantial advantages to granting the annexation request:

    1. All other annexations, at this time, have to be hostile.
    2. Some of the land has already been designated as a good locale for business development.
    3. The transportation system there is better than any other direction, except south where Northfield is already up against the City of Dundas.
    4. Additional available land will make infill development more likely because there would be more land on the market to compete. It will also open up the possibility that other surrounding landowners will want to compete.
    5. If Northfield waits for a business opportunity to annex, (e.g. College City Beverage), there is not enough time to go through the political process to accommodate the request.
    6. If the landowners change their mind, we won’t even be able to consider the request.
    7. If Northfield doesn’t grant this request, it will be hard to convince the business community that Northfield is serious about business development.

    Here are some considerations that are premature to address:

    1. How will it be zoned? The Planning Commission can decide later.
    2. Will it be economically feasible? That is the EDA’s issue.
    3. Will future leaders change our plans? If necessary, yes.
    4. Is it more than we planned? Annexation and development are different.
    5. Will it change the character of “our” town? Not as long as they keep planting corn on it.
    6. What about the wetlands? They will still be wet after annexation.

    The only downside I heard to annexation at the meeting was that Northfield would have to maintain the roads (and ditches?) without any corresponding monetary benefit.

    April 26, 2008
  5. kiffi summa said:

    Good Comments, Ross.
    There are a lot of unanswered questions on this one:
    * If the TIP plan recommended 120 Ac. for a biz park, how did we move up to 530 Ac. ? (especially remembering that NF is only about 1700

    * The Chamber moved their desired amount up to about 220 Ac. initially; how did they then move to 530?

    * Are there other reasons to annex this land besides for Comm/Indust. use? i.e. to preserve or protect it from”wrongful” development?

    * Why has a concept plan for the development been waived in this instance by the City Council? They said cost to the applicant, but this is a major step to take, and should involve carefully assessed knowledge of the benefits to Northfield, not concessions to the landowners.

    * How is residential development “out there” to be avoided? It is closer to the highway and that’s an attractive selling point for a developer; however the Planning Commission has said “No more housing now; we are oversupplied”. And, disturbingly , part of the area is marked for residential development on one of the maps.

    * At the joint EDA/PC meeting last week, the idea was presented that it was all 530 Ac or zero. Again, why this huge amount? and what would the owners do with this land if not all annexed now? At some point it will be annexed , but all say for the time being they wish to continue farming.

    * Staff has repeatedly said that the point of most control for the city is at the time of annexation, because it can be accepted or rejected, based on the concept plan. REMEMBER, no concept plan is being required by the council. Is this looking out for Northfield’s interests?

    *** Lastly, why is this a wise thing to do before the completion of the new Comp Plan? Why is it not more efficient for Northfield to adjust the urban expansion boundary to include this area that the landowners are willing to have annexed , DESIGNATING it on the Future Land Use Map for Comm/Industrial, and in that way gaining Jurisdiction over its future annexation, and the uses the land is put to, for the best benefit to the community ?

    April 27, 2008
  6. Thus far, there are very few comments and opinions on this very important subject, especially in view of the meeting on Tuesday. I think that this is because so few people (me not included) understand it, don’t know what or how to ask questions, yet are very concerned. May I approach it from another direction even if it exposes my naivety, lack of civics 101, etc.

    Recently, Elko and Newmarket merged into one ‘unit’. Why and how ie what does it mean?

    Fifty years from now, Northfield, Dundas, Greenvale, Bridgewater, and presumably Waterford will be one ‘unit’. What is the normal procedure from getting there from here?

    Presumably, annexation means that the landowner is now permitted to sell his land to a developer under the scrutiny of the City and hopefully in the best interests of the community as understood by the Council.

    So, I suppose my question is…why annex, why not merge? Then during this rather long political process, take a new inventory of everything and look fifty years ahead.

    April 27, 2008
  7. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    Just a few thoughts:

    If a client asks to see what land is available to build their corporate office or plant, and the land is not annexed to the City, they will not even come to look at Northfield. Our hands are tied. Planning for the future needs to be done now.

    If a current business is experiencing growing pains, how do we address their needs?

    Development agreements as well as zoning address the majority of the concerns listed and noted here.

    The pretty drawings…were done to help paint a picture of what could be. It was never provided as a means to “pick apart” nor paint a “blue sky” picture. In fact the developers have a series of drawings that coukd work based on the market demands. These designs were based on numerous successful developments in mind in addition to the wants and needs of a growing community. The future markets are diffiuclt to predict. The need for buffering and green space will be addressed as the development moves forward.

    There have been a series of financial cost and revenue analysis reports done….over and over again.

    I hope this answers a few of the comments noted here.

    April 27, 2008
  8. kiffi summa said:

    Charlene is correct in saying: “Development agreements as well as zoning address the majority of the concerns listed and noted here”.

    However, The concern on that issue is that it has been, in the past, difficult to get land use regs put in place which protect, yes protect, the community’s vision. And the city council often overrules the Planning Commission, which although it is their right to do, is not very “representative” of them if there have been large public outcries at the PC’s public hearing.

    So there is a strong “public” apprehension of what will happen if all is left to the development agreements and zoning ordinances.

    What still is not addressed is the growth of this recommended increase of land for Comm/Industrial from 120 Acres to 530 Acres. Any landowner who is approached by a developer who wishes to be in the city, will apply to the city for the land to be annexed. Dare I mention the Hanson/Target annexation?

    There is too much being made of the need for this land to be actually annexed, rather than jurisdictionally controlled.

    P.S. Since Brian O’Connell speaks as Community Development Director, for both the EDA and the Planning Commission, how can the goals of both groups be fairly represented?

    April 27, 2008
  9. David Henson said:

    Norman – you hit the nail on the head that few people understand this issue.

    I would think most people choose to live in Northfield because of the aesthetics of the community. But in all discussions over land use there seems to be a tension between practicality and aesthetics in development. This probably stems from no strong overriding vision among citizens for what Northfield wants to become. Having a strong “generally accepted and understood” vision would increase the land values, the tax values and the aesthetic value.

    I put quotes around “generally accepted and understood” because although many well meaning documents have been created regarding Northfield development I do not think they are strong tools for building a “generally accepted and understood” vision for development.

    My suggestion would be more focus on drawings of what Northfield wants – 1) this is what we want for housing 2) this is what we want for commercial, etc. Maybe even an architectural contest displayed at the historic society where citizens could vote on what styles of development they find appealing. If the council put up a $10,000 prize that would probably get tons of architects thinking about Northfield which would pay big dividends as a marketing opportunity for the city.

    Another suggestion that might work well with Locally Grown would be a citizen rating opportunity for concept & built developments (like Norman’s back patio addition which should get a 10/10). This would help developers understand and profit from knowing what Northfield likes and what it does not like (the web as an information tool allows direct citizen input in a way that can enhance committee structures which are in fact also an information tool).

    April 27, 2008
  10. David Ludescher said:

    All this annexation request does is move the boundary line of Northfield. It has no effect upon zoning other than putting the zoning ability into Northfield’s hands. My read on the Planning Commission was that their objections were primarily personal.

    April 27, 2008
  11. Jane Moline said:

    Norman, some basic responses to your questions, which answers you may know but others might find helpful.

    Dundas and Northfield are different “units” (as they are municipalities,) from Bridgewater, Northfield Township and Greenvale, which are Townships. Different rules apply to municipalities and townships.

    Elko/New Market were two municipalities that merged. This was very unusual. Muncipalities annex property from townships as needed, which decreases the land in the township and increases the municipality, but rarely do two municipalities see eye-to-eye enough to make merging possible, and it would not be practical to completely merge a township unless the township has already been shrunk by annexation.

    Municipalities (supposedly) have the structure to protect their citizens and make for orderly development. (Townships less so, and this is why Bridgewater has adopted zoning in order to protect its residents against what might be County micro-management of allowing unwanted industry in the township.)

    Most municipalities will never merge. Just as there is a Minneapolis, St. Paul, Edina, Richfield, etc. each municipality may wish to maintain its independence even if it is “land locked.”

    Sometimes we join in “joint powers” agreements when different entities have the same goal.

    Cities can annex land from townships without the townships agreement or permission. This can be contentious, so townships may form agreements with the city to smooth the process, and to guarantee that the township gets something for its loss. However, the township cannot stop a municipality from annexing the land that is contiguous to that city’s border. (They can make it uncomfortable, but they cannot stop it.)

    When a land owner requests annexation, as in the case of the land in this discussion, it is a unique opportunity for the city that may be fleeting–so Northfield may want to take a good look at what it is turning its nose up at–because later it might not be available or economical to annex.

    If Northfield has an annexation agreement with the township in question, it may need to look at whether it is affordable and practical to annex.

    The question of whether Northfield can afford to supply services to that property is certainly premature. Northfield would block development if the development would not pay for the services, so it is somewhat of a moot point.

    It may be practical for the townships to plan for eventually being taken over by the surrounding cities, but that is certainly not what the residents of the township want. The municipality will always have the power invested by the state over a township–which is to annex their land under “orderly annexation” rules.

    We should be planning for the practical expansion of our municipalities and that is what the “plans” are for. The question is whether the annexation of this property will negate or make a mess of the current plans. Obviously some think it will interfere with current plans.

    April 27, 2008
  12. Curt Benson said:

    Kiffi, I think you got your numbers wrong in your post #6. The size of Northfield is 4480 acres (7 sq miles x 640/acres per square mile), not 1700 acres. Thus the requested 530 acres for annexation is a bit more than 10% of Northfield’s current area.

    April 27, 2008
  13. Kathleen Doran-Norton said:

    Here’s how Dundas and Bridgewater Township approached industrial development.

    The Dundas-Bridgewater annexation agreement allows specific, reasonable industrial development proposals without any acreage llmit for the next 27 years. It is one of the reasons why the College City Beverage development went through smoothly. From our township’s perspective, this scenario encourages the city to grow in a balanced way, adding jobs for both city and township residents and an industrial tax base which benefits the city. Healthy industrial development creates a healthy city.

    That same annexation agreement puts acreage limits on residential growth thus discouraging residential sprawl, hop-scotch development, and over-extended municipal utilities, which is expensive to taxpayers. Compact growth also creates a healthy city, and conserves farmland and natural resources for current use, and future benefits.

    April 27, 2008
  14. Jane Moline said:

    Except that you could not get more hop-scotchy than the Bridgewater Heights development, which also over-extends municipal utilities, which is expensive to Dundas taxpayers, so I guess that agreement doesn’t work that well for Dundas.

    April 27, 2008
  15. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Thanks Kiffi, for itemizing many of the questions which should be both asked and answered.

    For Charlene: where can we read the cost/revenue analyses? My experience on the Planning Commission and now as just an interested citizen is that the analysis stated in staff reports at public hearings or described by staff is general at best. Please share the numbers with us.

    David L – You’re technically correct about what annexation accomplishes. However, your true comment does not address the questions: why this much land and why right now before land use regulations are completed?

    I’m not opposed to annexation or development per se, but because the consequences (both positive and negative) are large and because annexation is the point of maximum discretion for the Council, annexation is also the point at which these issues must be discussed and answers provided.

    April 28, 2008
  16. Christine Stanton said:

    Is there any way someone could post the proposed site drawings for this proposal?

    April 28, 2008
  17. David Ludescher said:

    Betsy: Why this much land – because that is the owners’ request – 530 acres, Why right now – because now is when the owners made the request, and I am fairly certain that the request is time-sensitive. This is a completely different situation than when landowners make an annexation request because they have a development project that they want to pursue.

    Northfield can’t zone the land until it is within their jurisdiction. Once it is annexed, then Northfield can discuss zoning and cost/benefit analysis.

    If we fiddle around and the landowners withdraw their petition, or if we don’t accept their petition, we may not get another opportunity for a voluntary annexation.

    One of the true advantages of this request is that it allows Northfield to “skip” over St. Olaf’s land.

    April 28, 2008
  18. Ross,

    Thanks for opening this discussion in advance of tomorrow night’s Planning Commission meeting. This is a critically important decision for the community, and deserves full examination.

    I want to say up front that I recognize that Northfield needs additional commercial and industrial development (both expansion of existing businesses and attraction of new businesses) to diversify and strengthen the tax base and increase employment opportunities in the community. However, that does NOT mean that any and all proposals to facilitate commercial/industrial development should be accepted uncritically. I know that there are those who will say (and have already said) that a “no” to this annexation would be a clear indication to the business community that Northfield is not business-friendly, but I think there is a world of difference between being business-friendly and letting business call all the shots.

    I share the concerns you raise, Ross, and agree with a number of the comments above (particularly those of Betsey in comment #3 and Kiffi in comment #6). A few particulars that I would like to add follow.

    From page 2 of the staff packet for tomorrow night’s meeting:

    • “The Urban Expansion Area is a planning boundary first established by Rice County in an attempt to direct growth to urban centers, thus preserving the rural, agricultural atmosphere of the County. The City of Northfield established a similar boundary in Dakota County in an effort to anticipate future urban growth (Pages 7-27).
    • The Priority Growth Area is a 20-year supply of developable land, which will accommodate forecasted household growth as well as commercial and industrial demand based on historical absorption rates and regional market demand. During the process of estimating land needs to 2020, a 50% overage was calculated into the total land demand to allow for fluctuations in the market place and unanticipated spikes in land demand (Pages 7-27).”
    1. The 530-acre annexation covers a huge area of prime farm land at a time when world food supply is under intense pressure. This is essentially all flat, fertile, productive soil. This 530 acres would increase the City’s geographic area by 13% (from the existing 4,097 acres per Table 1.5 in the “Built Environment” chapter of the draft revised Comp Plan). The same table indicates that there remain 253 acres of vacant land and 2,121 acres of ag land within the Priority Growth Area. 90 acres of the proposed annexation (that owned by St. Olaf) would not be developed in the forseeable future. Only about 120 acres of the remaining land in the proposed annexation is within the City’s identified Priority Growth Area from the 2001 Comp Plan, and 320 acres falls outside the Priority Growth Area. In other words, 73% of the land likely to be developed in the annexation area lies OUTSIDE the Priority Growth Area, which in itself includes 50% overage to take into account the possibility of long-term red-hot development pressure.
    2. The corner of the proposed annexation closest to town (the southeast corner) is more than three miles from downtown Northfield, more than one mile from the nearest residential neighborhood within existing city limits, and would require crossing one-half mile of undeveloped St. Olaf land with infrastructure. Northfield has spoken, through extensive public input in the Comprehensive Plan revision process, in favor of compact development. In particular, the Land Use Principles (adopted by the City Council on July 16, 2007), include the following:
      • Principle 3: The preference for accommodating future growth is in infill locations, then redevelopment opportunities, and then on the edge of existing developed areas. (I must stress again that in no meaningful sense is this site even “on the edge of existing develooped areas.”)
      • Principle 9: Rural character of certain areas of the Community will be protected.  The rural character is a defining element in creating Northfield’s identity. It provides the setting for the “small town” character. The primary elements that make up this character are the rural roads, expansive agrarian views, and rural architectural vernacular. The open space and land currently in agricultural use in the Community will be strengthened, and protected where appropriate.” The proposed annexation seems completely out of step with these formally adopted Land Use Principles.
    3. At a time of soaring gasoline, diesel and petroleum prices, uncertain future supplies of petroleum and uncertain future transportation priorities (will industry and commercial interests prefer more-efficient rail transport to truck transport, for example, in a world where diesel prices are sky-high?), is it prudent to put all of our commercial/industrial eggs in this particular basket remote from the rest of the community, with good highway/interstate access but no rail access?

    In summary, I would need to see a lot of compelling information that has not yet been made public to be convinced of the wisdom of annexing land primarily outside the Priority Growth Area, in a remote location, at a time when there is very low market demand for land, and every indication that the majority of the community prefers more compact growth. Of course, it’s not my decision, but the Planning Commission’s (and ultimately the City Council’s). May you all decide wisely!

    I look forward to a lively meeting tomorrow night!



    April 28, 2008
  19. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    In answer to Jane Moline (comment #14), the Bridgewater Heights annexation came up BEFORE we had an annexation agreement w/Dundas. It was, indeed, a nightmare without adequate planning for roads (Cty 1 entrance and at 115th, in particular) or sewer and water. I doubt Dundas residents realized what the consequences would be, in higher taxes.

    Bridgewater Township began working on an annexation agreement w/Dundas as a result, and hopefully there will not be a repeat of the “hopscotch” effect in the 27 years remaining of our agreement. Giving industrial land free of the yearly quota I consider a mistake. Who can say what is “reasonable.” I trust current Mayor Chad Marks and the Dundas Council will make good judgment calls, but who knows what future leaders will do. The township has 3 seats (out of 7) on the Dundas Planning Commission, which is some comfort.

    It is imperative that anyone who cares about the future of Northfield come to the public hearing tomorrow night at City Hall and get complete details on the plan for a “business park” by the hospital.

    April 28, 2008
  20. Jane McWilliams said:

    Great comments, folks. I hope you’ll all prepare them for the hearing – in writing or for oral testimony. This is a HUGE decision, and the Planning Commission must be encouraged to look at it from every angle. I haven’t been to the meetings, David (post #10), so I don’t know what you mean about the commissioners’ objections being personal. I think we each should make statements which are based on our reading of current planning and use policies and encourage the commission to make decisions based on the same.

    David, I remember your comment at the first Comprehensive Plan public meeting about our needing to consider tax base and business development as part of our planning process, and as I told you at the time, I agree these are a critical needs in Northfield. The big question, is how best to achieve these goals.

    In my mind, it is unfortunate that this has come up before the council has had a chance to approve the revised Comprehensive Plan.

    April 28, 2008
  21. David Ludescher said:

    St. Olaf has a has a 90 acre request -land that it does not intend to develop. So clearly, annexation does not mean the land will be developed; in fact, it gives Northfield more development control than if it lies outside the Northfield boundary.

    April 28, 2008
  22. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    Much of the financial work included numerous assumptions. How much commercial, industrial, dare I even mention any housing, and then what size buildings, what about the market, supply demand, etc., there is much to be determined.

    Every time a series of drawings were looked at, (15 actually were done so far) the drawings changed the calculations.

    So, one needs to determine, what numbers are you seeking? Revenue dollars generated from the taxes, or is it just the cost that are associated with the infrastructure or developing the property?

    I am not sure how many tables or series of numbers were run on each location or with each drawing. I only know the cost of money and time changes often. The use in each building and how it is built is difficult to determine. Thus no matter how you run the numbers, someone will have something to say about the assumptions made. This puts a damper on any numbers you create. If you make these numbers a matter of public record….then again, I am not sure anyone has the ability to forcast the cost of materials or labor over such a long period of time.

    If you build a 100,000 square foot building, and it is just a shell for basic warehouse operations, the cost will be much less than a building used as a call center. Those numbers could increase tremendously per square foot. So again, what assumtions do you place in your calculation? The blue sky dream of building only corporate offices that bring the value of land up tremendously? Do you mix up the buildings and create a diverse economic base?

    It is my understanding that the calculations were based on the current tax base and numbers for Northfield. Meaning, the current values for each category of what we currently have was used. One can then argue is that the correct approach?

    Again, running numbers and making assumptions based on the next 20-30 years is a very difficult task and one that will not win everyone over. There is to much room for error.

    I think the bottom line here is, Is the City willing to annex based on the hope for opportunities and proper development for the future and a willing person looking to annex? Yes or no? That is the real question.

    April 28, 2008
  23. Jane Moline said:

    Stephanie, (#20), the Bridgewater Heights was part and parcel of the annexation agreement with the township. The annexation agreement was done in July of 04 and the annexation of Bridgewater Heights was December of 04.

    The annexation agreement between Dundas and Bridgewater unfairly favors Bridgewater–there was no advantage for Dundas. The elected officials who worked on the agreement were absolutely working for the benefit of the Bridgewater Heights development. The taxpayers of Dundas lost out, and the taxpayers of Rice County when we have to pay for the improved roads. It is an example of a poorly planned, disastorous development that the orderly annexation rules were supposed to prevent, and which rules were circumvented by having an “agreement” between Dundas and Bridgewater Township.

    My point is that Kathleen Doran-Norton is praising an agreement that has NO BENEFIT for the citizens of Dundas, and in fact, harmed the city and the county. It should not be used as template for Northfield except to identify what NOT to do.

    However, I hate to agree with David Ludescher just because I hate to agree with him, but I think he is right–when the property owner comes to request annexation, the city better listen as it is a great time to bring property into the control and planning of the city. That does not mean that the city has to allow the development of that land–Bruce Anderson is also right that planning for industrial acres away from rail access limits the market.

    This land could be brought into the city limits and zoned agricultural or open land, or whatever. It does have good truck transportation access for industrial (and would thus have been a better location for MOM warehouse than Faribault–at least for us.)

    April 28, 2008
  24. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Charlene, I understand that all calculations depend on assumptions about what could happen. Indeed, educating the council and planning commission, as well as the public, about those assumptions is critical.

    Charlene said:

    I think the bottom line here is, Is the City willing to annex based on the hope for opportunities and proper development for the future and a willing person looking to annex? Yes or no? That is the real question.

    No, I disagree. The real questions are

    • whether land being considered for annexation is suitable for the anticipated development
    • whether anticipated future development is consistent with the city’s planning documents regarding land use, transportation, environmental protection, wastewater, etc.
    • if projections (which I hope are based on data rather than just hope) for revenue and cost are reasonable and demonstrable.

    We need to see a summary of the assumptions and the results before this decision is made.

    April 29, 2008
  25. kiffi summa said:

    DaveL: If this is a “completely different situation than when landowners make an annexation request because they have a development project they wish to pursue” … then it seems to me that the landowners, NOT being pushed by a live contract, would be glad to wait until the new Comp plan is done and the new zoning regulations are in hand.

    Why would it not suit their purposes just as well to be ID’d in the Priority Growth Area of the Urban Expansion Boundary, and since they want to continue farming for now, as they have stated, wait until a more hospitable climate for their annexation request exists?

    If it is as you say, then patience would seem to be a virtue.

    April 29, 2008
  26. Jane Moline said:

    Kiffi, I am jumping in here and I am sure David will respond. However, as a landowner I know that whether your land is in or out of the city limits defines how you market that land.

    If the city of Northfield ever plans to grow, which is a reasonable assumption, and if it will ever grow to the North and West, which is also a reasonable assumption, why would you deny annexation of land into the city at the request of the landowner?

    It is almost as if you are protecting the planning commission from actually having to think and plan.

    There is no harm to the city in annexing land (except in the case of Dundas-Bridgewater where an onorous agreement puts penalties on the city). The city does not lose out on anything by annexing bare land.

    April 29, 2008
  27. David Ludescher said:

    Jane: You don’t have to agreee with me. I will agree with you.

    April 29, 2008
  28. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    In answer to Jane Moline, an orderly annexation agreement takes months to years of work to accomplish. Bridgewater Township, as I recall, would not sign off on the annexation for the Target complex until the agreement w/Nfld was complete and agreed upon.

    Same with the annexation agreement w/Dundas except that it took much longer in negotiations. Yes it’s very possible the annexation agreement may have been finalized in July with formal annexation in December. But I never had the sense that our township favored the residential project. Far from it.

    Too bad Greenvale has no annexation agreement in place. They had a short-term agreement w/Nfld to bring in the new hospital, a St. Olaf senior housing project and a Pavek residential development for a total of something over 200 acres. The sewer/water is extended to those parcels, but what of sewer capacity for an additional 530-acre business park? That question will surely come up tonight. Hard to calculate if actual proposals are not known, I suppose….

    I agree that the new Nfld Comp Plan should be in place before decision made on this 530-acre piece. But, my experience with Northfield is that they don’t like to be bothered with process considerations.

    I would hate to see a repeat of the I-35 fiasco, with over 1000 acres rezoned for highway commercial in the Rice County Land Use Map and no infrastructure. Landowners are in limbo.

    April 29, 2008
  29. kiffi summa said:

    Jane: I am totally in agreement with the concept of needing some land for this type of development, I understand the farmers’s desire to be able to farm for as long as they wish to , and have the option of selling their land when the opportunity arises ….we all need to make the best deal we can on what is usually any individual’s largest asset, i.e., the real property they own, house, land, whatever … but question the need to do this before the Comp Plan is completed.

    No one has stated the necessity re: the timing. Therefor when the council has waived a fullscale concept plan, it begs the question of this being the best time for the CITY’s interest to annex; how would it disadvantage the landowners to have this land all in the Urban Expansion Boundary AND designated as Priority growth Area? What am I missing here, does that not give both sides of the deal workable controls?

    I’m for designation, not annexation, hoping to give both the landowners and the city, as represented by the PC, a win-win.

    April 29, 2008
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News: Groups say not annexing would harm city.

    Margit Johnson, a former Planning Commission member, said that while the city needs new businesses, land needs to be annexed for industrial, and not commercial, use. A decade ago the commission tried to balance the city’s residential and commercial development, but within months of a rezoning that allowed industry at the corner of Hwy. 3 and County Road 1, Target pushed forward a change to the plan, bringing lower-paying jobs than an industrial park would fetch.

    April 30, 2008
  31. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Margit’s warning was key. Of the other comments, Kiffy Summa’s stands out to me. She read from her notes of the July 9 City Council meeting where realtor Larry Larson of Land Vista LLC (company owned by Kevin Green) came with his proposal. Cashman asked where this was coming from. This is outside the process of the ordinance. Administrator Roder said it does not meet the letter of the law. O’Connell said that was most importantly in regard to a concept plan. Cashman spoke again. (He?) said without a concept plan, they were asking for trouble. The Mayor asked how to proceed. O’Connell suggested a modified plan w/topography, etc. Arnie Nelson remarked that as a builder he was (in disbelief) they would consider an annexation without a concept plan. Cashman asked there be a protective agreement that land owners would abide by the Comp Plan. Vote was unanimous.

    Kiffy named page and section (I assumed to be from staff report in the Planning Commmission packet), saying there is no mention of the friendly amendment. She asked staff if they had such a letter from the landowner. She said she hoped it was just an error (oversight). She asked the Planning Commission to get the tape and watch it. It showed the serious concerns of the Council and (Brian) O’Connell.

    April 30, 2008
  32. William Siemers said:

    I attended last night’s meeting for a couple of hours and was impressed by the speakers. There seemed to be agreement among the serious participants that annexing a large parcel is not a bad idea. Opposition, aside from procedural matters which went over my head, seemed to be based on what might happen on the property in question. Speakers with reservations mentioned, big box retailers, or residential sprawl, or ‘commercial’ development of any kind.

    I don’t quite understand why there are these concerns if zoning can be used to prohibit these kinds of ‘negative’ development after the land is annexed. Is it because citizens do not trust the city council to maintain the desired zoning? If so, wouldn’t that then be a concern on any parcel, anywhere, inside or outside the city? That seems to be a risk inherent with representative government. Assuming incompetence (or worse) on the part of our elected officials will surely doom any development.

    April 30, 2008
  33. David Ludescher said:

    William: I think your assessment is correct. Margit Johnson’s “cautionary” tale about Target actually tells two stories. If I recall correctly, Margit was chair of the Planning Commission at the time. At the time, there was no provision in the zoning regulations permitting a big box retailer to locate in Northfield.

    As a member of the City Council, we twice asked the Planning Commission to provide input on zoning changes that would permit a big box retailer to locate in Northfield. Twice the Planning Commission responded that they were unable to do the task assigned to them. The City Council then undertook the task of doing the zoning regulations ourselves.

    Before the City Council could complete its process, the citizens initiated a referendum to change the zoning to permit a Target. It passed.

    The cautionary tale for the Planning Commission is that they need to think about the greater good of the community, and make planning decisions based upon what is needed for the community, not their individual (bobo?) preferences. We now have Target, and that is good because that is what the people wanted.

    The Planning Commission needs to trust that future decision-makers will be as competent as they are. They don’t need to tie future decision makers hands. Rather, they need to provide the vision that makes multiple options possible.

    May 1, 2008
  34. kiffi summa said:

    David L: I’m sorry, nothing but a differing opinion is meant; but your cursory explanation of the process surrounding the “T” process is so incomplete, and expressed with such (IMHO) bias, that it cannot be meaningful to understanding that process, and only contributes to a general misunderstanding that is beginning to build itself as “History” .

    I did the liaison work, with their attorney, for the 8 Northfield citizens who sued the City, over the process, and the violation of the existing Comp Plan, and the presumed violation of the MN Environmental Rights Act. So I feel I am somewhat qualified to speak on this issue. That suit was not without merit, and stood the chance, in the eyes of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, of being a test case for the entire country, which is why they joined with an amicus brief at the application to the MN Supreme Court level. Unfortunately the MN S.C. refused to hear the case, which was somewhat expected. Once Target was allowed to join the case, on the side of the city, it was sort of like 8 citizens suing the state and Northwest Airlines.

    This annexation bears little resemblance to that former situation. I would just say that I hope the City does everything correctly this time; when the Bridgewater land was annexed for the Target development, a letter was put in the state’s permanent files that stated although the annexation was approved by the state office, there were some serious problems with it’s procedures.

    I only revisit the Target situation because you brought it up, and I thought were in danger of creating a false history.

    May 1, 2008
  35. Tracy Davis said:

    David – please remember that the Target referendum barely passed.

    “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
    – Thomas Jefferson


    May 1, 2008
  36. Tracy Davis said:

    And just to forestall any misunderstanding before its time – I’m generally in favor of this proposed annexation. But the devil is in the details, and following the proper process is crucial.

    ‘Nuff said for now.

    May 1, 2008
  37. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: I only brought up the Target issue because Margit used it as a “cautionary” tale, and others have referred to it as the key to their objections. The caution to the Planning Commission is: if you don’t act, the Council, or even the people are prepared to act without you. The City only has 60 days to make a decision. If the Planning Commission tries the same tactic they did in 1998, then they won’t have a voice in what happens.

    With regard to the 8 people who sued the City after the fact on Target, it was presumptuous to think that a referendum of the people would be overturned. Even if the referendum had been overturned, the City Council would have been prepared to change the Comp Plan to permit it. Thankfully, the judge agreed that there was no merit to the case even before trial.

    May 1, 2008
  38. Patrick Enders said:

    I agree with Tracy; annexation seems like a reasonable option for the city – but it will be important to do everything possible to assure that the annexed property will be developed in accordance with Nfld’s still-in-process Comprehensive Plan.

    Kiffi’s challenge to the Planning Commission, (verbalized at the meeting, and summarized by Stephanie Henriksen in Post #33) to enforce the Council’s existing friendly amendment of July ’07, would seem to be an excellent place to start. For starters, the city needs to follow the will of the council. But their amendment (and I trust that her notes on the amendment are accurate) sounds wise: it would obligate the owners/developers to sign a written pledge to comply with the Comprehensive Plan, once it is finalized.

    It’s not a cure-all. As Jim Pokorney said to me, a future city referendum – or even (I would assume) a future Council’s decisions – will always be able to trump whatever pledges and zoning decisions are made in the here and now.

    But a written pledge would set the bar that much higher.

    May 1, 2008
  39. kiffi summa said:

    David L: Here we are in a Target argument. The City was out of compliance with its own Comp Plan for several Months; lets not forget that. At that time there was no rush to amend it BEFORE annexation, and if I may say so, and of course I may … a rather high degree of arrogance in thinking that step did not need to be taken in order to be legally (by both NF and MN law) in compliance.

    May 1, 2008
  40. Griff Wigley said:

    These comments were attached to another message thread. I’m copy/pasting them here for the benefit of all.

    Stephanie Henriksen  April 30, 2008   4:07 pm 

    Speaking of process, it became clear at the annexation hearing last night that staff was bending the rules (a petition for annexation of 530 acres without a concept plan?) for someone’s benefit. And what’s the rush? Nineteen people spoke, only six of them promoting the annexation. The other 13 had concerns and good questions.

    Township residents were buzzing as to how Larry Larson of Land Vista LLC (company owned by Kevin Green) approached each of the land owners. I spoke with him afterward, likeable guy. He continued to say there were no developers on the horizon.

    I hope some of you show up at Lansing Hardware tonight with a little food for the grill (6-9 pm?) to say goodby to the store. Brings a lump to my throat.


    Randy Jennings  May 1, 2008   7:53 am 


    Unless you are discounting the landowners and their representatives, at the planning commission meeting the speakers for and against this annexation were a little more evenly divided than your count and the Northfield News’ headline would suggest.

    A couple of things I found interesting at the meeting:

    There apparently IS a concept plan attached to this annexation request. At least one speaker made reference to it, in the context of challenging an area labeled as potential housing. (At the moment, the marketplace and casual observation suggest this is not something Nfld needs more of in the immediate future…although who knows what conditions will be in 20-25 years as this land is developed?). Whether that concept plan meets some legal standard for detail, I can’t say, but it is apparently not accurate to say that there is no plan. Further, if the concept plan the landowners have provided is not up to snuff, the city council can certainly factor that into its consideration of the annexation request.

    If I was following Kiffi Summa’s summary of a council meeting last July, there was a discussion of how the council (or at least some members of it) would like an annexation request to be formatted and what they would like a concept plan to propose. But… it doesn’t seem logical that council opinions can preemptively require a landowner to do anything other than submit a request that conforms to established policies and procedures. Apparently the landowners have submitted the proper documents requesting annexation; the council will, within the proscribed time frames, have to take action on the request. Again, as I understand it, they can accept or reject the request. I assume there is some structure as to how they justify rejecting a request, should they do so. That is a point at which the submitted concept plan is considered, positively or negatively.

    More interesting was the actual amount of developable land. 530 acres sounds like a big, scary number, but Pete Sandberg made it pretty clear that St. Olaf’s 90 acres is HIGHLY unlikely to ever be developed, and will remain part of the campus’ natural lands. That’s a nice green buffer. Dan Olson said that the staff’s preliminary assessment is that there may be 100 acres that can’t be developed due to environmental issues or suitability for building. Of course, there are no guarantees about any of this, but assuming that environmental issues do inhibit or prevent building on that portion of the annexed land, we’re down to an actual development of about 340 acres, or pretty much the size development the Chamber has been advocating for many years. Viewed as a 25 year land inventory, this doesn’t not seem out of line.

    I think Margit Johnson’s cautions are very valuable. Ironically, I see her narrative, and David Ludescher’s coda about how a citizen initiative and referendum effort actually pushed the changes that allowed the Target/Cub commercial development, to be a strong rationale FOR annexing this land in a timely way. As several speakers noted, the city has NO control over land use beyond its borders.

    What I heard among the speakers opposed to the annexation is a lack of confidence that the planning/zoning/development functions of the city — all citizen led — have the discipline to shape development in Nfld’s community interest, as those speakers define it. While it makes logical, if somewhat cynical, sense to protect ourselves from processes that don’t seem to function quickly enough or with enough discipline to make decisions that adhere to long-term community plans and priorities, denying this annexation request seem like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

    Truthfully, in the current economy it is difficult to predict what sorts of industries might be interested in locating on the fringes of a community like Nlfd. But it seems pretty clear that we need significant, thoughtful expansion of economic activity and the asociated tax base, if we are to support the community amenities and lifestyle to which we are all attracted. If we don’t take some action to provide access to the initial resource — land — a new or expanding business might need, we effectively vote by pocket veto not to participate in the economic recovery that will follow our current malaise.


    David Ludescher  May 1, 2008   9:00 am  ·

    Stephanie and Kiffi: To add to Randy’s comments – Once the land gets into the City – then the City can have complete control. It may be that Randy and I have completely different opinions about what should happen to that land once it is in. But, let’s get it in so that we can have that discussion.


    Stephanie Henriksen  May 1, 2008   11:07 am

    Randy, here are the six speakers of a total of 19, who promoted the annexation:

    Rick Estenson, EDA

    Atty David Hvistendahl

    Atty David Ludescher

    Cathy Feldbrugge, Chamber

    Leif Knecht

    Ruth Lysne, land owner

    More detailed comments are appearing on the “Thoughts on annexation” topic. Here was mine:

    Margit’s warning was key. Of the other comments, Kiffy Summa’s stands out to me. She read from her notes of the July 9 City Council meeting where realtor Larry Larson of Land Vista LLC (company owned by Kevin Green) came with his proposal. Cashman asked where this was coming from. This is outside the process of the ordinance. Administrator Roder said it does not meet the letter of the law. O’Connell said that was most importantly in regard to a concept plan. Cashman spoke again. (He?) said without a concept plan, they were asking for trouble. The Mayor asked how to proceed. O’Connell suggested a modified plan w/topography, etc. Arnie Nelson remarked that as a builder he was (in disbelief) they would consider an annexation without a concept plan. Cashman asked there be a protective agreement that land owners would abide by the Comp Plan. Vote was unanimous.

    Kiffy named page and section (I assumed to be from staff report in the Planning Commmission packet), saying there is no mention of the friendly amendment. She asked staff if they had such a letter from the landowner. She said she hoped it was just an error (oversight). She asked the Planning Commission to get the tape and watch it. It showed the serious concerns of the Council and (Brian) O’Connell.


    Randy Jennings  May 1, 2008   12:04 pm

    Add Larry Larsen (an interested party, to be sure, but a proponent), Pete Sandberg (proponent of contiguous annexation, but no comment on the merits of the annexation overall), plus I’d read Victor Summa as both a proponent (in his property owner and EDA roles) and an skeptic… Victor is a complicated person.

    On the opposing side Johnson, Anderson, Nakasian, K. Summa, Frey, Dobros (sp?). I had to leave when Mr. Langer took the podium, so I don’t where he stood on the issue, nor who followed.

    Even so, I still don’t feel that the opposition was as out of balance with proposition as suggested. Interesting that the News has different headlines on its print and electronic editions, the print highlighting the arguments of the opponents and the electronic highlighting the proponents. That pretty much sums up the meeting, but you have to read both headlines to get it…


    Stephanie Henriksen  May 1, 2008   2:02 pm

    My reply to Randy Jennings is that Larry Larson of Land Vista and Sandburg of St. Olaf spoke during the staff presentation. Public comment began with Rick Estenson of EDA (who had attempted to interject earlier), followed by Margit Johnson. Too bad you had to leave before Greg Langer (speaker No. 15), Greenvale Township farmer against the annexation, spoke. Next was Jerry Hurlbutt of a neighborhood association who called for more data.

    Edrick Lysne delivered a message from his uncle James, who said the project will be an environmental disaster and he would move away. Edrick said the Lysne farm was one of the only natural areas with hardwood, birds and wildlife left in the area and asked that it be protected. It certainly brought back my own feelings about our family farm in Iowa, lost at auction in 1983.

    His mother, Ruth Lysne, then spoke about reasons she and the other two landowners decided to sell when Larson approached them. Last speaker (speaker No. 19) was a student studying use of St. Olaf ag land. He thought it was a shame to take prime ag land out of production, yet saw the interest in having business there.

    May 1, 2008
  41. Ross Currier said:

    Bruce –

    I do hope “Herr Hvistendahl”, as he was called during the Public Hearing, will be there to give us a “how-to” on welcoming Waterford businesses to the Northfield commercial community.

    – Ross

    May 2, 2008
  42. Felicity Enders said:

    I’d like to encourage those on both sides of the annexation debate to come to Politics & a Pint this Sunday (the Cow, 6pm). I haven’t made up my mind as yet, and I’m hoping to hear a wide variety of arguments on both sides. So thanks in advance for coming to convince the uninitiated!

    May 2, 2008
  43. Britt Ackerman said:

    I’m having a hard time understanding why we would oppose this request for voluntary annexation. I mean, I just can’t think of a single legitimate reason to oppose the request. What’s the downfall? I re-read this entire thread to try to figure it out…

    In post #2, Tracy’s concern seems to be to ensure that we promote commercial growth and not residential growth. It seems as though the city would have control over zoning, and that residential growth is currently not economically viable. (Maybe in a few years, but certainly not now given the market.)

    In post #3, Betsy’s expressed concern is that the annexed property may not jive with the city’s comprehensive plan. But the logic behind that concern seems circular to me. The old comp plan is old and the new one hasn’t been finalized yet.

    In #6, Kiffi is concerned with the lack of a concept plan. But isn’t that premature as well? By allowing annexation now, we are not giving up any rights to control development later…quite the opposite, in fact.

    I guess I just don’t get what the hubbub is all about. David L’s comments make the most sense to me.

    May 2, 2008
  44. Anne Bretts said:

    Tracy, as they say at the SuperBowl, a win is a win, whether it is a 30-point blowout decided at the end of the first half or a one-point victory eked out in overtime. One game may get better ratings than the other, but the players get the the winners’ rings, no matter what. If Tiger Woods wins by one stroke, does anyone say he shouldn’t get the tro
    In fact, a simple majority is the most fair way to decide things. Requiring a supermajority of 65 percent or more just leaves a small fraction of people holding all the power. Even if the vast majority of folks want something, the dissenters can block it.
    The Target deal didn’t barely pass, it passed. The councilors who won their elections two years ago don’t owe a new election to a handful of cranky people who feel their opinions matter more than those of the voters…
    The Planning Commission is appointed, not elected and the Council has the final say. If the planners can’t get the majority of people to buy into their ideas, they need to change their ideas or start doing a better job of selling them to the majority.

    May 2, 2008
  45. Patrick Enders said:

    I think the goal is to get the owners to put their intentions down on paper. A clear understanding on both sides might help avoid future conflicts.

    May 3, 2008
  46. Patrick Enders said:

    A simple majority is of course a “win” as you say – if by “win” you mean forcing a particular change on the community. But on a very divisive, controversial issue which has significantly affected the character of the town, a 51% “win” can leave up to 49% of the town very unhappy and resentful. See Target.

    If the parties involved in this present annexation proposal (the owners and the city government) can put some extra words down on paper before completing the annexation, it may go a long way towards calming the fears and concerns of those who mistrust/oppose the annexation due to the bitter outcome of the last go ’round.

    May 3, 2008
  47. kiffi summa said:

    I think the intention of the Planning Commission is to know what the land up for annexation is intended to be used for, relying on Staff’s advice that the time of greatest control is at the point of annexation, because of the legal requirement for a concept plan to be presented with the formal annexation request.

    If there are maps that say “to be determined” as there is in the Public Hearing/PC packet (Figure 5/ Concept #10), then the planning commission has legitimate concerns about the use that land will be put to. The Planning Commission has the responsibility of making land use decisions, and they want to be fully informed, cautious, and responsible in their decision making.

    They should be encouraged, not criticized, for gathering ALL the information they asked for, taking all the time they need, including the 60 day extension if they need it, and making a decision which is as right as they can get it, for NF’s future.

    It is a weighty decision to take ag land out of production. There has been an un-equal amount of focus on this annexation as opposed to the active promoting of infill sites; that is somewhat understandable as it is easier to focus on a request for 530 Ac than it is to sell developers on scattered sites.

    But I am very tired of hearing that old saw about NF not being business friendly being brought out every time someone wants to criticize the Planning Commission; maybe the “sell ” should be focussed on a group of infill sites , scattered all over the community, which afford companies and their employees to be part of a community which has a character rather than a ubiquitous aspect, a healthy respect for the beautiful land which surrounds it, good schools for their kids, an engaged citizenry which cares deeply about the quality of small town life which fosters the best of community .

    That’s what I’d like the EDA and the Chamber to work on …

    … and before anyone says that’s “elitist” … when a town like NF offers the benefits it does to its residents, it is defining a large part of the definition of elite, i.e. “the best part of anything considered collectively” … well, if that’s considered a negative , then I don’t understand why we have so many cultural tributes to small town America.

    May 3, 2008
  48. Anne Bretts said:

    Of course, the best outcome is to have consensus, but requiring 90 percent agreement, for example, means you can have 89 percent of the people unhappy while that 11 percent hold all the power.
    Majority vote isn’t perfect, but it is fair.

    May 3, 2008
  49. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: I’m not sure what additional information the Planning Commission needs. There is only one annexation request before them. Some of the commissioners seem to think that they can control the development before it comes under the City’s jurisdiction. The only way to control the development is to annex it. It worries me that some of the commissioners think that this is a complicated decision.

    Even St. Olaf wants annexation. That should tell the commissioners everything that they need to know.

    May 3, 2008
  50. Anne Bretts said:

    So how many parcels and how many acres of infill really are available, that is, zoned and for sale? Is there enough land available to satisfy existing needs? The EDA doesn’t think so. I’m surprised there isn’t an online directory of every commercial building and site, as other cities have.

    May 3, 2008
  51. David, I have neither heard nor seen any public indication that “even St. Olaf wants annexation.” What Pete Sandberg, St. Olaf Asst. VP for Facilities, said at the Planning Commission public hearing was that St. Olaf is participating in this annexation request to “facilitate discussion” of the issue. Period. St. Olaf has no stated plans to develop their 90 acres included in the annexation request in the foreseeable future.

    I have two primary concerns about this proposed annexation: It promotes sprawl, and it opens up a significant amount of prime farmland for development at a time when everything possible should be done to PROTECT, not develop, prime farmland.

    I just expanded on these concerns in a blog I posted on my website under “Unsustainable development.” I will paste those comments below as well. Prepare to rip my bobo heart out.

    Unsustainable development

    There’s been a lively discussion on the Locally Grown Northfield website of the request by four landowners that the City of Northfield annex 530 acres of land in Greenvale Township.
    Ross Currier, member of the Northfield Planning Commission, blogged on the issue for Locally Grown in advance of the April 29th public hearing on the annexation request. There have been a number of thoughtful comments before during and after the well-attended (perhaps 80 people on hand) public hearing, from folks in favor of the annexation, those opposed, and those in the middle and/or looking for more information prior to forming a firm opinion.

    Some advocates say it’s a no-brainer: this is a way to be proactive in bringing significant acreage under Northfield’s planning and development control, and facilitates potential commercial and/or industrial development. Advocates believe this is a critical step to take to signal potential developers that the City of Northfield is “open for business” and ready to facilitate development that will broaden the tax base and create local jobs.

    Those who question the wisdom of this annexation (myself included) have a variety of concerns. I can only speak for myself. I certainly am in favor of broadening Northfield’s tax base, and adding good jobs would absolutely be a good thing. I simply don’t think the proposed annexation is the right way to accomplish these laudable goals.

    In the simplest possible terms, I think this annexation would 1) promote sprawl, and 2) open up a significant amount of prime farmland for development at a time when everything possible should be done to protect prime farmland.

    City staff addressed the issue of sprawl on pages four and five of the Planning Commission public hearing packet. They stated the “2001 Comprehensive Plan Criteria” #2 as “New development is contiguous to the urban areas already served by municipal infrastructure. Skipping over vacant undeveloped land is not a cost effective approach to extending urban services and makes the skipped over parcel less usable from an agriculture or development perspective.” The staff response followed: “This property is adjacent to the existing City limits and contiguous to urban areas already served by municipal infrastructure. Therefore, no undeveloped land would be skipped over.

    This staff response is demonstrably incorrect. While the land in the annexation request is indeed adjacent to City limits, it is so only because St. Olaf College agreed to include 90 acres of its land, the land adjacent to the existing City limits, in the annexation request to “facilitate discussion of the annexation request,” in the words of St. Olaf facilities director Pete Sandberg at the public hearing. St. Olaf has stated publicly that is has no plans to develop these 90 acres in the foreseeable future. The proposed development land (the remaining 440 acres of the annexation request), at its closest point, is therefore half a mile west of any developed land and municipal infrastructure (the Northfield Hospital, which is itself already half a mile west of any other developed land). The staff response is incorrect: if a developer comes to the City with a development proposal for this proposed annexation, infrastructure will have to skip over half a mile of undeveloped land, the St. Olaf land agricultural land between the development property and the Northfield Hospital, at a minimum.

    This contributes to sprawl in three ways:

    1. The closest edge of any development on this property would be a minimum of one-half mile from the nearest developed land of any type within the City limits, and would require build-out of a minimum of a minimum of a half mile of infrastructure.
    2. The closest edge of any development on this property would be more than three miles from downtown Northfield. There are many other developable parcels of land, including many of significant acreage with good highway and/or rail access, closer to the center of the community.
    3. The closest edge of any development on this property would be more than one mile from the nearest Northfield residential neighborhood.

    The 440 acres of proposed development land is almost all prime, nearly flat farmland with high-quality soil. (A relatively small wooded area and a small wetland area are included in the area as well.) At a time when food riots are breaking out in numerous countries around the world, the world hunger problem is growing worse, food prices are soaring in the U.S. and around the world, it is more important than ever that we be good stewards of farmland. If we need industrial development land, let’s find it in other areas that won’t take this huge amount of farmland out of production. We can do so if we get creative.

    I’m not at all convinced that we need a 440-acre industrial park to attract the kinds of businesses that will help Northfield thrive in the future (by increasing the tax base and providing new living-wage jobs). I’m thoroughly convinced that planting a 440-acre industrial park in a remote location at a time when

    • fuel prices are soaring, and the site offers no rail (which is a more fuel-efficient shipping method than trucking) access
    • development patterns may be radically different in the near to mid-term future (because we are coming to the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel-party era)
    • the City’s taxpayers would be on the hook for extending infrastructure (with the HOPE that we would reclaim the expense at some distant time in the future)

    is NOT a good idea. It certainly isn’t my idea of economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development. I think we can do better than this. The Planning Commission, and the City Council, should reject this annexation request.

    May 3, 2008
  52. kiffi summa said:

    David L: I understand that YOU are not sure of what additional information the PC needs. They have voiced it often enough; no need to reiterate it once again.

    But David, you are “re-writing” history again… Pete Sandburg, of St. Olaf stated very clearly at the public hearing why St. Olaf was agreeing to have their 90 Ac annexed: he said they had absolutely NO plans to develop any of that, and they had agreed ONLY for the sake of “contiguity”, because they do not believe in “leapfrogging”. He could not have been clearer on the matter; theirs was a very qualified and limited agreement.

    May 4, 2008
  53. Betsey Buckheit said:

    I am surprised that the pro-business folks David L, David Hv, others?) don’t also recognize that this is a big business deal for the City and so there is a substantial amount of due diligence which needs to be done before signing off. The deal may be a very good one.

    I agree wholeheartedly: Northfield lacks land for non-residential development

    It is true: commercial tax rates are higher than non-residential

    But I still haven’t seen any details of the impact analysis of the proposed annexation which evaluates the good stuff (more land, increased tax and fee revenue, job creation, etc.) and the challenges to the sustainability of the project (environmental impact, infrastructure costs, increase in public safety/service costs) in any detail whatsoever.

    The financial boon to the city will vary widely depending on what is actually built (so we should know what uses are planned and how the city has calculated the benefit). The costs can also vary widely depending on how well the city manages the infrastructure development, location, phasing, etc.

    As a shareholder of the company, that is, a taxpayer, I want this deal to enhance the value of Northfield. Britt and David L, claiming that you can’t understand how anyone could object just begs the questions. I don’t object to the annexation, I just don’t have sufficient information to decide.

    And, as a shareholder of a company which has invested many dollars in planning efforts, I’d urge the city to get value from these planning dollars and make sure that this annexation meets the standards we have been developing.


    May 4, 2008
  54. David Ludescher said:

    Betsey and Bruce: I can understand the concerns about DEVELOPMENT; but I don’t understand the concerns about ANNEXATION. All annexation means is transferring jurisdictional control from Greenvale Township to the City of Northfield.

    May 4, 2008
  55. David: This land would not be developed in the foreseeable future under Greenvale Township’s jurisdiction. It will remain one homestead per 40 acre ag land. By annexing the property, an “annex it and they will come” mentality will unavoidably increase the likelihood that sprawl development will take place.

    May 4, 2008
  56. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: That is true. But, if we don’t annex it, they can’t come. This the only area of town that is feasible to have significant industrial/commercial development. Further, annexing this land will make it MORE likely that the infill portions will develop because buyers will have more options, thus driving down the prices for the infill land. It is a win-win for the no growth and growth people.

    May 4, 2008
  57. I have to respectfully disagree, David, that annexation is a win-win for growth and no-growth advocates. How can annexing land, thereby increasing the likelihood of development of a non-contiguous 440 acres of prime farmland, woodland and wetlands, be considered a win-win for no-growth advocates, even if it does increase the likelihood of development of infill or closer-in land? I also have to respectfully disagree that this is the only area of town (and it is NOT part of town–it is farm land in Greenvale Township) where it is feasible to have significant industrial/commercial development. It is the only large chunk of land where landowners have requested annexation, but that certainly doesn’t make it the only FEASIBLE area.

    By the way, I am not a no-growth advocate. As Bob Dylan opined, “He not busy being born/Is busy dying,” as true for a community as it is for an individual. I am an advocate of smart, sustainable growth. What I oppose is growth for the sake of growth (“the ideology of the cancer cell,” in the memorable words of the late Edward Abbey). I am in favor of growth that truly benefits and enriches Northfield as a community. Therein lies the rub: How do we define healthy, beneficial growth? I think that leapfrog development, and the pre-requisite annexation of prime farmland with the intention of developing it, is not likely to be healthy, beneficial growth for the community.

    May 4, 2008
  58. kiffi summa said:

    What is the role of Land Vista in this annexation process? Could they just be characterized as “friends of farmers?

    When Mrs. Lysne spoke at the public hearing she said they (the landowners) were concerned about continued stewardship of the land; the current owners are all ready to quit farming in the near future, and she felt this owner group could guide a better future than a more divergent group of heirs might.

    Then why do we hear that all is not happy in Greenvale township among the other farmland owners, many of whom do not wish to lose the rural character of their township? Since Dakota county gives zoning discretion to its twps., why do the supervisors send NF a letter of agreement (to let the land be annexed) if it does not represent the wishes of their constituents?

    What are we to make of the remarks , at the public hearing, of Greg Langer, a farmer who has worked tirelessly to preserve the rural quality of the area?

    Since/ or IF , NF cannot afford to extend services to the area, without a active development proposal in hand, what is the advantage of land, still being farmed, as opposed to that new buzzword: “shovel ready” ? Is that a case for DESIGNATION, not annexation?

    When the proposal comes actively up for consideration/vote at the Planning Commission, is that when the 60-day rule kicks in? Is that when they would ask for a sixty day extension? Or is the timing tied to City Council action?
    120 days is 4 months; is that time for the Comp Plan to be finished? When will the land use regulations that bolster the Comp Plan be completed?

    IF they (PC and EDA) have differing agendas, as far as PROCESS, (every one seems to be pretty much in agreement as to the need for land in a large parcel) how can it serve both bodies to have the same senior staff member, The community development Director, Brian O’Connell?

    Either the PC is not asking the questions clearly, emphatically enough (which I don’t believe) … or the questions are not being clearly answered. From what I have heard in public meetings there’s enough jargon, rather than factual answers, being repeated to require a big ole mucking rake.

    If there were businesses out there, who are determined to be in NF’s jurisdiction, they would be presenting themselves and going after what they want. Successful companies do not hang back like wallflowers, shyly waiting for an invitation.

    The dialogue has not been transparent enough, the Planning Commission’s questions have not been answered, the advantages are not there if the land is not “shovel ready” (buzz-buzz-buzz) and the taking of productive farm land for another use is a serious issue, not to be taken lightly.

    Designate now; annex later … and get the “protective” (as the city council called it) letter from the landowners, stating that they will continue their stewardship of the land by requiring any development deals they make to adhere to the Comp Plan, when finished, and its land use regulations.

    May 4, 2008
  59. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: How do you define healthy, beneficial growth?

    By the way: Do you prefer that the city “leapfrogs” St. Olaf or force them to develop the land? Is there a third option?

    Lastly, do see any reason why the City couldn’t give the land the same designation that Greenvale township gave it?

    This could be a win-win because it is likely to spur infill development, about 200 acres of the 530 can’t or won’t be developed, and the landowners are willing participants.

    May 5, 2008
  60. What a conundrum. On the one hand ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ and on the other ‘bait and switch’. It seems to an unsophisticate like me that 500 acres brought into the control of the city is a no-brainer whether or not you are in favor of growth. (eg Portland ,OR I understand has designated a ring of farmland to be only ever farmland until the end of time or the life of the universe or words to that effect).

    However, recent history says that notwithstanding the ‘plan’ for the city (be it for this lump of land or the forever forthcoming Comp Plan) there is a low level of confidence about what may happen to the 500 acres in the future (ie when is a plan not a plan? When it’s prone to change!). Much of reservations in this discussion is about ‘bait and switch’. Industrial land today becomes another megamall and/or 1000 houses tomorrow.

    May 5, 2008
  61. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Sorry I didn’t get to Politics/Pint on Sunday. Like some feedback on the topic of annexation from those who did.

    May 5, 2008
  62. David, Obviously everyone would have a different interpretation of “healthy, beneficial growth.” My interpretation carries no more weight than does yours. I sense we are, perhaps inevitably, veering back toward Boboland in this discussion thread.

    The way the community has defined healthy, beneficial growth is through its Comp Plan. The place to start looking for the community’s definition would thus be the 2001 Comprehensive Plan, since the revised Comp Plan, which was supposed to be complete by now, is nowhere near done. The vision statement in the ’01 Comp Plan reads as follows: “The vision of the City of Northfield is to preserve and enhance the city’s unique “small town” heritage, preserve its historic and environmental character, and provide a high quality of life through a sustainable development pattern. Northfield will engage in collaborative planning with other political jurisdictions and participate within the broader global community. The community is committed to preserving and enhancing the quality of its neighborhoods, the quality of education, the diversity of employment opportunities, and a diversity of arts, cultural and recreational pursuits. Northfield is dedicated to maintaining downtown as the focal point of the community, maintaining a prosperous economic base, protecting its extensive natural environment, and promoting public participation in civic, social and cultural endeavors.” I believe the growth that would result from this annexation, on 440 acres of non-contiguous farmland, would NOT preserve the area’s environmental character, and would NOT provide a high quality of life through a sustainable development pattern.

    A good follow-up to refer to would be the Land Use Principles endorsed by the City Council on July 16, 2007. Of particular relevance is “Principle 3: The preference for accommodating future growth is in infill locations, then redevelopment opportunities, and then on the edge of existing developed areas,” and more specifically “d. When new growth occurs on the edge of the community through annexations, it will be done with a planned growth pattern which minimizes infrastructure and community services.” If we are leapfrogging a half-mile of undeveloped land, and don’t have any impact analysis done prior to the annexation decision, this annexation does not strike me as being in keeping with this principle.

     It is my belief that this annexation request is not in keeping with either the existing (2001) Comprehensive Plan vision statement or the City Council-endorsed revised Land Use Principles. Now I know, David, that you believe the revised Comp Plan is a bobo manifesto, but it was in fact developed via an open public process, and the Land Use Principles therein were endorsed by our elected city officials. You might prefer that the opinions of a portion of the local business community (that portion represented by the Chamber of Commerce), supported by City staff who do not live in the community, should trump open public process and elected public officials, but that doesn’t seem very democratic to me.

    Regarding your question whether I prefer that the city leapfrog St. Olaf or force them to develop the land: I prefer neither. That is why I oppose this annexation request.

    Finally, why in the world would the City of Northfield want to annex this land just to keep it in ag production? Greenvale Township is already doing a good job of that; the only reason this annexation is being pushed is to facilitate unspecified development. Let’s not be disingenuous.

    May 5, 2008
  63. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: Norman (#63) has a good analysis. This opportunity is a “gift horse”. The primary concern how future leaders will see fit to allow development. The market will define what is possible; the leaders will determine what is permissible.

    I think the Comp Plan says that Northfield needs to provide more opportunities for commercial/industrial development. This is that opportunity. Moreover, it provides opportunities for green space development, and the chance to develop a “park” concept rather than a piecemeal development process.

    May 5, 2008
  64. kiffi summa said:

    I hope the public “rises up” on this one…
    David, You surely did; both at the Armory meetings, and at the Public Hearing at the Planning Commission.

    What is the point of all the public input if the goals developed in that public process are not honored?

    Sadly, I do not believe the public process will be honored; especially at City Hall. We have many examples to the contrary. Too many instances of Staff (not all) taking “the way” of the hierarchy rather than truly honoring the public input of all their Boards and Commissions. Am I just being too cynical saying “What will make it be any different THIS time?”

    This is not a “gift horse”; this has the capacity to be a Trojan Horse …

    May 6, 2008
  65. William Siemers said:


    You said, “Finally, why in the world would the City of Northfield want to annex this land just to keep it in ag production?”

    Why not? What better way to insure control over the USE of that agricultural land? I don’t think St. Olaf, or the rest of the west side of Northfield, would appreciate a high intensity hog operation on the land. Or what about turkeys? Is there any reason that this prime farm land could not now be changed to an agricultural use that is less benign than row crops?

    Isn’t gaining control of the use and development of land adjacent to Northfield a good thing no matter what the proposed use?

    May 6, 2008
  66. William, in a more-perfect world we would be discussing what Norman mentions in post #63: something like Portland, OR’s green belt. In fact, I would love for the community to have that discussion.

    However, you know as well as I do that proponents of annexation of this land are doing so for one reason only: the clearly and repeatedly stated interest in its eventual development. The ostensible reason is for a business park with primarily light industrial development. Another possible outcome is Norman’s bait-and-switch scenario (with a mall/sprawl residential/whatever resulting). This annexation is not being promoted to control agricultural use of that land.

    I’ll say it again: I am not opposed to industrial development in Northfield. I think it would be a wonderful thing if we could attract some next-generation clean technology manufacturing, for example. I simply question whether THIS location is the place for it, and feel that annexation and development of THIS property is not in keeping with the spirit or the letter of the community’s vision as embodied in two consecutive Comprehensive Plans.

    May 6, 2008
  67. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Bruce, you couldn’t have stated this better. Industry is needed, but it’s a question of whether THIS SITE is the place for it. Reminds me of the Target controversy. There was available land on the fringe of Northfield which should have been considered.

    May 6, 2008
  68. David Ludescher said:

    Stephanie: If land were available, do you think that College City Beverage would be in Dundas? The land is either too expensive (because the market is too small) or not big enough.

    Zoning keeps out what we don’t want; financial incentives gets the development that we do want; doing nothing means that we don’t get anything – good or bad.

    May 6, 2008
  69. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    David, it seems to me adjustments were made so College City could expand where it was in Northfield, but Dundas offered tax incentives. A TIF arrangement may have been more possible on a new site in Dundas? That was hard to resist, I’m sure. There will always be push-pull between the two communities, I’m afraid.

    I just came across NNews of March 10, 2000. Front page headline: Waterford annexation ‘out of the question.’ Subhead: Dudley reacts to Stull’s statements.

    Inside the same paper is another: Township supervisors, city continue hospital land discussion. Subhead: Local farmer shows 60 petitions against possible project. (I believe they meant 60 signatures.)

    May 6, 2008
  70. David Ludescher said:

    Stephanie: The push-pull between the two communities can be good. If this annexation doesn’t go through, I will certainly lobby the Chamber to promote a Dundas business park. The theme, “Dundas, not Dallas”.

    May 6, 2008
  71. kiffi summa said:

    I thought the truth of the matter was that College City beverage wanted to stay in Northfield, and tried to stay in NF, and the Mayor certainly tried to make that happen, but when a NF senior staff person got in a conflict with them about fees … the whole thing “went South” literally.

    Who gets the Business UN-friendly label?

    May 6, 2008
  72. Griff Wigley said:

    Reminder: EDA President Rick Estenson discussed business parks on our podcast back in mid-Feb. And there are 84 comments attach to that blog post.

    May 7, 2008
  73. David Ludescher said:

    Betsey: Thanks for bringing some clarity to the discussion regarding the concerns regarding annexation.

    Practically speaking, annexation is primarily a matter of moving the city’s boundary lines. (There are some service and tax issues which are relatively minor.) The “Troublesome Trio” issues concern how to address the issues that are surely going to arise once the annexation is completed.

    May I suggest that the Planning Commission agree to the annexation, and immediately begin work on how the land should be designated. That designation can be included in the new Comprehensive Plan, which is scheduled to arrive this July.

    May 8, 2008
  74. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Thanks, David L. I know the law (I’m an attorney, too), but I also know that politically approving annexation also approves some still vague “intent to develop” as well as redrawing the boundaries.

    But I’ll say again – I’m not opposed to this annexation and subsequent development of this area, but the city has to treat this as a business negotiation and think about the long-term consequences of development on the city’s finances, environment, transportation network and sense of place and evaluate whether overall the city will experience a net gain.

    Politically, too, once the land is annexed, there may be a push to build something NOW under existing zoning regulations and then the council’s legal discretion to say “no” is much diminished.

    So this is the point in the process to ask questions about what may happen later, rather than annex first and then start the real work.

    May 8, 2008
  75. Jane Moline said:

    Stephanie regarding comment on #72–TIF was used in Dundas for College City Beverage (CCB) but it was certainly not a deciding factor.

    TIF was used so that needed PUBLIC improvements for insfrastructure could be completed. TIF is not a handout to the company, especially in this case.

    TIF was used to pay for infrastructure costs that CCB would not have had if they had built in Northfield. Dundas is dedicating the incremental property taxes that the company pays to pay off the bonds that Dundas incurred to build the water tower and related infrastructure.

    I think this was a good use of TIF, as if provided for a new water tower that improves fire protection and water availability for the entire city.

    CCB has to pay a full property tax amount, had to pay for the building, and had to pay a big chunk of change for street and infrastructure improvements to boot.

    The biggest barrier for CCB in Northfield, from what we can piece together from the people present at the discussions was NOT land price but the availability of land and the treatment of CCB by Northfield during the process.

    It may be a push-pull relationship, but Northfield and Dundas should be working together to provide for industrial development. When we lose a MOM warehouse to Faribault, we are losing them out of our school district–if Northfield loses to Dundas, we keep jobs in the area and have the school taxes, too. We need these employers, and we can all use a little property tax sharing.

    I am all for putting an industrial park in Dundas and I love the motto “Dundas not Dallas” (be sure to copyright that, David.)

    I still say annex that land while you can and figure out what you will allow to develop after–have an agreement with the landowners that they will abide by the future zoning determination upon completion of the Comprehensive Plan, and duke it out in planning and zoning.

    May 8, 2008
  76. David Ludescher said:

    “Dundas not Dallas” was Chris Sawyer’s line. From the Chamber’s perspective, “we” didn’t lose College City Beverage because, as Jane points out, they are still in the Northfield area, and the Chamber is the Northfield AREA Chamber of Commerce.

    Betsey: I am concerned about the argument that “we” need to decide what will happen before the land is annexed based upon some future political pressure to develop the land. Remember “we” don’t own the land; the farmers and St. Olaf do.

    May 8, 2008
  77. BruceWMorlan said:

    Jane M. is correct about the CCB TIF, but she did not mention the significant fact that the existing water tower on the west side was failing, so the TIF’d infrastructure was a real need for the town. I agree completely that TIFs for new roads are questionable (“if your business was not coming in here we would not need that upgrade to the road”) and TIFs for parking lots are an egregious misuse of the public’s power, as wielded by their elected representatives.

    That said, I think that Northfield could really benefit from having some ag land within the city limits. At the town meeting in the Armory, when public comment on the comp plan was being taken, I got a bit of positive audience feedback when I suggested that cities (like Northfield) ought to start “owning” farmland not because they can build on it, but because they can be more proactive in protecting it for its food producing value. This was BEFORE Bridgewater Twp took on planning and zoning. Now, in theory, the township COULD perform that function, except that the people who most benefit from economically sustainable farming initiatives live in the cities, not the townships, so the townships motives are not necessarily the cities needs. A bit of a tragedy of the commons going on here (a variant thereof).

    May 9, 2008
  78. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    In a comment letter dated April 28, Mn/DOT cautions against taking steps on annexation before highway-related issues are dealt with. They ask if the entire property is to be business park/light industrial. They say 100 acres of business park generates 15,000 ADT (average daily trips), whereas 100 acres of industrial generates 6000 ADT.

    From a short letter dated April 15, 2008 (Attachment A in the packet), it seems that the Greenvale Township Board gave preliminary approval for the proposed annexation. But some township residents do not feel they were given sufficient input into the process and are now coming forward. They are also concerned about the big picture in regard to transportation routes. I encourage them to join in this conversation on Locally Grown.

    May 9, 2008
  79. Betsey Buckheit said:

    I’ve tried to post several times today, but been thwarted by technology. but now I’m glad I was not successful. Thanks for bringing up the MnDOT letter, Stephanie – it dovetails nicely with what I tried to say which was something like this:

    David L, I know that Northfield doesn’t own the land to be annexed and “we” won’t own it after annexation either. But “we” do have a significant interest in the public infrastructure and services which may be developed on this land and taxpayers should be concerned that these will be as cost effective and just plain effective as possible.

    Northfield has a large interest in the transportation network – not just the roads which may be constructed to serve this area, but the whole network. The annexation property is in an area where a possible north-south route from CSAH 1 to Highway 19 and North Avenue is being considered. The road from the hospital to Highway 19 is itself somewhat provisional – MnDot agreed to its current location with the proviso that if traffic volume increased to a certain amount, the location could be changed because of the safety issues at the 19 intersection and possible north sourth connections. Before allowing development in this area – no matter what type or use – Northfield needs to consider the transportation issues carefully. I think Northfield would like to avoid situations like closing North Avenue and the limited connectivity near the Middle School in the future.

    OK, why now and not after annexation? My five years on the Planning Commission convinced me that each decision made limits the ability of the city to ask questions, get answers and certainly to make changes in the direction of development. I’d shut up if I thought the “annex then decide” process could work.

    Now is the golden opportunity for the Council to ask tough questions, demand answers, and then decide. Then, when a specific proposal is on the table, the developer won’t have to bear the cost and uncertainty of “duking it out in planning and zoning” (as Jane so vividly put it) and Northfield won’t have to bear the longer term cost of isolated and incremental decision-making.

    The zoning approval process should be easy, with clear standards and efficient process, not a fight every step of the rest of the way to developing this area.

    May 9, 2008
  80. David Ludescher said:

    Betsey: The annex and then decide is the only plan that will work. Thankfully, the City has a very limited time to decide yes or no.

    Further, the landowners have made no promises that the land can or will be developed. For all “we” know, all the landowners could be like St. Olaf and decide not to develop. Then what?

    I think it is a little early to plan what “we” intend to do with someone else’s land, especially given that “they” aren’t even in Northfield. Remember, “we” wanted a Target. Why wouldn’t “we” want an industrial park? Of course, it doesn’t matter what “we” want until “they” become “we”. Only then can “we” tell “us” what “we” have to do.

    May 9, 2008
  81. Betsey Buckheit said:

    David, you misunderstand me.

    Nowhere did I say that Northfield gets to tell the landowners what they can and cannot do with their land.

    What I said was (and still is): before the city decides to extend infrastructure, services and the other tentacles of its jurisdiction to this area, the city needs to decide if it is likely (and it can’t be certain, obviously, until the owners decide what they will do with their property) that this will be a good choice for Northfield. This decision should involve some planning and modeling of possible development options.

    May 10, 2008
  82. David Ludescher said:

    Betsey: Given that 90 acres are St. Olaf’s, that 100 acres or so are wetland, and that the EDA and the Chamber are recommending 120-320 acres for commercial and industrial development, it seems that most of the land already has a plan. It’s a good plan given that nearly everyone agrees that the residential/non-residential balance needs adjustment if we aren’t going to turn into a (bobo?) bedroom community.

    How it going to happen should be the Planning Commission’s first task after the annexation is granted.

    May 10, 2008
  83. kiffi summa said:

    Do you think it will happen?
    I understand there are a lot of really disturbed Greenvale residents who want to be respectful of their neighbors’s choices on what to do with the land they own, but are quite angry about the process of the Greenvale supervisors. This is a dilemma for the Greenvale residents.
    A hint of this came out at the PC public hearing, in Greg Langer’s comments; what does the law require as far as public process for Greenvale supervisors to OK an annexation of this size without hearing their constituency?
    Will the process be held up in Northfield if there’s a little revolt in G’vale?

    May 10, 2008
  84. Jane Moline said:

    Betsey: I could not disagree with you more. Whether you said it or not, Northfield consistently “gets” to dictate to landowners what they may and may not do. The city can make development difficult to impossible.

    As you, and all the attorneys must know, orderly annexation is dictated by the state. Under those laws, a municipality must consider a request for annexation made by the landowners–which is why the city must consider this request.

    Although Bruce Anderson is concerned about sprawl, I believe that it is a moot argument in this situation. This land is contiguous to the city limits, and the city has a well-documented need for industrial land. The city has the ability to restrict and control the use of this land through its planning and zoning. Sprawl occurs when we skip infill and keep moving out to gobble up land–that is NOT what is occuring, and some of this land will remain undeveloped.

    If the land was all a swamp it would still be attractive as a potential conservation wetland that the city could protect and control. There is no protection or control if the land remains outside the city limits.

    The decision to extend services is separate from annexation. Only if a potential development can prove its ability to pay for such extensions of services should that development go forward.

    It is up to the citizens to keep tabs on their city to make sure they are not giving city services away. To deny an annexation request because you don’t know if the city will properly charge for the extension of services seems to assume that the city is not doing its job.

    Northfield should honor this reasonable request for annexation.

    May 10, 2008
  85. Jane,
    Your declaring that this annexation would not constitute sprawl and declaring it a moot point does not make it so. Look at a map: the Northfield Hospital is half a mile west of the nearest City of Northfield residential development, with St. Olaf farm land that will not be developed in the foreseeable future being skipped over. From the Hospital site, development in the annexation area would skip over another half-mile of undeveloped St. Olaf farm land to the area to be developed.

    The fact that the land in question is adjacent to city limits is not the point. The fact that the desired use of the land (whether as industrial park, or, as shown in the only concept plan I’ve seen, as a mixed-use development with residential, retail, office, and industrial uses) would require skipping over a mile of undeveloped land makes it sprawl development in my mind. And, as I said before in response to David Ludescher asking if I would prefer that St. Olaf develop this infill land instead, I again say no, I think it would make sense to develop a business park in an area that is truly contiguous to the developed part of the City.

    May 10, 2008
  86. Anne Bretts said:

    Bruce, is there any property owner in the acceptable areas of town who is willing to develop his/her land? Is any of the land desirable to buyers/businesses? Is the city willing to continue losing businesses until it finds the right owner/developer/business formula? I’m not being critical, but that is the option. The EDA has been working with brokers, I believe, and so they would have some good insights. Cities can zone/annex any way they wish, as long as they are willing to live with the consequences.

    May 11, 2008
  87. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Jane, my ideal of land development would be this.

    A city has a Comprehensive Plan where a clear overall vision for the city is articulated which is implemented in clear and predictable land use regulations. Anybody wanting to develop anything can see what’s possible under these regulations, how long the process will take, and decisions will be rational and non-contentious. Staff, appointed commissioners and elected officials all understand these documents, help developers through the process and have good relationships with each other.

    “Dictating” land uses should be done in the Comp Plan and its supporting regulations. And the direction will always be general – stipulating types and forms, not specific projects. It’s up to the land owners and developers to determine that their project will be permitted under the regulations or they’ll have to request the regulations be changed which carries its own risks.

    Annexation requests would fit into this context and be able to be evaluated against the planning tools in place.

    Northfield is not ideal, of course, and I have many more regrets from my time on the Planning Commission about what the Northfield City Council allowed than what it rejected (because it rejected almost nothing).

    So, with plans and regulations in flux and no detailed impact analysis provided (although the PC packet for the upcoming meeting answers some questions), I’m advocating deliberate rather than quick action on this issue.

    May 11, 2008
  88. David Ludescher said:

    Betsey: The Planning Commission has already received a detailed impact analysis for annexation. The impact of annexation is so slight as to be negligible. The real impact comes if the property is developed.

    What the Planning Commission claims to want is the a detailed impact analysis of annexation, when they are really requesting an detailed impact analysis of development.

    That request is the same kind of stall tactic that the Planning Commission used on the Target project, when it told the City Council that it would need 18 months to study the issue.

    Both growth and no-growth people should be behind the annexation request because it gives both groups the opportunity to lobby for their respective causes.

    May 11, 2008
  89. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Accdg to Saturday’s Northfield News, the Planning Commission may not be ready to make a recommendation on the annexation at their meeting Tuesday night. I’ve not seen the packet, but suggestion is that not all concerns expressed at the April 29 hearing have been addressed. The discussion should be interesting, though. Good to see the letters to the editor from Bruce Anderson and Ann Occhiato.

    The firing of the EDA director seems oddly timed. One wonders why the City would not want her following through on projects she has been working on, including this annexation.

    Add to that the front page feature on Waterford Township and we have a lot to talk about this week.

    May 11, 2008
  90. Ann Occhiato said:

    It is very obvious to me reading the comments on this post that none of the commentors live in Greenvale Township or even in the country for that matter (with the exception of Stephanie). The entire perspective on this blog is from people who will not be personally affected by this sort of growth. That is a disturbing trend encompassing all the decisions made up to this point. The annexation decisions are being made by people who have a stake in the development and not those who will suffer the consequences of that development.

    The Greevale town supervisors made a terrible mistake when they signed the Orderly Annexation Agreement without hearing from Greenvale residents on the matter. They will be suffering the consequences of that decision in the future. NO ONE I have talked with in Greenvale is for this annexation. This is being shoved down Greenvale’s throat!

    Development of this property will spawn roads and traffic with it and will forever change the character of Greenvale Township. An expanded and realigned Cedar Ave through Greenvale will have a tremendous impact on farmland and will put pressure on the rezoning of Greenvale away from agriculture at some point in the future. In addition, when residents such as me are informing city council members and planning commissioners about a Dakota County plan to expand Cedar Ave in conjunction with identified growth in the area up for annexation then it seems rather obvious that enough care is not being taken in considering all the consequences of developing this area. Does anyone else find that disturbing?!!!!

    Not even to mention that in an age where shipping food will become an ever-increasing exercise in waste and futility, preserving farmland should be the utmost concern of anyone who thinks EATING might be important. Once land is covered in concrete it is destroyed forever. The potential ripple affects from developing this land are disastrous.

    Moreover I’ve read ideas on this post that are simply ridiculous. The idea that developing land adjacent to city limits doesn’t constitute sprawl is simply false. Where do we draw the line? When will the next annexation happen? And, the one after that? And, the one after that? All in the name of “progress”. Completely insane comments from people running for mayor have been printed in the press stating a takeover of entire townships might be necessary. Because so many of the city planners, EDA and council members are stuck in a 20th century idea of what development means and are looking for the easiest and cheapest options, it will only be when the townships work together on holding the line on annexations will city planners start looking at smarter growth options.

    This sort of short-sighted growth is happening everywhere and farmland is disappearing. STOP thinking farmland is an endless resource! It is not.

    May 12, 2008
  91. Ann,
    Thank you for providing a perspective different from that of the great majority of the folks who have spoken here. Although I live in Northfield, I share your views, and I know that others in Greenvale Township (and elsewhere in the area) do as well. In fact, I got a phone call from one of the neighbors of this proposed annexation thanking me for my letter to the editor in Saturday’s Northfield News questioning the wisdom of this annexation. He shared your view that the Township supervisors made a blunder in not seeking input from their constituents on the annexation agreement.

    Ann and I are not fringe voices howling in the wilderness: there are many who share our views, even if they are not expressed here.

    May 12, 2008
  92. BruceWMorlan said:

    Ann (Occhiat), you suggest that no one from the country is being heard here (except Ms Hendrickson). I live and operate in the country (though I do not farm), and anyone who has followed my long history of comments knows that I have an agenda of protecting farm land (though not necessarily ag. land, which does quite well thank you very much). I had hopes that Bridgewater Twp planning and zoning was going to help with that (to the south and west) but am not so hopeful now (the township supervisors are not able to step back far enough to take the long view, and the planning commission is still in its formative years and seems too unsure of itself to take bold steps). I have many times recommended total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) analyses be done BEFORE growth decisions and have suggested that such analyses would show that further growth in this area at this time is ill-advised. I would hope that even if this land is annexed, the TCO would be completed and would recommend against doing anything more than just holding it as farm land, which the city will need more than the township does. Unfortunately, EDAs do not seem to do the full analyses, and cities get stuck over and over in the Ponzi scheme we call growth at the expense of the sustainable.

    May 12, 2008
  93. kiffi summa said:

    Anne : You have lots of support for your POV, and should be encouraged by it. There have been lots of comments that are advocating *extreme caution* and only being that contained so they won’t be , once again, labeled a “small vocal minority” that whines when they don’t get their way.

    Some commenters here have attempted to rewrite history as they see it; others have raised many of the very serious questions that must be asked.
    Although Victor is on the EDA, which puts both of us in a weird position for different reasons, he has advocated for All the answers( i would venture to say because he thinks it is not a perfect idea and the answers can’t be satisfactorily provided) and I have said over and over to just designate it, if you must, but don’t annex.

    The problem is, these are just opinions.

    You , and others in Greenvale , must deal with your supervisors and get the votes you need to achieve the desired outcome. Surround the Greenvale Twp. Hall with the biggest field machines you can find , and dare them to go against your will.

    There are about a “million” good reasons not to annex this land at this time, and many of those reasons have been stated here.

    It will do no good to be the lone vote on the EDA; they are at the mercy of the senior administrative staff, and their own consciences. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to bother most of them.

    May 12, 2008
  94. Jane Moline said:

    Dear anybody who knows the law on this subject manner:

    My limited understanding of annexation under state rules (and maybe the rules differ by city size, etc.) are that a municipality has to consider an annexation under the “orderly annexation rules.”

    Under this rule, a landowner has the power in requesting the annexation–if the landowner is contiguous to the existing city limits prior to annexation they must be considered. Townships have no say in this process, unless they have entered into a special agreement with the city. The city has the power to override any rejection by the township.

    In other words, if the municipality (Northfield) wants to annex the property, the township board and other township residents (than the property owner) have NO SAY in the matter.

    Please explain to me if I am wrong and the authority you are using. I believe the Greenvale Township board and residents cannot stop their neighbors from being annexed into Northfield.

    This was codified in MN laws years and years ago and is not new. What seems to be new are annexation agreements between municipalities and townships which primarily assist the annexation process and relieve disputes between conflicting municipalities (like Northfield and Dundas) from trying to annex the same land. I do not think annexation laws protect the townships–they simply make it a more orderly process than gobbling.

    Some townships have used annexation agreements to their advantage and, unfortunately, the municipalities disadvantage.

    Here is the statute:

    “Subd. 2. Conditions. A municipal council may by ordinance declare land annexed to
    the municipality and any such land is deemed to be urban or suburban in character or about
    to become so if:
    (1) the land is owned by the municipality;
    (2) the land is completely surrounded by land within the municipal limits;
    (3) the land abuts the municipality and the area to be annexed is 120 acres or less, and the area to be annexed is not presently served by public wastewater facilities or public wastewater facilities are not otherwise available, and the municipality receives a petition for annexation from
    all the property owners of the land. Except as provided for by an orderly annexation agreement, this clause may not be used to annex any property contiguous to any property previously annexed under this clause within the preceding 12 months if the property is owned by the same owners and
    annexation would cumulatively exceed 120 acres…….”

    So the problem may be that it is too big to fall under orderly annexation–but it seems to say that the township cannot stop it. Also, if it is more than 200 acres and platted, the municipality can annex:

    “Subd. 5. Petition by property owners; objections; procedure. If the land is platted, or, if unplatted, does not exceed 200 acres, a majority of the property owners in number may petition the municipal council to have such land included within the abutting municipality and, within ten days hereafter, shall file copies of the petition with the director, the town board, the county board and the municipal council of any other municipality which borders the land to be annexed.
    Within 90 days from the date of service, the town board or the municipal council of such abutting municipality may submit written objections to the annexation to the director and the annexing municipality. Upon receipt of such objections, the director shall proceed to hold a hearing and issue an order in accordance with section 414.031, subdivisions 3 and 4. If written objections are not submitted within the time specified in this section and if the municipal council determines that property proposed for the annexation is now or is about to become urban or suburban in character, it may by ordinance declare such land annexed to the municipality.”

    So it would seem that if the land is platted (even as outlots) it can be annexed without any input from the township.

    May 12, 2008
  95. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce, Kiffi, and Ann: How come we didn’t hear this kind of opposition when Northfield built a big box hospital on the north side, and two big box schools on the south side? Didn’t they contribute to “urban sprawl”?

    If we didn’t force our public institutions to build in “infill” locations, by what justification can we require private individuals to bear the additional expenses of infill locations? Shouldn’t the taxpayers be bearing these additional costs if the benefits go to the taxpayers, and not to the individuals farmers and St. Olaf?

    I can see lots of people opposed to annexation for personal and global reasons. But, I don’t see any good community reasons not to annex.

    May 12, 2008
  96. Anne Bretts said:

    You nailed it, David. The hospital set the stage for all of this and leaves the city hard-pressed to oppose private development nearby.

    May 12, 2008
  97. Holly Cairns said:

    I live north of town, but with enough luck, we’ll move, soon. I’d like neighbors. It’s a vast farmland out here. So…. keeping that in mind:

    I like the Greenvale township new business park proposal, even if we never can sell our house. What about building “green energy” plants? Business parks don’t have to be the ugly factories (ugly factory = insert factory from Pink Floyd fame). I like growth, and I like balance. I like protected farmland, and business growth, too.

    Dakota county is in the “information gathering stage” and has recently had an open house, where
    new road proposals
    were on display. The road/s will probably need to go around protected farm land, which might hinder
    alternative one
    . I went to the open house and the consultant said alternative one was 90 something percent out of the question. I wish I had taken her name.

    I’d like to see a continuance/ addition to the
    Dodd construction
    — a road to Northfield and a light rail line.

    For the Light Rail, which I hope could be faster than the current rail, there are some areas which would lead towards the Cedar bridge…

    May 12, 2008
  98. John S. Thomas said:

    Seeing that document, scares the beejeezus out of me.

    With that possible extension coming at some future point, the developers must be drooling. I am surprised that the land isn’t already being speculated upon.

    It is almost a given that Hwy 23 will be pushed through at some point. I am just surprised that it stops where it does, and does not push all they way through to Dundas, and Hwy 1. Transit needs to be a big part of this, as 23 turns into Cedar, and Cedar will continue to grow as an alternative corridor for HWY 35. Light rail needs to continue to be thought about as well.

    This also adds more fuel to the fire for another river crossing south of town.

    I am still on the fence when it comes to the annexation of all this land. I need to read and ponder it more before forming an opinion.

    May 13, 2008
  99. William Siemers said:

    I think the comments which state that this annexation would contribute to a ‘global food crisis’ by taking ‘prime farmland’ out of production, are something of a red herring in this discussion.

    In the US there will an additional 5 million more acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat in production this year. There are, as I understand it, about 250 acres of crop land in the area considered for annexation. This is about 1/2 of 1/1000 of 1% of just the projected increase in US acres this year. The loss of this land in relation to total US food crop acreage (232 million acres) is 50 times as infinitesimal.

    I realize that any loss is too much for some people…since we’re talking about feeding people. Still, the USDA estimates an increase of about 50 million metric tons of food crop production worldwide this crop year. With ever increasing acreage in production and better yields, will the world miss the corn grown on these acres? I don’t think so…particularly since there is a good chance the corn produced on this land would not have been going to feed anyone anyway, but into the tank of someone’s SUV. If not that, then chances are, it would have been exported to China to feed pigs… and how ‘sustainable’ is that?

    So maybe we can leave the world food crisis out of this debate. Annexation of this land won’t affect the global food situation one way or another. I guess there is a symbolic value in ‘saving the farm’, but I’m not sure that symbolic gestures are what Northfield needs right now. In any case, the farmers involved, do not appear to want to be saved. They want to be annexed.

    May 13, 2008
  100. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Thanks for posting the statute, Jane. When Paul Hanson was petitioning Northfield for annexation of 30 acres (?) of cornfield for the Target complex, the maximum bite a city could take of township land was 60 acres per time, as I recall. Looks like the Legislature has raised it to 120 acres.

    Even though the opportunity was there, the City had been hesitant to do a hostile annexation. When Rossman was mayor, things changed. He was determined on the Target development and very clear that a hostile annexation was inevitable (if we did not let the land go). Northfield came to Bridgewater Township for preliminary approval and the board did NOT give it to them, but passed a resolution statimg that the township would be open to receiving more information.

    City staff misrepresented what happened that night and claimed the township did give preliminary approval, despite objection from a small but vocal groups. (In actuality, the room was full of residents who either did not want the big box at all or did not want it at THAT SITE.) Some months later, when push came to shove, the City had to admit the error and come back and ask for preliminary approval again.

    May 13, 2008
  101. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Tom Bonneville of Dayton Hudson remarked that there was only a short strip of green left between Lakeville and the Northfield exit which will be filled in soon enough. No point in fussing.

    Well, I think there is a point. Many groups are becoming more aware of the importance of locally grown food. Gloria Kiester shared some thoughts with me, particularly about the importance of the St. Olaf ag lands, which I will post shortly.

    Lest we forget, there was considerable fuss about moving the hospital out to St. Olaf land. Residents submitted a petition of 60 names and township supervisors took more time before voting. The WECAN group spent a lot of time and money on ads suggesting alternative sites, to no avail.

    Let’s spend adequate time on this one.

    May 13, 2008
  102. David,

    You ask in comment 100: “How come we didn’t hear this kind of opposition when Northfield built a big box hospital on the north side, and two big box schools on the south side? Didn’t they contribute to “urban sprawl”?”

    As Stephanie aptly points out, there WAS strong opposition to putting the hospital in the middle of a corn field. As for the two big box schools (Bridgewater and the Middle School), they are flanked on the east and west by residential development. There was no leapfrog development happening there. The locations might not have been the best possible, but they were nothing like this proposed annexation over three miles from downtown and one mile from the nearest residential development.

    I don’t see why planting the hospital a half mile from the nearest developed land justifies a further jump of more than a half mile to the next development. As momma always told me, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” I’ll say it again: I think we can do better than this, and remain true to the Comprehensive Plan, which is supposed to be the document guiding the community’s development. Leapfrog development is not in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan (either the 2001 Comp Plan or the revised, in-process Comp Plan that is having such a hard time being birthed). THAT is  the  “good community reason not to annex.”

    May 13, 2008
  103. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: It’s only a leapfrog development if St. Olaf decides not to develop their land. However, It is not a leapfrog annexation.

    May 13, 2008
  104. William,
    In comment 104 you say “I think the comments which state that this annexation would contribute to a ‘global food crisis’ by taking ‘prime farmland’ out of production, are something of a red herring in this discussion.”

    From American Heritage Dictionary: red herring n. 1. A smoked herring having a reddish color. 2. Something that draws attention away from the central issue. 

    I assume you are referring to definition two. Your facile argument that a mere 250 acres of lost farmland is no big deal since an additional 5 million acres of land are being planted in corn, beans and wheat this year (acreage being taken out of the federal Conservation Reserve Program, all of which would be better left out of production since it tends to be highly erodible land, taken out of row-crop production for sound ecological reasons to begin with), and we’re filling our gas guzzlers with corn and feeding Chinese pigs anyway, leaves me wondering where to start. It’s akin to saying, “there’s no problem sending our raw sewage down the Cannon River because, hey, the Mississippi River is really big, the Gulf of Mexico is even bigger, and it doesn’t really matter what we do here.” I think we would do well to ponder Barry Commoner’s First Law of Ecology: Everything is Connected to Everything Else.

    I guess I’ll keep it simple: The world is clearly having a hard time feeding 6.7 billion people right now, many of them even at subsistence levels. By 2050, best conservative estimates are that 9.2 billion of us will be taxing the ecosystems upon which we all depend. It seems to me that we have a moral obligation to protect as much prime farmland as possible. I hope we will be able to feed ourselves here in the Northfield area, via an increasingly-local food production and distribution system, for the long term. I hope there will not be mass hunger and starvation problems in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean in the future. I am confident that the world will need every last acre of good farmland possible to feed anything like 9.2 billion people who want to eat anything like the way we Americans eat.

    For me, the central issue is whether the proposed annexation and likely development represents a sustainable development pattern or not. I don’t think it does. We’ve been paving over good farmland, bulldozing woodlands, and filling in wetlands with abandon in the U.S. for way too long already. I simply don’t believe what is being proposed is wise, sustainable development, especially when we have other local alternatives (albeit not quite so conveniently at hand). And, in answer to Anne Bretts questions back in comment #91 concerning what those alternatives might be, I don’t personally have the answers, but I find it hard to believe that the 530 acres in question are the ONLY possible answer to Northfield’s need for commercial/industrial development land.

    May 13, 2008
  105. William Siemers said:


    You seem to have adopted the ‘think globally, act locally’ mindset. Which was my point exactly. Put this land into a global perspective and act in the best interest of Northfield. Act in the interest of people who need jobs. Sustain them.

    Personally I don’t want to get on a moral high horse…but I will say the last thing we should be doing is encouraging the rest of the world to ‘eat the way we Americans eat’. Likewise I am not so confident on predicting the future, (remember the Population Bomb?)

    But let me put it another way… Northfielders could have a bigger impact on the world food crisis by giving up double cheeseburgers than by not annexing this land.

    May 13, 2008
  106. This issue seems to be degenerating into comparing world views and philosophies. To an outsider, unfamiliar to the particular subtle yet potent dynamics particular to Northfield, it would seem strange that an offer of a large tract of land to the City would provoke such consternation. The expected response would be ‘thank you very much’. So, what makes this a poisoned chalice?

    To the seasoned politician and bureaucrat, this would be a wonderful opportunity to convert a contentious issue into a win-win-win outcome for (1) the landowner, (2) those against annexation for fear of ‘bait and switch’ or in favor of ‘no-growth’, (3) those in favor of annexation for industrial and tax-base reasons only or even salivating at the prospect of housing and a mega-mall.

    Tell me why this land cannot be annexed and the agreement include all the necessary ‘wherefores’ and ‘shalls’ such that the land after annexation cannot be developed for a specified period of time (eg 10 years) for other than industrial or agricultural use (or even nothing at all) or say a good road to replace the current bad stretch of H19 from H35 to Northfield (ie very specified) and which is binding on all councils now and in the foreseeable future.

    Can this not be done? If not, why? I see only a great opportunity for a compromise.

    May 13, 2008
  107. kiffi summa said:

    having just come from the Planning Commission meeting where the annexation was discussion item on the agenda , there seem to be more and more reasons to NOT annex.

    One of the most compelling arguments for close scrutiny by the EDA was made by Mr. Lawrence, of berry and asparagus fame. He spoke of the hydrology of the area, the elevation of ponds actually being above that of the roads in some instances, the immense cost of dealing with that model, and the disastrous results for the aquifer IF drainage is achieved. I hope the EDA was listening very closely. It does not sound like an easy sell to potential developers. Any potential business would be doing a lot of due diligence, and cost benefit analysis, and assuming Mr. Lawrence is accurate, and I do, this is a huge drawback , costwise.

    Quite a few G’vale residents spoke; they had not known of the PC’s Public Hearing. PC Chair, Greg Colby, gave a truly wonderful “good neighbor” rationale for letting these residents speak outside of the Public Hearing time.

    I cannot understand the position taken by staff. I would think their professional reputations would rest on getting this right; there seems to be way too much weight on moving it to conclusion, rather than using their expertise to expose and explain all the possible ramifications. Don’t we have professional staff to advise? or is their role to facilitate?

    This discussion does involve competing world views; it can’t be separated from those aspects of how we proceed for the future. This needs to be a careful and informed decision; it is a crucial decision. This one has to be done as rightly as can be, considering what the most informed proponents of future land use would advise. It cannot just be a quest for some industrial/business park land … if it is only that, I’m afraid we’re going to get it wrong … And lose something precious in the process.

    May 14, 2008
  108. Angel Dobrow said:

    I agree with the “cautionaries” (rhymes with canaries, as in the mines…); although the collective WE does not own the land in question, that same WE contributes to the quality of life called Northfield.

    There are many options to the looming world crisis of climate change and rampant growth and unsustainable lifestyle choices; and obviously those with the wherewithal to engage in this particular “public” discussion have opted NOT to stockpile canned goods on the back-40. Therefore, I believe all opinions are worth consideration. What we seem to have here, though, is a lack of process by which to explore these varying opinions. Confidence in the city government is pretty low, I (myself) have to look hard for a leadership voice that I can support in this fray.

    I propose we gather local leaders from all stripes and institute two things: one, a plan to finalize the comprehensive plan so neither pro-business growth-ers nor “radical isolationists” subvert the process and we end up with a pool of pissed-off residents; and two, a town-hall-type citizen input mechanism to assist the city government in the implementation of OUR (see idea one) plans.

    I also, once again, disagree with the rush. Democracy takes time.

    Peace–Angel Dobrow

    May 14, 2008
  109. Griff Wigley said:

    Sounds like the fit hit the shan at last night’s Planning Commission meeting, according to the article in today’s Nfld News:

    A clearly flummoxed O’Connell acknowledged that he didn’t have Griffith’s e-mail, didn’t have a copy of the draft comprehensive plan and wasn’t prepared to discuss Griffith’s concerns. And that bugged Griffith, even after commission member Tracy Davis pointed out that Griffith’s questions regarding the draft plan seemed to be separate from the annexation request.

    I’m looking forward to hearing from Ross and Tracy on this! 

    May 14, 2008
  110. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: I happened to get there for this discussion. Griffith wanted to address the Comprehensive Plan, which will be discussed next week. Ron’s concern was how this annexation would fit into the new Comp Plan. Brian’s response was that we have to deal with the 2001 Comp Plan because that is the official Comp Plan.

    May 14, 2008
  111. Tracy Davis said:

    Ross wasn’t at the meeting last night. Obviously there was a lot going on, because the issue strikes a nerve with many people. I was glad to hear from the Greenvale residents who spoke and I agree that Chair Greg Colby handled the process thing very well, both allowing public comments though last night was not a public hearing, and respecting the need to keep the meeting moving along so that business items could be dealt with.

    One of my concerns throughout the annexation discussion, last night and previously and online, is the fact that that there are several related BUT SEPARATE issues to be addressed, and lumping them all into one big pool only serves to muddy the waters.

    For example, we heard a lot from Greenvale residents about their concerns surrounding Dakota County’s plans to re-route and/or enlarge Cedar Avenue through Greenvale township. These concerns are serious and legitimate, but that is not relevant to the decision of whether or not to annex. Dakota County is going to do what it chooses with Cedar Avenue, whether or not this annexation takes place (the planning is based on long-term forecasting of traffic and population growth and is not directly connected to whether or not there’s an industrial park in the northwest quadrant of Northfield). In addition, Dakota County’s plan regarding Cedar Ave/Co. Rd 23 through Greenvale is one in which Northfield has no jurisdiction or authority, and very minimal (if any) influence.

    Another example of issues which I tried to separate was brought up in the Northfield News article. At the request of Commissioner Ron Griffith, the PC added an agenda item last night: Staff report regarding discussion/teleconference with ACP (the consultants on the new Comp Plan and Land Development Regulations). This was to follow up on an email Griffith sent to staff a week or so ago in which questions for staff/ACP specifically regarding the Land Use chapter in the Comp Plan were raised; it would have been helpful to have some clarification on those issues prior to the annexation discussion.

    My oversimplified characterization of what happened goes like this (and this is not by any means verbatim, just my summary):

    Griffith: What about the answers to those land use questions?

    O’Connell: They weren’t included in the conversation with ACP.

    Griffith: Well, the staff report answering some of the last meeting’s questions with regard to annexation confirmed that the landowners are agreeing to be bound by the new Comp Plan in terms of the land use if annexed. But there’s a big hole in the Plan in that there is no classification or language to address this prospective industrial land.

    O’Connell:We have to base the annexation request on the existing plan and regulations. By the time the new plan is adopted it will have the necessary language, but it’s not done yet.

    The exchange sounded a lot testier in person, because of the personalities of O’Connell and Griffith, but I took it as just a hammering out of process, with Ron Griffith doing an excellent job of pointing out work that still needs to be done lest it somehow fall through the cracks.

    I agree with Ron that it would certainly make things easier and more streamlined if we had better language in the new Comp Plan to address this situation; otherwise, it could seem that we are being asked to make a very large, very critical decision (one which we may not see again in Northfield for 50 years or more) without having adequate controls in place. If asked, “Should we annex 500 acres (335 buildable) for an industrial park?”, that’s one thing, and it’s complicated enough. However, it feels more like we’re being asked, “Should we annex 500 acres (335 buildable) into Northfield, with the implication of infrastructure and other associated costs, without procedural means to ensure that the land is used for the currently stated intent?”

    The decision to push this annexation request in advance of the adoption of the new Comp Plan makes it more likely that there will be opposition from some quarters which might not exist otherwise. I think that’s unfortunate. But, we have to deal with what is. So, I think it’s best to try to untangle those issues as much as possible.

    May 14, 2008
  112. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    As far as I’m concerned, Griffith was the hero of the evening. Dan Olson went over questions left unanswered from the public hearing April 29. On the first one, he said staff made a clerical error in not including the City Council motion of July 7 that property owners would sign an agreement to abide by the Comp Plan in developing the business park. He said Larry Larson (representing landowners) had agreed to this.

    It was assumed there would be provisions of the new Comp Plan that would guide the development of the business park. Griffith had done his homework, however, and found no provisions applicable. He had been relaying material to staff so they could run it by someone called Jamie of ACP in an upcoming phone conference.

    O’Connell said the subject of annexation had not come up with Jamie, that the discussion was on the Comp Plan only. He and Griffith were going and round on this until Tracy interjected in defense of staff, which I thought unfortunate. She did say she was not up to speed, having been out of town.

    I hope Griffith and other members will recommend against annexation until the draft Comp Plan is complete enough to show that it will help guide development of the 530 acres. If they go ahead now, the City would, in Ron’s words, be stepping out into Never-Never-Land.

    Testimony from the six township residents was superb, especially Lorence Berry Farm.

    May 14, 2008
  113. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Sorry, Tracy, you and I were writing our renditions of what happened last night simultaneously and I posted mine without seeing yours.

    One thing I would disagree with is the idea that the road issue is separate from the annexation and business park. You need to read the MNDOT letter of April 28, warning against going ahead with this annexation without sufficient preplanning and input from them. This was featured in some detail in last Saturday’s Northfield News, page 3 or so. The paper had not provided the City response to MNDOT by the time of printing. Maybe you can provide that for us here.

    May 14, 2008
  114. Tracy Davis said:

    Stephanie – I have the letter, do you mean post the City response (if there’s been one yet)?

    May 14, 2008
  115. Tracy Davis said:

    I have a response from City Engineer Katy Gehler-Hess dated May 6, in response to the April 28 MNDot letter. Will try to scan both and post later.

    May 14, 2008
  116. kiffi summa said:

    What a mess!
    MNDOT and the road…
    Greenvale supervisors and their residents not being in “synch”…
    Mr. Lorence’s astounding hydrology cautions…
    Why even consider paving over good Ag land …
    60 day rules and extensions …
    Comp plan not done… and won’t be …
    Council says development must adhere to new comp plan; Brian O’Connell says this is under the current comp plan and that’s all that matters …
    What is the EDA thinking if the land’s hydrology is not suitable for large buildings … Remember the sinking hospital …
    Plan Commissioner says NO provision in the new Comp Plan’s land use Chapter to deal with this…

    “Threats” to take the whole thing to Dundas … well, it sounds like something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy … and I LIKE Dundas!

    May 14, 2008
  117. David Ludescher said:

    It was odd that the Planning Commission took testimony from Greenvale Township residents. Apparently, the residents are not happy about how the Township Board did not oppose the annexation.

    In fairness, the Township Board did not say that they were in favor of the annexation. They appeared to be resigned to the fact that the City does not need the Township’s approval to proceed forward.

    Regarding Griffith’s questions, his questions were directed at trying to confuse the annexation and the development questions. It was pure political theatre without any substance. At least both he and O’Connell knew it, even if the audience didn’t.

    Interestingly, the most compelling arguments to date against annexation came from the Greenvale Township residents. Rather than ponticating about bobo idealism like previous anti-annexation speakers and Commissioners, the Greenvale residents talked about the negative effects upon them, their land, and the difficulties of establishing an industrial park in this area.

    Northfield would be well-advised to consult with the Langers, Kluvers, Laurences, and others after annexation. These folks know that land. While they have their personal interests at stake, they could also stop Northfield from making unwise decisions.

    May 14, 2008
  118. “It was odd that the Planning Commission took testimony from Greenvale Township residents.” Odd in what way, David? Odd that the Commissioners don’t just roll over and take their orders passively from the local Good Old Boy network?

    Please forgive me for pontificating once again, but it seems a good idea to me to take testimony from the people most directly affected by the proposed annexation. Gee, they even seem to agree with some of the self-interested liberal bobos in Northfield…

    May 14, 2008
  119. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: It was odd for two reasons: first, it wasn’t a public hearing, so taking testimony was odd; second, they aren’t represented by Northfield; they are represented by the Greenvale Township supervisors.

    Second, that these residents agree with the bobos is only happenstance. The residents’ concerns are personal and pragmatic. The bobos concerns are global and idealistic.

    By the way, at least in this case, the bobos are conservatives, not liberals. Liberal comes from the Latin liber meaning to free. A liberal bobo would say that people should be free to choose the lifestyle they want to live.

    May 14, 2008
  120. Jane Moline said:

    Kiffi: Thank you for liking Dundas–I like it too! I think Dundas would be pleased to expand their industrial park.

    I also think it is in the best interest of everyone involved–Greenvale and Bridgewater Township, Northfield and Dundas cities, to find the best location for an industrial park as quickly as possible to attract and keep business in this area.

    Bruce, when you criticize this annexation for leap-frogging (it is not–the land is right next to existing city limits) while praising agri-belts like Portland has, you are arguing against yourself. The only way for Northfield to preserve open space is to annex it first–and if you are going to put a value on open space, you will have open space between developments–which some might call sprawl, although we know that clustering can minimize sprawl.

    I think the timeline is running on annexation, so the city is under a required response (is it 60 days?) when they must decide–the state statute puts this time line in, not the city trying to rush it–and the city is in a tough spot–if they decide against annexation they cannot economically turn around and annex when it is convenient. Reluctant landowners make it too expensive. Forced annexation can be considered a “taking” by the city.

    So, if they turn it down they will be critisized for failing to secure land for future industrial growth–in effect harming all of the citizens if business owners (continue) to look elsewhere for available land.

    May 14, 2008
  121. Patrick Enders said:

    David L,
    Enough with the “Bobos” already. Please. It’s tired, and insulting.

    May 14, 2008
  122. Ann Occhiato said:

    As one of the Greenvale residents who spoke at the PC meeting Tuesday I want to thank Chair Colby again for allowing more Greenvale residents to have a voice.

    I had hoped to connect the dots for the commission that the annexation and the road are not separate issues. There seem to be a few voices calling for annexation without planning it for development but the main reason for annexation (that has been stated emphatically) is an intent to use the land for development. Because of this, the road and annexation are the same. You will not get one without the other…if you develop that land we WILL get an expanded and realigned Cedar Ave corridor through Greenvale and it WILL destroy existing family farms and it WILL forever change the character of Greenvale. If the city wanted to annex the land for green space and create a park that would be a different scenario. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.

    This annexation is a disaster for Greenvale township and Northfield by extension. Purposely creating a situation where an undisrupted North/South corridor will be built connecting Northfield with suburban sprawl to the north is a mistake and will eventually destroy the small town character and reputation Northfield currently enjoys. Dakota County Commissioner Joe Harris has stated twice in the last month that the road study was conducted because of Northfield’s wishes to develop in the Northwest quandrant. He stated publicly at our last township meeting that if there is no development there will be no road. I don’t see how you could possibly consider the two issues separately. To do so would be doing a great disservice to ALL of Northfield and Greenvale.

    Further, no one seems to care very much that Greenvale residents have voiced their opposition to this. Yes, it is the law that these landowners can offer up their land without our legal approval (which is the only reason our supervisors signed a letter stating they would not oppose it) and there seems to be quite a lot of interest on this blog in the “legal-ese” of this decision, but I argue that if the law was the most ethical standard available to us we may very well still be under Jim Crowe! We all know that the laws don’t always serve the best public interest. Three landowners are overriding the wishes of their community and are putting their own personal economic interests above the best interests of the vast majority of Greenvale residents. Three landowners will get a premium for their land while my property values will go down, my neighbor’s family farm will be destroyed, the farm to the north of my property will be destroyed, farms further south on Cedar will be destroyed and every single property abutting the expanded Cedar Ave corridor will see decreased property values. Not to mention that it will only be a matter of time before more of Greenvale will be moved away from agriculture if this road is built. Is this a situation Northfield wants to support?

    It would be so much easier if this annexation decision was a nice, tidy situation about creating more jobs and tax revenue for Northfield. But, the fact is that it is not. This decision will impact Northfield forever and the Planning Commission owes it to us to look at ALL of the consequences carefully. The roadways must be a factor in this decision.

    May 15, 2008
  123. kiffi summa said:

    Re:Anne O’s comment , May 15, 7:24 AM…
    Read and think … Well, those derogatorily termed”bobos” are exhibiting that they have already thought a lot… But those who do not question the outcomes of this annexation IMHO need to think more about the future results , over the many years it would take this questionable biz park to develop. Go back and look at what Joe Harris (the Dak Cnty. Comm.) is reported to have said.

    This is not just a way to satisfy a “need” for Northfield. If the EDA is doing their job they will look further, much further, at the future impacts of this project they want so badly. First of all, the question of how buildable this land is, and at What Cost, must be a discussion the EDA enters into.

    And, it is impossible , in my mind, to have Mr. O’Connell be the senior staff advisor to both the Boards that are dealing with this. The pertinent questions have not been raised except by the “troublesome three” and the EDA’s “troublesome one”.

    Why are we so afraid of an elucidating transparency in this town? Why can’t we use the dynamics of this citizenry to explore larger issues … BIG DEALS … the way the Lashbrook park/archery problem was dealt with. Why are people always denigrated when they come out with an opposing POV to be considered? Why as soon as serious questions are raised do we develop a denigrating nickname for those asking the question, instead of answering the question, putting it to rest…

    This ” modus operandi” has caused so much trouble in Northfield, including the current city hall MESS … if we’re so proud of being a “small town”, why can’t we deal respectively with our neighbor’s points of view?

    May 15, 2008
  124. William Siemers said:

    Regarding ‘paving over’ the farmland under consideration in the annexation:

    The global food crisis argument is disingenuous. A bright red herring.

    The ‘eat locally’ argument is not as pat as some would have us believe. It currently does not make economic sense for average consumers. A quick comparison of prices at the farmers market to the prices at Cub will bring that into focus. And according to Environmental Science and Technology, April 16, 2008, “The benefits of eating locally grown food may not extend to curbing global warming, according to a comprehensive study of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. food.”

    I agree that it is nice to know something about who grows our food. And in some cases locally grown food does taste incrementally better. But taking this particular land out of production will not prevent either of those choices. And in any case, these are life-style decisions; they certainly do not constitute moral imperatives.

    Regarding the hydrology concern: If the land can’t be developed wouldn’t that solve the problem for the opponents of annexation?

    I think this controversy is basically between those who value esthetics and life style versus those who value development. There are reasonable concerns on both sides. I would rather look at countryside than at another industrial area as I approach Northfield. I’m sure the nearby Greenvale and Northfield residents who live nearby would much rather look out at rolling farm land than an industrial park. The Greenvale residents have a right to be concerned about threats to their life style. Everyone knows that these concerns are nothing new. I think that, within reason, they need to be addressed. But the state, for good reasons, has come down solidly on the side of municipalities that want to annex neighboring township lands, even in the case of unfriendly annexation.

    This is an opportunity for a friendly annexation. How often does that happen? If the chance slips away, I think we will regret it.

    May 15, 2008
  125. William Siemers said:

    Ann O.

    I admire your passion about this issue. I would like to know why the farms you mentioned will be destroyed by the development of the annexed land and why all these property values will decline?

    I understand the road, that you are sure will be built, will require the ‘taking’ of some farm land. And that some farms will be reduced in size or ‘destroyed’ by that. But aren’t farm land prices actually increasing right now? If this is viable land won’t the compensation be at market rates? Also, I see plenty of productive farm land adjacent to the interstate. Is that land worth less than equivilant land that is a few miles away? I also see farm fields right next to, or in the middle of, residential and commercial development on Cedar in Lakeville. Is that land worth less than farms two or three miles from the road?

    These are not rhetorical questions. I would really like to know.

    May 15, 2008
  126. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    It might help me to understand your point of view, Mr. Siemers, if I knew what you do for a living. What you mind sharing that?

    May 15, 2008
  127. Tracy Davis said:

    I also appreciate Ann O’s comments, both here and at the PC meeting on Tuesday. As I’ve said before, I’m *generally* in favor of this annexation; I believe that it serves the best long-term interest of Northfield. I agree that certain types of DEVELOPMENT could be an unmitigated disaster.

    It’s not simplistic or disingenuous of me to say yet again that these two things – annexation and development – are separate issues. Mere annexation does not change land use; the land will still be owned by three farm families if the annexation takes place. I understand that it is less likely (though not impossible) that distasteful development would happen without this annexation. But it is not a given that one will lead to the other. In fact a case could be made that Northfield would be in a better position than Greenvale Township to ensure that a greenbelt is maintained in the northwest.

    The planning and study regarding Co. Rd. 23/Cedar began long before this annexation idea was a gleam in anyone’s eye; if you want to point a finger at anything, point it at the hospital and the Northfield Retirement Center. Not that it would be productive to do so. The road is going to be changed, and some people will not be happy; that’s a given, and that will happen even if the request for annexation is denied.

    Maybe at this time it would be more accurate to say that I’m leaning in favor of the annexation. But it’s very important to me that if this annexation takes place, it does so with all the appropriate development controls we can put on it, and I’m open hearing different points of view to be sure I’ve considered them all.

    May 15, 2008
  128. William Siemers said:

    Stephanie H.
    I’m not sure what my work has to do with this…but no problem…I am basically retired. The last 35 years I worked in the grain business and owned a coffee roasting business. 25 or so other jobs before that.

    May 15, 2008
  129. kiffi summa said:

    Tracy: Why do you think “Northfield would be in a better position to maintain a greenbelt than Greenvale Twp would be”?

    Why do you feel that if, as Ron G. says, the Land use Chapter of the New Comp Plan “is totally inadequate to deal with these needs” (sic) ?

    I would feel a lot better if one of the Plan commissioners would ask Mr. O’Connell about the conflicting issues of old/new compplan… the council has said that the owners of the land must say that any development would comply with the NEW plan; Mr. O’Connelll said most emphatically it is being done under the OLD plan.

    Sounds like a conflict to me …

    Will Mr. O’Connell tell the council that they cannot “deal” with the NEW plan, as it is happening under the OLD plan; he did not do that at the meeting last July when the council agreed to look at this under their specific limiting language that they attached to the motion.

    Too many conflicting “facts”…

    May 15, 2008
  130. William, In comment #129 you opine “I think this controversy is basically between those who value esthetics and life style versus those who value development.” I beg to differ. I think this controversy is between those who think development in a business-as-usual manner is fine, and those who think that Northfield should develop in a different way in the future. Business-as-usual has resulted in development patterns here and just about everywhere else in the U.S. that have led us into innumerable messes, from (yes) sprawl development and the resulting wasteful use of land to near-total dependence on the car (or SUV/minivan/pickup), and the ever-increasing vulnerability of our economy and society (nationally, including Northfield) to spiralling petroleum product prices and possible future petroleum supply disruptions (and dare I say might have just a tad to do with our democratizing Iraq by force).

    This is not just about the loss of 530 (or 440, or 335) acres of farm land in Greenvale Township. This is about sprawl development and continual loss of prime farmland every minute to development in the U.S. (see, for example, “2 Farm Acres Lost per Minute, Study Says“). (This has perhaps slowed down as a result of the housing market being in the doldrums, but it has been and remains a huge issue.) It’s about what Northfield values, and how we grow as a community. Just about every one of the community values embodied in the City Council-endorsed Land Use Principles would be compromised by the kind of development envisioned for the land included in this annexation request. Are the councilors bobos, or inattentive?  They did endorse these principles, and they are our elected representatives.

    While the actions of Northfield are inconsequential in the global sense, I do think we have a moral obligation to think globally and act locally (as much as you might care to deride such a principle).
    Yes, by all means let’s create decent jobs locally and develop a sustainable (economically, environmentally and socially) community. Let’s do it in a better way than this annexation offers.

     You may disagree totally with any and all of these conclusions. That is your right, and I don’t care to (and will not) debate all of these issues ad nauseum here on Locally Grown. I have a life to get on with.

    May 15, 2008
  131. Ann Occhiato said:


    Thank you, Bruce, for “getting it”. I have to say that most people involved in this post, and I dare say, the entire “process” are so mired in the minutia of council meetings, who said what, the in’s and out’s of plans and insider gossip that the big picture is being lost.

    Bruce explained it perfectly. This is about trying to do a little better than we’ve gotten in America up to this point as far as sustainability is concerned. We are entering an age when it will no longer be feasible to not consider the consequences to the landscape (and the vital nutrients it supplies) in our business development decisions. Many people don’t want to wake up to the fact that our resources are being rapidly depleted. And, while this tract of farmland is relatively small when you think in regional terms, this is happening EVERYWHERE EVERY DAY and farmland and open spaces are disappearing.

    Northfield can and should take the opportunity to be a leader in sustainable development instead of the same old tired model that is getting us more of what we’ve got: spoiled wetlands, contaminated water, disappearing green space and roads roads roads. Let’s embrace a 21st century model of development that supports the needs of everyone and doesn’t destroy green spaces, wetlands and viable farmland.

    In addition, my point about decreasing property values wasn’t about decreasing property values! It was about how this decision has tremendous ripple affects for many, many people other than these three landowners and their immediate neighbors, and that we must consider ALL of the consequences.

    May 16, 2008
  132. Anne Bretts said:

    I guess I wonder how the city can sustain a legal challenge to a refusal to annex based on promoting sprawl, since all the arguments for annexation are the same ones the city used to justify the hospital just a couple of years ago.
    Is ‘do as I say, not as I do’ a legal defense?

    May 16, 2008
  133. Tracy Davis said:

    Ann O: I agree with you that Bruce A. “gets it”, but that doesn’t mean that people who disagree with his or your conclusions on this particular annexation issue don’t. There may be different means of approaching shared goals, and a different assessment of what the priorities are. I’m trying to get away from the “oh my god we’re reducing ag land” aspect of this annexation request because there are plenty of other concerns that can be more directly tied to our existing plans and regulations (and thus, as Anne B. pointed out, more legally defensible if ever challenged). I believe it’s more constructive to the process to focus on those things.

    Kiffi, what I meant in my comment about Northfield being in a better position to maintain a greenbelt is simply that Northfield as a city has more regulatory tools available than a township does if the political will exists to do so. I’m just point that out, but I’m not holding my breath.

    May 16, 2008
  134. William Siemers said:

    Ann O…This annexation will permanently have wetlands and open space incorporated into it. And, for the time being, it will have crop land. I realize that is pretty much immaterial to you, as it seems that you are opposed to any development outside of existing boundaries, particularly in this neck of the woods. But that doesn’t change the fact that this will be a fairly ecologically diverse area…as least as far as industrial parks go.

    I agree with Britt, who mentioned in the Roder thread, ‘let’s just get this thing done’. Except for just a couple people in this LG thread, almost everyone has indicated that they could support the annexation if there can be control over potential development. With all the talent in this town, it seems that a letter of agreement (or comparable document) could be drafted that would stipulate the concerns regarding control, while not completely tying the hands of the owners regarding options for development. Maybe this would then allow the deal to get done within the time period allowed.

    May 16, 2008
  135. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Let me be clear, I do NOT support a business park at this site. Covering over ag land of this quality so far off the beaten path is simply wrong. If a majority of the Planning Commission and Council want this ill-timed annexation, I would, at the very least, press for language in the Comp Plan and ordinances to guide it so no retail or residential is allowed in and environmental concerns are addressed.

    I did not support rezoning more than a thousand acres of ag land along I-35 from the Steer south to Cty 1 for highway commercial either. Commissioner Jim Brown was determined upon it, despite campaign promises to the contrary, so it was done. The study committee was not balanced–no farmer or rural resident along the route was included. There is no infrastructure out there and there are, to date, no developers I know of knocking on doors of landowners. Heath and Wolf creeks were named as potential sites for sewage plants.

    Wolf Creek, which runs through the back of my farm, is stinky enough. My husband tried to cross on the four-wheeler a few years ago and fell in. Came out smelling like sewer.

    May 16, 2008
  136. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Townships are granted the right to their own planning and zoning in Minnesota, yet they are put at a disadvantage when it comes to annexation. Even at that, a township is not without recourse. Northfield cannot take more than 120 acres at one time (increased from 60 acres two years ago), unless Greenvale is agreeable to it. Greenvale can request a hearing where both parties present their cases. Given the opposition to this annexation from their residents, one wonders why they are not doing that.

    Christine Scotillo of Municipal Boundary Adjustment office can answer questions at 651-361-7910
    or check out the website

    May 24, 2008
  137. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    URGENT: Recommendation on this annexation is TONITE (May 27) at Planning Commission meeting 7 pm. Agenda just became available this morning on the website

    Unfortunately, there is an error in the pdf for packet materials which city staff are now correcting. I’m hoping Sandy can email me the resolutions staff has prepared, meanwhile.

    Going back to Ross Currier’s first entry on this discussion, the City’s Comprehensive Economic Development Plan says the City needs 120 acres, which happens to fit the number allowed in state law. I hope the Planning Commission will consider that number, as opposed to 530 acres, tonight.

    May 27, 2008
  138. Ann Occhiato said:

    Thank you to the Planning Commission for being the voice of reason at City Hall by voting against annexing 530 acres of Greenvale! More work needs to be done to ensure that even less than the now proposed 300+acres is annexed.

    The Planning Commission and everyone in general needs to know that huge inaccuracies and misconceptions are at play in how this annexation is proceeding. It states in the packet for the commission meeting last night that the Greenvale town board held a public meeting on May 20th to hear testimony from Greenvale township residents on the annexation and after that testimony decided to not revise its position. How this is stated is completely inaccurate and I dare say intensionally falsified. When concerned residents attended the regularly held monthly meeting at Greenvale town hall on May 20th and requested to make comments there was a discussion about the annexation. The general feeling of the residents I know that attended said they felt as if their comments were actually not welcomed or appreciated but allowed nonetheless. Under whose definition of “testimony” does this fit? Who has misconstrued what happened at that May 20th meeting? Was it the Greenvale town board who greatly mistated to city staff what took place at that meeting? Or was it city staff who twisted it to better align with their recommendation to annex? To state it the way it was in the packet makes it sound as if the Greenvale town board held a public meeting about the annexation in order to let Greenvale residents finally have a say, when in fact no such thing was done.

    Can we not have an open and public debate about the merits of this annexation deal? Why are events being misrepresented? Does the Greenvale Town Board or Land Vista or City Staff have something to hide? Why did John Fink tell a neighbor that he was told by Greenvale supervisors TWO YEARS AGO that the annexation wouldn’t be a problem when the letter from the supervisors is dated April 15, 2008 and the discussion of the annexation wasn’t brought up at a public meeting until late 2007? Doesn’t anyone find these things disturbing?

    May 28, 2008
  139. Griff Wigley said:

    The Nlfd News story on last night’s Planning Commission meeting is titled Board votes to annex a portion of 530 acres.

    Five hundred and thirty acres was a bite larger than the Planning Commission wanted to take. The commission Tuesday voted 6-1 to recommend the city council annex just two thirds of the request — 354 acres — west of the Northfield Hospital for a business park. If approved by the council, only the two eastern-most properties would be brought into the city limits. Ninety of the acres are owned by St. Olaf College; the remaining 254 belong to David Sorem.

    May 28, 2008
  140. kiffi summa said:

    I would very much like to hear some response to Anne O’s most recent questions .. #148.

    I think it is incumbent upon the City of Northfield , and the Greenvale supervisors to respond.

    May 28, 2008
  141. David Ludescher said:

    Ross or Tracy: There are actually 4 requests given there are four property owners. Was the vote 6-1 on each of the four properties?

    Also, was there a 6-1 vote to annex the St. Olaf land for business park use? I don’t think St. Olaf wants a business park on their land, do they?

    May 28, 2008
  142. victor summa said:

    David Ludescher asks:

    Ross or Tracy: There are actually 4 requests … there are four property owners. Was the vote 6-1 on each of the four properties?

    Also, was there a 6-1 vote to annex the St. Olaf land for business park use? I don’t think St. Olaf wants a business park on their land, do they?

    Am I reading another attack in that question?

    The vote was meant to limit the acres annexed.

    As to St. Olaf or the farmer’s goals for future development or changes in use, these were really not addressed in the Plan commission’s discussion or resolution. Indeed it would in many ways have been a discussion in futility, as the Council has already sanctioned the annexation discussion to go forward with no Concept Plan attached.

    There seems to be verbal commitment from the farmers and the Pl. C did invoke a strong letter of agreement be signed.

    I had hoped the Pl. C would take more time to sort out these questions as best they might … and to include in their recommendation to the Council, parameters that would specify these more precisely than the Pl. C. action taken, really did.

    They did include language to tie the NW territory development to the new Comp Plan, when it is finished and its associated land use regulations. One can only hope they (The Pl. C) will not tire before that task is complete.

    On property owners intentions:

    Clearly we have sense of what St. Olaf’s participation in this process is supportive of … and, what their plan for their 89 acres are. St.O has no immediate plan for development on those 89 acres.

    Obviously the best laid plans of mice and men …etc, can not predict today, what St.O will see as vital to their needs and those of the community’s, tomorrow.

    Interestingly enough, a few years back when the Hospital was in development phase, the college did have plans for the acreage at the NW corner of North Avenue and County 23/Cedar. Those plans centered around a classy “stone built” housing complex for St. O retired alums. This idea has moved off the College’s front burner… but is still as good a guess as any of what might appear there, someday.

    Unfortunately, short sighted Hospital plans did not allow for adequate water distribution to that complex, so the City, in the few years the Hospital has been up and running has found it necessary to mess-up the corner by building a less than “compatible stone” building that could have matched the College’s buildings, should the latter materialize.

    From my point of view, St.O’s retirement complex would have been (is still) quite good for Northfield … both from a land use as well as an aesthetic perspective.

    As for the

    “4 requests …. there are four property owners. Was the vote 6-1 on each of the four properties?”

    Whatever the meaning of the vote, the intent was clear, and if there’s a loose end in that process, it would be in Staff’s oversight, not that of the Pl C.

    But, all this may be moot, as a mater of fact, as Council may vote to overturn the Pl. C’s recommendation and allow the full 530 to come in.

    The EDA, when looking at the entire site requesting annexation, recognized the limited use of some 150 acres of environmentally sensitive land of the 530. (see Tracy in Comment # 136)

    Northfield would be in a better position than Greenvale Township to ensure that a greenbelt is maintained in the northwest.

    Reducing the 530 by 150 acres, that number plus another estimated 45 acres related to vital transportation corridor connections through the annexed land, the acres available for future light industrial development, is reduced to 335 acres, about where the Pl. C ended up. There’s little practical gain in their action … and arguably some tactical loss.

    While I am not scurrying around longing to annex every nook and cranny .. and I’d much prefer in-fill development of the vast variety of available land along the Hwy 3 corridor be pushed, as the preeminent development goal, for, as the recently departed ED staff person (C Coulomb-fiore) has said

    it is all a joke. They (Northfield) need more business to cover the taxes, but they cannot support the businesses they have.

    Which is in many ways is what Bruce A. and Ann O. and many Greenvalians as well as other concerned Northfielders have said about the annexation.

    One can only hope that the inclusion of these acres … 335 or 530 … or more, if you are to listen to some who look hungrily at Waterford and Bridgewater Townships, in the end, proves to be a sustainable move for the community.

    It’s like calling balls and strikes in a darkened ball park. Only the Chicago Cubs can survive and thrive without winning.

    In the case at hand, we may be talking about fuel and food.

    When is the Plan Commission going to lead a dialogue on the real future of Northfield.

    Was that what started last summer, in the Armory?

    Do the seven on the dais and their employed staff realize this?

    Does the Chamber of Commerce? Or does everyone see a blue sky on the other side of the fence — or is that greener grass?

    My suggestion, give the staff a vacation .. and plan like hell while they’re up at the lake.

    May 29, 2008
  143. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave – According to City staff, when I asked a similar question at Tuesday’s meeting, there were two annexation requests – one from Land Vista on behalf of property owners Sorem, Fink, and Lysne, and one from St. Olaf. I delayed a response to your question so that I could reference my meeting notes, but now I find that I’ve left them at my office. Will try to give more details tomorrow.

    May 29, 2008
  144. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: If the Land Vista request is one request, then does the Planning Commission vote mean that it is recommending denial of Land Vista’s request? My understanding is that the City Council doesn’t have the authority to approve the request as passed by the Planning Commission. Doesn’t it have to give each request a yes or no?

    May 29, 2008
  145. kiffi summa said:

    Dave: Tracy asked, not once, but multiple times, about the specificity of the number of requests. If there is in your mind, or in reality, a technical problem with the vote, then it was incumbent upon the staff present to give the PC the guidance they needed, as to how to construct the voting procedure.
    Surely the staff would not have an agenda to have the PC make an invalid vote, when their intent was so clear? Is your questioning of the process (#154) intending to say that the vote was invalid because it was not constructed properly?
    You say your understanding is that the city council can’t approve the PC’s vote because of the way it was handled… Is that your personal understanding, or have you spoken with an authority who has stated this opinion?

    May 30, 2008
  146. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: Good questions.

    I am speaking based upon personal knowledge only. First, I understand that the Planning Commission’s vote is merely advisory on annexation. So, perhaps the issue is moot.

    But, if it is not advisory, and if there are two requests – one from St. Olaf, and one from Land Vista, then a 6-1 vote to accept all of St. Olaf’s land and part of the other request could mean just about anything.

    Is it a 6-1 vote to have the St. Olaf property be designated for business use?
    Is it a 6-1 vote to deny the other request because it has too much land?

    Perhaps it would be helpful to see the actual resolution.

    Better yet, the Council should ask the landowners if they will agree to a 30 day extension on the requests so that the Planning Commission can go back and do what they were supposed to do – Vote yes or no on the specific requests, and give the reasons why. Specifically, should the Council deny Land Vista’s request because it is too large? If Land Vista maintains it is all or nothing, is the Planning Commission recommending nothing or all?

    Or, best of all, the Council should just ignore the Planning Commission vote. It is very similar to the Target circumstance when we twice asked the Planning Commission for their recommendations, and twice we got a non-responsive answer. So, we were forced to go ahead without their recommendations. I don’t know what a 6-1 vote means for these two request.

    Ross or Tracy: Could you explain what you think you did with the vote?

    May 30, 2008
  147. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Sounds like a couple people on this blog who wanted the whole land grab (530 acres) are not content with the Planning Commission vote and would like it declared null and void.

    May 30, 2008
  148. Ross Currier said:

    David –

    Not to get caught up in a technicality, I’ll leave that to you lawyers, but my understanding is that an annexation request comes from the property owner.

    Furthermore, Staff told the Commission that the City Council has relatively great flexibility in taking action on an annexation request.

    But, as you pointed out, given the power relationship between Commission and Council, perhaps the point i moot.

    – Ross

    May 30, 2008
  149. Tracy Davis said:

    David – Here’s what I wrote down regarding what we actually did at Tuesday’s meeting.

    The motions approved 6-1 were:

    1. Recommend to the City Council that they approve the amendment to the Future Land Use Map to designate the portion of the Sorem property west of Garret Avenue from “Residential Cluster” to “Business Park/Light Industry” and include that property in the “Priority Growth Area” of the City. The Fink and Lysne properties would be located within the “Urban Expansion Area”, but not withing the “Priority Growth Area”.

    2. Recommend to the City Council that they approve the approx. 354 acres consisting of the Sorem Property and the St. Olaf property.

    Findings to support the land use map change and the annexation:

    • The City’s property tax base will increase as payments are made by the new businesses that would locate in the annexation area.
    • An estimated 4000 new employees will be employed within the business park at full build-out. In addition, new businesses may move into Northfield to support the new businesses in the business park.
    • Commercial and industrial infill and redevelopment could be spurred on within City limits since more land is available within City limits for these land uses, thereby lowering the price of commercial and industrial land within City limits.
    • The land use plans of both the 1988 and the 2001 Comprehensive Plans are achieved since both Plans show industrial land uses in the area.
    • By excluding the Fink and Lysne properties from the “Priority Growth Area” and the annexation, the City can require that the Sorem property, which is closer to existing City limits, will develop first.

    Findings to support the reduction of land annexed from the initial request of 530 acres to 354 acres:

    • The City does not require such a large tract of land for business park and light industrial growth.
    • The proposed annexation area is located far from the developed areas of the City and encourages urban sprawl.
    • The City desires to preserve agricultural land outside its City limits.

    Ross – does this tally with your notes and memory? The minutes haven’t yet been distributed, so I can’t consider this the final word on Tuesday’s actions.

    May 30, 2008
  150. Anne Bretts said:

    Just a detail, but in what alternate reality will there be 4,000 jobs on that land? I suppose if full buildout is 50 years from now and the population in the metro region doubles and the Cedar Avenue corridor is fully developed and no land in Lakeville is available, maybe this could happen.
    Let’s hope the rest of the findings aren’t part of the same fairy tale assumptions.

    May 30, 2008
  151. Tracy Davis said:

    The number was from the City staff report and recommendation. I don’t know what it was based on.

    May 30, 2008
  152. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: Does the City have the flexibility to annex just the Sorem property and not the other two properties included in the request?

    What is the backup plan if Sorem/Fink/Lynse say no to the split request even if it is possible? Would the Planning Commission recommend all or would it recommend nothing?

    May 30, 2008
  153. Tracy Davis said:

    David – My understanding, based on answers we received from staff, is that the city council does have the discretion to do just that.

    The first vote taken on Tuesday’s meeting was a motion to recommend approval of the annexation request for all 530 acres, which failed 4-3. I couldn’t begin to guess what the vote might be (or may have been) if it really was an all-or-nothing scenario.

    May 30, 2008
  154. Ross Currier said:

    David –

    As you know, Tracy and I are just Running-Dog Lackeys of the Chamber of Commerce. The letter(s) that we received from the Chamber specified 320 acres northwest of the hospital.

    We got as close as we could with the St. Olaf and Sorem properties at 354 acres. Oh Master, please don’t tell us that you are not pleased with our actions.

    It is time to turn your attention to the City Council.

    – Ross

    May 30, 2008
  155. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: Maybe the Planning Commission should have a backup plan considering Land Vista has repeatedly said that it was an all or nothing deal. A 4-3 vote would suggest that “No.” is the answer if it is all or nothing.

    Ross: This is not a Chamber request for annexation; it is a landowner request. By the way, did the NDDC take an official position on the annexation? What was it?

    May 30, 2008
  156. kiffi summa said:

    Just for anyone who cares to listen … after the initial FACT that this was a request from four landowners … it has seemed, considering the endless arguments/pushes made, and the lack of even considering alternatives, it has SEEMED to be also a request from both the Chamber and the EDA.

    The EDA chair, Rick Estenson, did put together a serious, rather in-depth rationale, which he read at the public hearing. I can’t remember hearing such a statement from the Chamber; have I forgotten?

    But I do, definitely, remember hearing Mr. Larson of Land Vista say several times “all or nothing”, but then at the last hearing he did, rather un-strongly say something like, “there’s always negotiation”, so …

    Any company who wanted to come here for a large acreage development would do so whether the land was annexed or not; it hasn’t stopped people in the past (the dread T experience) and it won’t in the future. And by the time there are the mythical 4000 employees there, it isn’t going to benefit the taxes of anyone living here now, unless its a “newborn” who stays in town for its whole life.

    This has just been an exercise in political unreality; for a town that thinks it is so “special”, it seems to be mainly striving to replicate the ubiquitous model.

    Sorry to be so “crabby”, but I think there’s been a lot of posturing around this issue.

    May 30, 2008
  157. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News:

    Article: City meets with farmers about annex alternatives

    Commentary: I am Soil, don’t be so quick to get rid of me

    Editorial: Annexation request raises questions

    The city needs a business park, but the Planning Commission exceeded its authority by creating its own annexation recommendation. It should’ve voted to table the request to get more information or to ask the city to research the smaller alternative annexation. And the city needs to explain the value of taking the undevelopable land before the council votes on the proposal.

    May 31, 2008
  158. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: Thanks for providing the rationales. Why didn’t the Planning Commission annex the whole 530, and zone the Lynse and Fink property so that it can’t be developed before the Sorem property?

    Isn’t Larry Larson right that the best transportation system is probably going to come off of 19 along the Lynse and Fink properties? Don’t these three properties work together? Why have this fight later when Lynse and Fink might not want to join Northfield or might develop their own land for some other use?

    Ross: Please feel free to comment further.

    May 31, 2008
  159. Ross Currier said:

    David –

    You wondered why I voted to annex 354 acres instead of 530. I will attempt to briefly summarize how I came to my conclusion.

    1. Personally, I think annexing the land in the Northwest Territory is not the best option. Although as the EDA and Staff point out, it is the only parcel currently requesting annexation, if we are truly working on a twenty-year timeline, it would seem that the other options merit an additional 12 to 18 months of exploration. Both the Waterford Township option and the Armstrong Road option make more sense than the Northwest Territory, at least to me. Both of these options are next to existing infrastructure, both options have railway access, and both options are close to existing restaurants and services, thus generating additional income for Northfield businesses.

    2. I think that the cost to make the Northwest Territory “shovel ready” for development, a priority for the EDA, is much more than $5 million. Based on two other analyses conducted by Staff, comparisons to two other current projects in Minnesota and looking at The Crossing, I think the cost will be at least $15 million. As I recall about The Crossing, the site is between 6 and 7 acres. So, for a project on a little over 6 acres, in the middle of existing infrastructure, the cost is $4 million and for a project on over 500 acres, some distance from existing infrastructure, the cost is $5 million. I realize that we’re not comparing apples with apples, however, regardless of the fruit, it just doesn’t add up for me.

    3. The proposed financing instruments for the infrastructure costs are: General Obligation Bond debt financing, Water and Sewer Revenue Bond debt financing, Water and Sewer Revenue Bonds, Tax Increment Financing, Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program, Tax Abatement, and “a combination of any and all of the previous financing mechanisms”. With the exception of the one grant possibility, all of the potential sources are debt that requires repayment. The plan is to have a successful development repay the debt. With Northfield’s relatively high land costs, I am concerned that the competion for a business may inspire our leaders to shift the infrastructure costs from the developer to the community and the burden would thus be borne by our existing tax base.

    4. If the City takes on $5 million, or $15 million, of infrastructure costs, either for the short-term on the long term, and the industrial development world does not beat a path to our door, I wonder how long the community will be willing to bear the burden of the debt service. I worry that three years from now the professionals and experts will be telling us that there is little hope that we will ever be able to develop that land for industrial purposes and that we need to allow the development of housing and big box retail there if we hope to get the infrastructure costs repaid. Stranger things have happened in Northfield, again and again and again.

    However, in spite of these concerns, as well as those regarding the size of the project, the environmental issues and the transportation impact, I arrived at the Planning Commission meeting ready to vote to recommend annexation. It all boiled down to the fact that the EDA wanted us to recommend annexation to the Council. I believe that our citizen boards and commissions each have an area of interest and expertise and I respect their interest, expertise, work and recommendations. I know that the original Land Committee of the EDA, consisting, I believe, of Bill Cowles, Mark Moors and Paul Smith, had been working on the possibility of annexing the Northwest Territory for at least two years. I felt that it was appropriate to support their efforts.

    When one Commissioner proposed annexing 354 acres instead of 530, I thought that perhaps we could get the best of both worlds. The EDA could get their green field development option they sought and there might still be both market demand and City resources left over to pursue the Waterford Township and Armstrong Road options. I voted against the 530 acres and for the 354 acres.

    It has been pretty clear to the Planning Commission for about a year that the City Council will vote to annex all 530 acres. I believe that they will take this action at tomorrow night’s Council Meeting. However, I needed to try to make what I believed to be the best decision in the situation that we faced in our role as the Planning Commission.

    I hope this is of interest to you. Have a Happy Fathers’ Day.

    – Ross

    June 15, 2008
  160. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Thank you for laying out your reasons for supporting the smaller annexation. I do hope people are aware that the Council vote is tomorrow night. NNews report indicates that public comment will be taken.

    Jon Denison is the only Coucil member I have spoken with personally on this and he is quite set on taking in the whole 530 acres. Anyone know what any of the others think?

    June 15, 2008
  161. kiffi summa said:

    I also think, from comments the council has made, beginning in July of 2007, that they will overrule the Planning Commission and take the entire 530 Acres.

    Will they insist, that they have a letter from the sellers, that was made part of their resolution at that July 2007 meeting, to honor the new regulations that accompany the new Comp Plan? Or will that intent fall through “the cracks” ?

    Will there be any discussion of the impacts of taking this action when the entire economy is on such a serious downturn?

    The manner in which this process has been advanced, and so pushed by the EDA, makes me believe (will you say cynically?) that there is a developer waiting in the wings. If there is not, then the entire acreage could facilitate the proposed Greenway Corridor, as the properties to the west which the PC did not recommend annexing have the most wetlands and woods.

    Will the council discuss, if they want the entire acreage, the benefits of having the two western properties to facilitate the Greenway Corridor?

    Worse case scenario for the 50 year future… Will NF need an agricultural beltway to grow its own food?

    June 16, 2008
  162. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Ross – thanks for the clear outline of questions about the NW annexation and for your work trying to get these questions discussed by staff, Planning Commission and Council.

    June 16, 2008
  163. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: Thanks for your comments. Here is why I think the Council should reject your reasoning:

    1. Not the best option – Right now, it is the only option.
    2. Costs too much – Annexation doesn’t cost anything.
    3. Not economically feasible – Not the City’s problem.
    4. Use for other purposes – That is for a future Planning Commission.

    What I don’t understand is why not just annex the whole 530, and put land restrictions on the Lynse and Fink properties? Those two properties are needed for transportation and water management.

    June 16, 2008
  164. Edric Lysne said:


    Your point on the Greenway Corridor is part of exactly the type of agenda I believe the community needs to push for. If this land becomes part of the city, we owe it to ourselves to have open, natural space out there for community well being- not just industry and commerce.

    June 16, 2008
  165. Ross Currier said:

    David –

    I hope that you had a nice Fathers’ Day. I wonder if you are as succinct when you’re writing legal documents.

    1. As Joel Walinski said, “It’s the only option so far this year”. It would be hard to characterize jumping on it as long-range planning.

    2. Annexation probably only costs some staff time, some legal work and maybe a consultant or two. However, the EDA says that we need “shovel ready” land so that the developers will come. I would be interested in hearing what you think the infrastructure costs will be for 530 acres in the Northwest Territory.

    3. You’re right, like everything else, it’ll be the taxpayers’ problem.

    4. Actually, the Planning Commission can recommend whatever it believes is best for the community…and then the City Council makes their own decision.

    It is pretty clear, at least to me, that the Council will follow your recommendation at their meeting tonight.

    Thanks for following up,


    June 16, 2008
  166. kiffi summa said:

    Tonight the council will have the opportunity to show that they can have a thoughtful, and meaningful, IN-DEPTH policy discussion…
    Will they step up to the plate?

    If they overrule the PC, they must submit their reasons,in writing, to the PC.
    If they do overrule, I hope their reasons will not just be the pro forma and fairly meaningless jargon that has come in some of the recommendations from Land Vista, and Staff.

    Come to think of it, the last written statement from Land Vista, which came to the council’s work session last week, had some pretty wild and unsupportable claims as to various numbers… numbers of commuters who would now work in town, etc., etc., etc.

    I hope the council can do better.

    June 16, 2008
  167. BruceWMorlan said:

    For the EDA to call for shovel-ready land is a blatant stealing from the poor to feed the rich … if a business cannot afford to build the necessary infrastructure then maybe they are looking at the wrong site. Any comments I made in favor of the annexation assumed this was just a changing of the paperwork. If the city is promising to build out the infrastructure without the beneficiary even being at the table is unbelievable, and I would have been speaking out against this annexation loudly. Luckily for me, I am not in Northfield’s taxable space (yet).

    June 16, 2008
  168. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: No promises have been made for infrastructure build-out. It is not clear (to me and others to whom I have spoken) why the Planning Commission keeps bringing up this issue for annexation.

    Furthermore, if infrastructure costs were the Planning Commission’s concerns, then a recommendation of no annexation makes more sense than a small annexation, which will carry a higher cost per acre.

    Finally, If the costs are too high, the City can always not approve build-out. Without control of the land, nothing can happen.

    June 16, 2008
  169. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I spoke with three Council members yesterday afternoon, before the vote last night. Jim Pokorney did not see a problem with an annexation of this size. He explained how things would play out. He said EDA would be in the middle of things. He said the City would buy an option from farmers through Land Vista that would freeze the price for 5-10 years. The City would hold the exclusive option and farmers would be guaranteed that price. I wonder if the figure is in the $40,000/acre range, a figure I’ve been hearing.

    He favors a high tech office park and light industry. Not things like trucking or ethanol. He envisions giving short term tax incentives (TIFs) which would give the City leverage in working with developers. The City could increase the incentive if the plan was multistory, for example. It could cost $3 million to bring infrastructure out there. It would be expected that first developments would be on the east end, working to the west.

    Then I spoke with Kris Vohs and Arnie Nelson. Neither of them were aware the City would be buying an option. I asked that they bring it up at the meeting.

    Mayor Lansing on KYMN radio this morning confirmed the City would secure the option and sell it to the developer. He said the discussion went for l-l/2 hours so I assume fine points were covered. What does it cost (per year?) to secure such an option, anyone??

    June 17, 2008
  170. Jane Moline said:

    The development should pay for any extension of services. Period. If they can’t afford to pay for the extension of services, services should not be extended. If they can’t pay for roads, roads should not be provided. TIF use is regulated and restricted. I don’t see how you can allow more TIF if the structure is multi-storied.

    The city can probably get an option at little or no cost, but should be very careful–the city should not buy the land. The developer should buy the land. (Or, if you had a decent Industrial Corporation, they could buy the land.) The city should not be in the land business–they should be in the business to provide services to the TAXPAYERs.

    June 17, 2008
  171. kiffi summa said:

    The vote was “easy” compared to the work ahead of the Council now.

    They will have to structure an annexation agreement agreeable to all parties.
    They will have to structure a model for a development agreement, with the standards they want to hold to.
    They will have to insist on a Master development plan for the entire acreage, obviously more detailed for the East end, and more conceptual for the west end , which SHOULD remain in greenway easements, futur green corridors and some parkland.
    They will have to figure out initial infrastructure costs and benefits, and financing sources.
    They will have to negotiate a compensation package for Greenvale TWP. residents for the land their twp. is losing … and from Greg Langer’s comments last night that is not going to be cheap… and that’s a cost not mentioned before.
    AND … last night there was no mention of the letter from the landowners, agreeing to abide by the new comp plan development regulations, which was required by resolution in the Council meeting of July 7, 2007. What happened to that? It must be done or the resolution rescinded, but cannot just be left as a loose thread.

    I still find it hard to believe there is not a developer , waiting in the wings, somewhere.

    Will there now be ANY interest by the EDA in developing infill sites? If the EDA has money to buy options on this land, then there should be equal amounts for the core business district, or any site within the commercial districts… Alas, no active project talk on that from the EDA.

    Could the EDA make a wise use of some of their money by paving the City’s land in the back (west) of the Q Block? A lot cheaper than the $2500.00 per parking stall ( ! ) for a ramp structure, useful during DJJD, and using that lot would drive the warrant numbers necessary to get a stop light at Hwy 3 and Third.

    The vote was the easy part for the council; now let’s see what happens…

    June 17, 2008
  172. John S. Thomas said:


    Not a comment against you, but a comment against the policies of the cities.

    Why must everything be about paving everything over, and everything be about “Oh, this will be useful for DJJD”.

    I think that DJJD has its purpose, and that it brings tourism and attention to Northfield, but I get the feeling a lot of times that the city is more focused towards not impacting this event, or supporting this event over supporting the needs of its residents.

    Even if you paved this lot over, how many spaces would you obtain?

    I would much rather see the use of remote lots, and a bus shuttle similar to what was used between events for DJJD. (I think it was 2 years ago?) If you had a button, the rides between locations such as Downtown, Central Park, the Ice Arena, and the Rodeo Grounds were free.

    Even a tractor or horse drawn wagon on the bikepath between the rodeo grounds and Bridge Square would be a nice touch.

    Something needs to be done to minimize the amount of cars downtown at DJJD. It is way too congested. Perhaps alternate parking at Carleton College, the Middle and High Schools, and Northfield Ballroom, with a shuttle would help? I would love to see downtown from second to seventh, washington to water, completely locked down to vehicles, and make it all pedestrian only during DJJD, and have folks walk or be bussed in. The new water street lot could be used for handicap parking/access as well as bicycle parking and transit drop off. The “Beer Garden” can be moved to the 4th Street Bridge.

    Anyway, I digress.

    It looks like Northfield is getting bigger…

    June 17, 2008
  173. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: It’s not “they” who have to do all of the work; it is “we”.

    My primary concern as “we” move forward is that we have a 4-3 “no” vote against at the Planning Commission, and a 7-0 “yes” vote at the Council.

    My question for the Planning Commission (including Tracy and Ross) is whether the Planning Commission will accept the Council and staff’s direction on this, and move forward toward making the business park a reality. Or, will they continue to try to assert their will and vision in the process.

    Tracy or Ross – Do either of you care to comment on how the Council’s actions will be perceived by the Planning Commission’s four “no” voters?

    June 17, 2008
  174. Ross Currier said:

    David –

    Of course the Commission will accept the Council’s direction on this issue. I think that it’s very clear to everyone who serves on Boards and Commissions, particularly over the past 9 to 12 months, that the Commissions recommend and the Council rules.

    I don’t think any of us, Alice, Greg, Ron or myself, were surprised by the Council’s decision. We were just trying to recommend what we thought would be the best for Northfield, given our experiences, expectations and evaluation of the particular situation.

    In our efforts to implement the Council’s wishes, it would be helpful to have a little more specificity. Personally, I think that the Council’s written response to the Commission’s recommendation will provide that additional clarity.

    Tracy has offered to post both the Commission’s recommendation and the Council’s response on this website…as long as they are both tied with a bow. Good luck with that Tracy.

    Thanks much,


    June 18, 2008
  175. kiffi summa said:

    David : I continue to believe it is “they” who have to do the work, i.e., the council persons are the ones with the vote, and the override on the Planning Commission.

    “We”, and that must by fact must include you, do not have the vote.

    How does it help to challenge the PC, as you did in your previous post? They will do, as we all should, what they believe is the right thing to do; if the council overrides them, and I believe they will on virtually all of the annexation issues, then we must hold the council accountable to us, and by Charter , to the Planning Commission.

    This will not be an easy process.

    June 18, 2008
  176. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi and Ross: The Planning Commission’s job is not to do what they think is right; their job is to “plan” what the Council decides is right. The Council’s responsibility is to the people who elected them; the Planning Commission’s responsibility is to the Council who appointed them.

    In the end, the Staff’s recommendation and the Council’s decision reflect the Planning Commission’s desire that the eastern portion develop first. The staff and the Council wisely decided that Northfield can’t control the western portion if it is outside the City limits.

    Ross: If the Planning Commission needs more specificity; ask the Staff whose recommendation the Council accepted. That is what they get paid to do. This doesn’t have to be a difficult process, especially on a 7-0 vote.

    June 18, 2008
  177. Tracy Davis said:

    David – I can’t speak for the Planning Commission as a whole, but my impression based on discussion with various individuals was that each commissioner believes in the need for expanded commercial tax base, and an increased focus on jobs.

    My driving concern regarding this annexation (and I was one of the “yes” votes, but just barely) is that the City does not yet have adequate controls in place, or the political will, to shape and direct the growth that may occur there.

    The best-case scenario is that the land is used for a blue-ribbon (TIP Strategies’ phrase) business park using best practices of sustainability, filled with companies identified as being in one of the target industries (again, referring back to the excellent Economic Development Plan adopted two summers ago.) If this happens, it will be wonderful. I think that’s what we’re going for.

    However, the worst-case (or, I might even say, more likely) scenario, based on how Northfield has handled similar issues in the past, is that Wal-Mart will come in and purchase a bunch of land for warehousing or some such, and the City will just roll over with mouthings about “the will of the people” or “commercial taxes” (crappy entry-level jobs notwithstanding) and not be thoughtful or careful enough about using our land assets wisely for the benefit of this and future generations of Northfielders.

    Annexation is a decision made by the elected representatives of Northfield taxpayers. I hope that Northfield taxpayers can be educated about and mobilized around the issues surrounding possible development of this acreage, and keep the pressure on our elected officials to plan strategically (rather than simply reacting), and to aim high, not just settle for the first or easiest thing that comes along.

    June 18, 2008
  178. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I really appreciate your thoughts, Tracy. I am impressed with the Planning Commission as a group. I am more confident in their ability to analyze a situation than I am in the City Council at this point. I was quite shocked at how uninformed some Council members were, just hours before they were to cast a vote Monday night on the annexation.

    I hope the print copy of the NNews today carries more details than the website report Griff posted. Can somebody on this list who attended the Monday Council meeting tell me if it was Linus or Greg Langer that spoke?

    I stopped at Farmers Market in Northfield last week and was struck by the number of sellers who live in the Greenvale Township area whose operations will be disrupted by this business park and associated roads.

    June 18, 2008
  179. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News: Building could be years out for acres annexed.

    City leaders agree the project will take time, energy and before it’s over, money. But if they can pull off the business park of the Economic Development Authority’s dreams, it will be a model for other cities full of green industries: medical, technological and those focusing on sustainability. Economic Development Authority Chair Rick Estenson doesn’t expect construction to begin at the site, west of Northfield Hospital, for at least two years. And when development of a new business/industrial park planned for the site does begin, it’s likely to come slowly.

    Editorial: Annexing land is good first step.

    But pulling this land into the city’s borders is just the first step. The next step is to attract the right kind of business to locate in the park. To do that, the city must have a plan, beginning with the hiring of a new economic development manager. It must also do some public relations work to eliminate the stigma that the city isn’t welcoming to business. The city needs to market itself. Without these basic steps in tough economic times, the annexation of 530 acres of farmland could be a moot point.

    June 18, 2008
  180. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: My fear is that the Planning Commission has such a restricted view of what is “appropriate” development, that annexation may prove to be an empty gesture.

    There are quite a few processes to go through to make the property shovel-ready. If every step is going to be made as difficult as this step, businesses aren’t going to wait; they are going to go someplace else.

    June 18, 2008
  181. kiffi summa said:

    David: If you want this annexed land to be shovel-ready, you are going to get a rude awakening when you see how fast your taxes go UP …instead of the relief you have been seeking.

    As to your comments in #188, you are incorrect, IMHO, in your sequencing of events. The Planning Commission makes their decision and then the council council approves, or not.

    The idea that all boards and commissions are simply rubber stamps for the council is offensive to the role of volunteer citizen Boards and Commissions. If they are not to do “what they think is right”, but only carry out the directions of the council, then there is absolutely no need for them to exist at all.

    June 18, 2008
  182. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: At some point the land is going to have to be shovel-ready if a business park is going to happen. It is the Planning Commission’s job to make that happen. It is time to change the Planning Commission’s mode of thought from “if” to “how”.

    I am sure the EDA and staff are willing to lend a hand. both “bodies” understand the nature of the task.

    Ross and other “no” voters: Please don’t use, “we need more specificity”, or “we are doing what we think is right” as stalling tactics.

    June 19, 2008
  183. Anne Bretts said:

    I guess I don’t know why there is so much speculation on how much it will cost and how long it will take to develop this site. There are dozens of examples around the area that would provide models and cost comparisons. It wouldn’t take much to estimate costs and subsidies and eventual tax revenue and jobs.
    As for being a green development, the trend over the last five years has made green the norm rather than an experiment. Again, there are lots of models out there. It’s not a matter of using this as a competitive advantage but just needing to do it to get in the game. And aren’t the costs in the staff report?
    I recall the staff report estimated 4,000 jobs from the full buildout, a number that would require the equivalent of a new Medtronics headquarters — a number that is pretty far-fetched, given gas prices and the remote location in Northfield and the fact that there is so much new, tricked out, empty space available throughout the metro.
    Airlake Industrial Park in Lakeville, with a better location and larger worker pool, has taken 40 years to develop, has 1,500 acres of land and 150 businesses and just recently hit 4,000 jobs.
    That doesn’t mean development is impossible. Faribault seems to be quite aggressive in its efforts.
    My point is that it would be a lot more productive to discuss real numbers and real solutions rather than hopeful guesses and skeptical fears.

    June 19, 2008
  184. kiffi summa said:

    David: I cannot imagine how you could possibly think it is the PC’s job to “make it happen” as far as the land being “shovel ready”. As you have said many times their role is to “plan”.

    The EDA, Council and Staff are the ones who have the charge to make things happen. What truly concerns me is all the talk …from everyone but the Planning Commission … about the essential need for this land to be shovel ready. Of course the major infrastructure costs will be reimbursed by the ultimate user…
    But how far in the future is that? Who has the $$$ to put up the initial costs? The EDA?, not without levying a big number.
    Remember that the EDA and the HRA both have the ability to levy taxes; who will pay initially… and when is that?
    Will all those who have been asking for property tax relief (yourself) included) be appalled by a big economic development tax levy on their next bill?
    No one in the “City” is answering this, however there are constant allusions to the need to be shovel ready.
    When will the Council and EDA address the funding sources for the initial costs?

    June 19, 2008
  185. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: The Planning Commission doesn’t have to make it shovel-ready. They have to plan how to make it shovel-ready. The decision about spending the money will ultimately be the Council’s.

    June 20, 2008
  186. kiffi summa said:

    David: In your post of June 19, 8:25 AM, you say it “is the Planning Commission’s job to make it happen” in reference to Shovel readiness.
    That is what you say.
    So how what do you suggest they (PC) do, other than vague remarks about “planning for” or “implementing what the council thinks is right”.

    If you are certain about the practical functionality of each group, could you please give some specifics about the steps you would hope to see the PC take?

    June 20, 2008
  187. David Ludescher said:

    KiffI: I am sure that the Planning Commission has or will have a plan soon on the annexed land.

    June 21, 2008

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