The Planning Commission held a public hearing to take public input on the proposed annexation of 4.5 acres from Bridgewater Township for the the construction of a radiation oncology clinic by Mayo Clinic. No members of the public attended – only Mayo representatives, Northfield News, Council members Jon Denison and myself, the PC and staff. Perhaps this is because of the thunder and lightening outside, or perhaps because this item is about as close to a slam dunk as one can get in this business.
I’ve discussed annexation before in relatively critical terms, but this project is a good use of annexation.
First, it’s small. Only 4.5 acres when our annexation agreement with Bridgewater Township requires a minimum of 40 acres; the Council will be asked to waive this minimum requirement. The parcel is also within the area designated in the annexation agreement, so we can nod toward previous planning efforts, too. The size is relevant because this is not a speculative annexation for future development like the 530 acres in Greenvale Township for a possible business park someday maybe. This annexation is for a specific project to be built now.
Second, it’s (mostly) contiguous. It is almost contiguous to the hospital property across North Avenue and if I had to complain I’d say we should seek to annex the residential lots to the east to make the boundaries of the city more compact and allow possible multiple connections to the rest of Northfield. But I don’t have to complain. As an aside for government geeks: The locations of the clinic and the hospital are both politically motivated – the hospital was located in Dakota County to take advantage of the higher metropolitan area Medicare reimbursement rates; the clinic is located in Rice County because of a moratorium on radiation clinics in the metro area.
Third, it’s already adjacent to city services which were extended west on North Avenue when the hospital was constructed.
Fourth, it’s adjacent to other relevant land uses – the hospital, that is. The pink block on the map is owned by St Olaf (as is the land on which the clinic will be build and on which the hospital now sits); the plan 10 years ago was to build a retirement community for St Olaf alumni which was supposed to include some mix of commercial + residential uses. I’m curious about how that chunk of land will be developed because it is becoming a more vital link between the Hospital/clinic area and the larger city. And, we’ve talked about what kinds of industries are desirable in Northfield – healthcare is one of those. So, this project fits in with the economic development plan, too.
Fifth, tax base: without any investment by the city in infrastructure or master planning (like the proposed business park), the clinic will be new, taxable land developed privately. The public role here is to make it easy for the project to happen.
Sixth: other city goals. Mayo representatives at the public hearing stated the clinic will be Mayo’s first LEED certified facility which furthers Northfield’s goal of sustainability.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the annexation unanimously; the Council will review the project at a special meeting on Tuesday, June 29 @ 7:30 am (yes, morning).