The Council next week

Yup, the Black Binder is back again and here’s what’s up:

Monday, March 16: Regular Council Meeting @ 7 pm @ City Hall. Highlights of this week’s agenda include

Approval of a library management agreement with Lonsdale: The City Council action is the culmination of much planning and work by Northfield’s library director, Lynne Young, City Administrator Joel Walinski, and Lonsdale city staff.  The short version is that Lonsdale is constructing a library in its new assisted living facility, Villages of Lonsdale (run by Three Links Care Center) which will be managed by Northfield.  Management includes selecting and cataloging materials, hiring staff and planning events; Lonsdale will pay an administrative fee of 10% of the new library’s annual budget (about $5500) to Northfield for management services. The net effect will be,  I think, a slight redistribution of library services and funding around Rice County with small anticipated decreases in use of the Northfield library and in County funding of Northfield’s library.    Will it be one of those win-win situations we all seek?   I think we’ll have to see how much of an administrative cost this agreement will impose on Northfield and what the funding impact will be.

Carletons wind turbine
Carleton's wind turbine

First reading of the wind turbine ordinance. I’ve said enough about this here and hereBut here’s what I think should have happened on this issue. The Council should have consulted the Comprehensive Plan and Energy Task Force Plan (we would have found support for wind energy in both, but neither has been referenced in any of the process so far) and then formed a  task force to consider the issue which would have included members of the Planning Commission (since it’s a zoning issue), Environmental Quality Commission (since it is an environmental issue), Former Energy Task Force (since they looked at this issue in their report), representatives of both colleges, plus Council, staff and public.   The Task Force could have been charged with (1) recommending whether “big wind” is desirable within the city limits,  (2) where the best locations would be (based on wind data, current and proposed/possible land uses), (3) researched ordinances and provided a draft.   The Planning Commission held the required public hearing and reviewed the ordinance, but all questions about desirable legal language were answered by the party which wants approval (am I the only one who thinks this is fishy?).   So now it’s back to the Council.

Second reading of an ordinance amending the City’s annexation ordinance to require applicants requesting annexation into the City provide notice to the township rather than the current requirement that township approval be obtained.  This is on the consent agenda, but I’d look for someone to request it be moved to the regular agenda because the e-mails and phone calls have been rolling in on this issue, mostly from residents of surrounding townships.   I support this change, although I agree with some of the writers/callers that it does give more power to the city (or really to the applicant).  But, if the City is doing its job right, then it has identified what its land needs are and will be, has a good working relationship with townships, and certainly isn’t annexing just because it can.   This statement is unlikely to mollify folks who have had bad experiences with Northfield city government in the past, but I really really support our Comprehensive Plan goals of growing compactly and using infill and redevelopment as first choice development tools which should mean Northfield’s appetite for annexation is not great.

Don’t forget, you can access the Council agenda and packet (see pictures of all the Councilmembers!), the Administrator’s Friday memo, as well as see what meetings are scheduled on Northfield’s website.

Tuesday, March 17 (Happy St. Patrick’s Day): Library Board meeting and retreat.  I don’t have the agenda yet, but I’m sure the proposed library expansion will be on the list and I’ll update this later.

3 Replies to “The Council next week”

  1. Sean Hayford O’Leary e-mailed me this comment:

    Betsey,
    I saw a mention of your support for the change to the City’s annexation ordinance and felt the need to write you. You wrote that “if the City is doing its job right, then it has identified what its land needs are and will be, has a good working relationship with townships, and certainly isn’t annexing just because it can.” That seems like a reasonable point, but I don’t see why that justifies a blank check for Northfield to do whatever it and the landowner want.

    Your post either diminishes or just ignores the legitimacy of township government. The fact is that Northfield’s primary interest, no matter how nicely sections of the Comprehensive Plan might be worded, is economic development. Northfield (as demonstrated by residential developments in the southeast and northwest — and by Target) has no interest in open space preservation. Township governments do, because the townships surrounding Northfield are mostly farmland. Why does Northfield need to give itself power to take control of land without the environmental safety net of townships?

    Thank you,
    Sean Hayford O’Leary

  2. Sean,

    I don’t believe I am unaware of townships, their place in the governmental apparatus, or the importance of rural and agricultural land although we may not agree on the details of these.

    You have flattened the interests of cities to economic development which is but one of the roles cities play.

    Even if economic development was the sole focus of city government, preserving local agriculture and open space is in fact part of economic development (and I’ll cite the studies on the economic value of these if you’d like).

    So, while I support the change in language, this does not erase my much larger concern that annexation be considered as part of the development of the region. There are environmental advantages to being able to provide city sewer, there are jurisdictional advantages for making transportation improvements, and various other reasons why annexation can make sense for the overall success of Northfield, its townships and its relation to the rest of the region.

    Making the approval apparatus less cumbersome for landowners and the city is not, for me, evidence of any intent to grab land from townships or ignore their interests. Northfield, if anything, needs to make more careful choices about annexation only after the impact on the city has been considered (which didn’t happen with Target or the big annexations for residential developments you noted).

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