Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke was one of many city and county officials in the south metro who objected last fall to Metropolitan Council forecasts for his community.

An existing forecast that his city of 37,000 would rise to 52,000 by the year 2030 had been throttled way back. The new target was less than 50,000, and not until ten years after that — by 2040.

But newly updated projections have him feeling much better. They bring the 2040 target up to 57,400. “We were very happy with how they turned out,” he said.

The predictions hold great weight because they are the basis of decisions on future spending for things like roads and bridges.

“These forecasts are very important. They need to be as on-the-mark as they possibly can,” said Patricia Nauman, executive director of Metro Cities, a group representing local cities.

The revised projections also are welcome in the communities in the northern portion of Dakota County where the biggest upward revisions came — but for a different reason. Many felt they were being pegged too high and welcomed a lessening of expectations.

Overall, Metro Cities is getting much better feedback from cities this time around, Nauman said.

Last fall, “there was a pretty good contingent of concern that was expressed,” she said.

Newly developing suburbs generally thought their forecasts were too low, while inner-ring suburbs thought theirs were too high, she said.

Eagan was among the closer-in places feeling that the Met Council’s expectations were too lofty.

A forecast of 87,000 in the 2030 forecast was unreasonable, said spokesman Tom Garrison, based on the small amount of developable land left in the city. Currently, Eagan has about 65,000 people, and it is 95 percent built out.

The updated forecast instead projects 80,000 in 2040.

As the metro area’s demographics change, Eagan should be in line for major growth, partly because it benefits from sitting on a high-speed busway, said the Met Council’s Libby Starling.

“Eagan is well located in the region in terms of highway access, increased transit access, and it is beginning to expand in types of housing diversity,” with less emphasis on conventional single-family homes, she said.

Eagan is now gathering reactions to the revised population and household estimates, Garrison said.

Burnsville had similar concerns with its original projections, saying population numbers were too high based on land availability, household size and cost of redevelopment.

Like Eagan, officials there are reviewing the newest forecast. The city declined to offer any further comments.

In Shakopee, though Tabke is content with the new population predictions, he said employment estimates are still too low.

“Northern Scott County isn’t being recognized as the employment center that we actually are,” he said.

But the city likely won’t formally object to the projection, Tabke said.

The forecasts are now in a public comment period during which towns and counties can bring forth any lingering issues before the council finalizes predictions this spring.

Like Shakopee, Prior Lake’s new employment forecast of 12,500 is still lower than the city would have preferred, said Dan Rogness, director of community and economic development. But like Shakopee, it won’t be a large-enough issue for the city to challenge it, he said.

In Rosemount, senior planner Eric Zweber said the council’s willingness to add 1,600 households to its original forecast has “addressed our concerns. It is a positive move.”

There will be further discussion, he said, but “it’s a very good starting point.” The new estimates call for a doubling of the city’s household numbers over 30 years.

The city will likely change character as society ages — it’s already happening, with 150 units in two senior housing projects just approved, he said.

“But not to the same degree” that initial forecasts called for, he said. “It’s still going to feel like Rosemount.”

There’s still plenty to debate, many agreed, and Metro Cities may conduct another informal survey on the updated forecasts to get a reading on cities’ views, Nauman said.

 

Staff writer David Peterson contributed to this article. Meghan Holden is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.