Lake Elmo and the Met Council are apparently seeing eye-to-eye again after a long-running dispute that resulted in the largely rural city of about 8,800 being ordered to nearly triple its population by 2030.
Nearly a decade after signing a memorandum of understanding that set forth several “criteria to be considered in preparation” of the city’s comprehensive plan, the regional planning authority announced last week it had lifted the order.
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” Met Council Chair Susan Haigh said. “The MOU accomplished what was intended, ensuring that needed wastewater infrastructure was planned and built to accommodate some urban growth in a manner that is efficient and cost-effective for residents — who foot the bill.”
The decision was made “based on [Lake Elmo’s] commitment to plan and prepare for its share of the region’s growth and development confirming to and consistent with the Council’s comprehensive development guide and policy plans as required by the Metropolitan Land Planning Act,” the agreement read in part.
“We went from kind of being contractually obligated to grow — the only community in the Twin Cities contractually obligated to grow — to now just under general population forecasts,” Lake Elmo Mayor Mike Pearson said.
He was referring to the growth mandate requiring the city to add more than 15,000 residents by 2030, which was imposed in the wake of a 2005 state Supreme Court ruling that said the council had the statutory power to “require Lake Elmo to modify its comprehensive plan.”
In February, the City Council voted to accept the terms for termination of the agreement with regional authority, but its dissolution wasn’t announced until May 29.
City Administrator Dean Zuleger said the city is looking toward the future, with eight residential developments in various stages of completion expected to add 1,200 new homes.
Although the council’s newly revised projections show the city’s population will grow 139 percent to 21,000 people by the year 2040, Zuleger predicts it will increase to 19,000 in the next 25 years.
Zuleger, who has been working to change Lake Elmo’s image as a scrappy, growth-averse town since taking the job, said that he expected the order to be lifted after Lake Elmo spent millions of dollars installing sewer and water lines in the Old Village and along Interstate 94.
“I think the installation of the sewer lines kind of helped cease hostilities,” he said.