Lake Elmo again questions growth plan

  • Article by: LIBOR JANY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Under the regional agency’s new projections, the city’s population would be expected to grow from 8,000 to 21,000 in two decades.

Fearing that their community could be exposed to unbridled development, Lake Elmo city officials said this week that they will ask the Met Council to reconsider its revised growth plan, which calls for more than a doubling of the rural town’s population over the next 25 years.

City Administrator Dean Zuleger said Tuesday that local leaders questioned the foresight of the regional agency’s latest plan regulating growth in the metro area. The city made a request asking the council to run its numbers again, Zuleger said, the latest move in a long tug of war between the two entities.

The plan, released last month, mandates that the city add housing and sewer lines to accommodate its rising population, which is expected to grow from 8,000 residents to 21,000 by 2040, far outpacing other eastern suburbs.

“We still think that that’s high,” Zuleger said, adding that the city could probably “only accommodate 19,000 people.”

Officials at the regional body said they would take the request under consideration.

“In light of our newer revised forecasts, we’ve had several conversations with the city staff about their ideas about what the forecast might look like for the community,” said Lisa Barajas, a local planning assistance manager for the Met Council. Barajas said officials will later decide whether to adjust the numbers, which must be approved by the council, or update them when the 2014 forecasts are released.

“Forecasts are not edicts; they’re growth targets,” Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said.

Significant investment made

Mayor Mike Pearson said Lake Elmo would ask the council to again revise its population projections, which until last month projected the city’s population to grow to 28,000 by 2030.

Pearson said the city, which in the past has fought to maintain its rural character, has gone along with portions of the Met Council’s comprehensive growth plan, which includes approval of two sewer lines costing $5 million — one in the Old Village area and the other along the busy Interstate 94 corridor — to accommodate future housing development.

“The Met Council has seen that we’ve made significant investments that must be paid for,” Pearson said, adding that “that must give them confidence that we’re heading in the direction.”

Based on the latest calculations, Lake Elmo’s population would far outpace other developing suburbs in the east metro, including Stillwater (whose population is expected to rise 25 percent by 2040), Oakdale (13 percent by 2040) and Hugo (135 percent by 2040).

‘More collaborative’

In 2005, after years of court battles, Lake Elmo entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Met Council that followed a state Supreme Court ruling giving the council greater authority in shaping the city’s growth.

After the deal terminates later this spring, the city will again be allowed to grow at its own pace.

“I think that we’ve been known as being a little confrontational in the past, and this current mayor and council take the position that they want to be more collaborative,” Zuleger said. “They want to work with people, rather than just criticize.”

Libor Jany • 651-925-5033

Twitter:@StribJany

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