Growth forecast sprouts conflict as cities vie for development dollars

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 22, 2014 - 10:35 PM

The Met Council plan envisions growth on edges of the metro area, but Minneapolis officials disagree.


Millions of dollars in regional funding are at stake in a battle that boils down to where people will live and work in the next 30 years.

Minneapolis officials and homebuilders are at odds over a draft Metropolitan Council plan that predicts a ring of land-rich outer suburbs like Prior Lake and Chanhassen will see more population growth than other parts of the seven-county region. Minneapolis and St. Paul would also see significant gains but simultaneously make up a smaller share of a metro area forecast to grow by 824,000 residents.

The forecast — which will be fine- tuned over the next year — shows just how tricky and contentious population projections can be. But they are crucial, shaping how the council guides transportation, sewer and regional park resources in the seven-county metro region for years to come, as well as local comprehensive plans in communities across the area.

The report riled Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson, who said the city pays for sprawl by having to subsidize underused sewers and losing valuable transportation dollars.

“They’re building all these fancy schmancy park-and-rides on the edge at $20 million a crack,” she said. “And we’re still sitting here in Minneapolis, where the bulk of the transit riders are, having our people wait for buses sitting on recycling boxes.”

The projections run counter to census data showing an urban population boom driving regional growth in the past several years, as well as widely reported national trends toward city living. They are based on a complicated model with a 200-plus-page methodology that takes into account a range of factors from the value of development in the region to where people are moving.

Opting for suburban life

Council representatives said public comments have been taken into consideration as well, which has modified forecasts. For example, after seeing early population forecasts for the report, the Builders Association of the Twin Cities fought for increased population at the “emerging suburban edge.”

The group’s president, Shawn Nelson, said while there is an uptick in urban development, millennials will eventually opt for the suburban life.

“It’s a fun place to live, obviously,” he said of Minneapolis “But we still think what’s going to drive a lot of decisions as they get older, as they get married, have kids, things like that, will be much more of those traditional issues of schools and yards and locations like that … It certainly will be much less in the urban core at that point.”

Minneapolis’ long-range planner, Kjersti Monson, noted in draft comments that the city alone issued 30 percent of the region’s residential unit permits in 2012 and 2013 — just over its annual average dating back to 2009. Rather than a “blip,” she described it as possibly the new normal.

“We see the projections as basically a grow-in-place model,” she said of the Met Council report. “It’s kind of taking what has happened for 30 years and just projecting that it will continue to happen.”

The council’s report predicts the urban center, which includes Minneapolis, St. Paul and inner-ring suburbs like Richfield and Hopkins, will add about 161,000 new residents. By comparison, “suburban edge” communities like Blaine, Chaska and Woodbury would add 166,000 new residents, and the “emerging suburban edge” would add 228,000 new residents. Job gains are estimated to be most heavily peppered in suburban and suburban edge communities — particularly along highways.

The steepest increases would be seen in towns like Carver, projected to more than triple in population to 14,200, and Lake Elmo, which would grow from about 8,000 people to 21,000 people, according to the Thrive MSP 2040 report.

“We’re forecasting growth because that’s where the land is,” Libby Starling, the Metropolitan Council’s manager of regional policy and research, said of emerging suburban edge communities.

Public comment is being accepted through Monday on the 130-page report, which will eventually influence separate guiding documents regarding transportation, housing, parks and water resources. Local communities will then be required to develop comprehensive plans that are consistent with its findings.

More accessible development

  • Projections by area

    Projections by area

    Urban Center (Minneapolis, St. Paul, Richfield, Hopkins, etc.) — 161,000 new residents, 141,000 new jobs

    Urban Area (Anoka, Osseo, Roseville, Fridley, etc.) — 59,000 new residents, 93,000 new jobs

    Suburban (Apple Valley, Mendota Heights, Wayzata, White Bear Lake, etc.) — 152,000 new residents, 160,000 new jobs

    Suburban Edge (Blaine, Chaska, Woodbury, Maple Grove, etc.) — 166,000 new residents, 160,000 new jobs

    Emerging Suburban Edge (Chanhassen, Hastings, Rosemount, Waconia, etc.) — 228,000 new residents, 59,000 new jobs

    Source: Metropolitan Council

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