Burnsville 'in great shape,' mayor says

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2008 - 11:59 PM

In 2007, the city lowered crime rates and attracted 200 new businesses and now, forges ahead with redevelopment.

Burnsville will once again push for state approval for tax-increment financing to continue major redevelopment, including in the northwest part of the city where an old quarry will eventually be turned into a lake, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said Wednesday.

In her annual "state of the city" speech, she also said the city has garnered 200 new businesses, seen its crime rate fall and scored high in a citizen-satisfaction survey.

Among 120 people who listened to the mayor's speech at City Hall Wednesday was Nancy Abicht, a resident since 1969.

"She's been an excellent mayor for us over the years," Abicht said. "We've lived here in the city for many, many years, and we've seen a lot of advancements and a lot of new things happen."

But not everybody is happy. Some downtown businesses are demanding more parking space, for example.

How the city achieves that has become a hot-button issue for Kautz, mayor for 13 years and leader of the highly touted Heart of the City redevelopment. It's been hurt by sluggish occupancy rates and, most recently, by a developer pulling out of a deal to build a much-needed parking deck, as well as two office complexes.

Kautz has said there would be no new property taxes levied for the center and the parking deck.

Wednesday, she focused instead on figures showing that overall, the city is "in great shape." It has reduced its debt from $100 million to below $60 million, a figure that includes, Kautz said, bonds issued to help fund construction of the Performing Arts Center.

Kautz has been under fire by some over plans to build the $20 million arts and conference center, as well as a parking deck for $3.5 million to $4.5 million.

Meanwhile, Kautz keeps pushing economic development. From 2006 through December 2007, about 200 new businesses started in Burnsville, boosting the total to 2,200, she said.

"In 2007, we had a total of more than $80 million in combined commercial and residential new tax base, and we project about the same in new total market value for 2008," Kautz said.

When it comes to environmental stewardship, she said, Burnsville remains a leader in adopting ways to protect its natural resources.

She pointed to the plans to transform an old landfill and the adjacent Kraemer Mining & Materials limestone quarry in the Minnesota River Quadrant, a 1,700-acre site off Interstate 35W. The centerpiece would be a 320-acre lake created within the next 20 years.

Kautz said the city has found a way to process about 10 million gallons of surface water a day from that quarry, which is currently pumped into the Minnesota River. That will avoid the need to drill new city wells, she said.

State government has seen the benefits of the project and, as a partner, contributed $5.5 million for it, she said.

The project is expected to generate more than $1 billion in development and expand the city's tax base, which could lower overall taxes.

But to accomplish that, the city would need $160 million of infrastructure in new roads and exchanges. So city officials are again seeking to have the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty designate the quadrant as a special tax-increment financing (TIF) area this year. Last year, it was in the tax bill that Pawlenty vetoed.

Also this year, the city will continue its 2007 goal of becoming the healthiest city in America, Kautz said. It has enlisted partners such as Fairview Ridges Hospital, YMCA, schools and corporations.

The city named public safety a top priority last year. Kautz said in 2007, serious crime in Burnsville fell by 6.3 percent from the year before, and by 30 percent since 1995.

Less serious crime fell 10.2 percent in the past year, and 20 percent since 1995.

A survey in 2007 showed that 95 percent of Burnsville's residents rate quality of life as "good" or "excellent," Kautz said.

And when it comes serving its youngest citizens, Kautz said, Burnsville's Youth Garage stands out. Created and run mostly with grants, the center drew more than 21,000 visits in 2007.

Joy Powell • 952-882-9017

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters