Lakeville sees merit in developers' request

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 22, 2013 - 5:25 PM

The policy change would be an incentive for building outside the city's water service area.

Lakeville officials are considering a policy change that would encourage development in areas that currently can't hook up to city sewer and water service.

The change would allow certain property that is outside the metropolitan sewer service area to connect to city services. The City Council has expressed support for the proposal, and the Planning Commission held a public hearing on it last week, said Administrator Steve Mielke.

The proposal would be "an encouragement to development rather than controlling development," Mielke said.

The change was suggested more than a year ago at a city forum by developers who noted that some potential housing sites outside the service area are closer and would cost less to connect to existing sewer and water lines than other sites already inside the service area.

The City Council will review the proposal at a work session late this month before voting on the matter at a council meeting, said incoming Mayor Matt Little.

"I think it is good to be flexible to a degree," Little said. The policy change "would not be a development free-for-all. It wouldn't be anything goes. ... [But] a rigid rule that you can't develop outside the MUSA is not helpful."

MUSA stands for the Metropolitan Urban Service Area, which was created by state officials to slow suburban sprawl in the seven-county metro area. The goal is to make efficient use of the metro sewage treatment plants and other infrastructure by concentrating development closer to the urban core.

Typically, cities request MUSA boundary expansions in areas where they deem development is needed. That usually happens every eight years when cities review and modify their comprehensive plans, which are reviewed by the Metropolitan Council, Mielke said.

Any MUSA boundary changes must be approved by the Met Council, a body of geographically representative members appointed by the governor.

Under Lakeville's proposal, if landowners or developers of outlying sites requested service for sites near existing sewer lines, the City Council would support a MUSA expansion request to the Met Council, Mielke said.

He is aware of about six relatively small sites, roughly 10 acres or more, outside the MUSA whose owners might seek a boundary extension, he said.

"I think most of us are amenable to being flexible and having a little more discretion in allowing some development to happen," Little said. He noted the proposal might offset stalled developments inside the MUSA line that are foreclosed or face other obstacles.

Land values jump when an area is included within the MUSA line, he said. "We have to make sure we are not favoring one development over another," he said. "The city does not want to play favorites."

Mielke thinks the Met Council might approve MUSA boundary changes that the city supports. He noted the city is served by the Empire Wastewater Treatment Plant near Farmington, which has been enlarged and has capacity for small-site boundary expansions.

"Met Council looks at regional impact, and there is no regional impact because the system has capacity to expand," he said. He noted that the Met Council approved a small boundary expansion in 2010 for the Crescent Ridge development after Lakeville showed its water and sewage system could handle it.

Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge noted that sometimes the council is willing to swap parcels in a city by withdrawing sites from inside the MUSA line in exchange for adding land outside the line.

She said the council "wouldn't speculate on the chances of [granting] an extension until we've seen and evaluated the request."

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283

By Jim Adams jadams@startribune.com Lakeville officials are considering a policy change that would encourage development in areas that currently can't hook up to city sewer and water service. The change would allow certain property that is outside the metropolitan sewer service area to connect to city services. The City Council has expressed support for the proposal, and the Planning Commission held a public hearing on it last week, said Administrator Steve Mielke. The proposal would be "an encouragement to development rather than controlling development," Mielke said. The change was suggested more than a year ago at a city forum by developers who noted that some potential housing sites outside the service area are closer and would cost less to connect to existing sewer and water lines than other sites already inside the service area. The City Council will review the proposal at a work session late this month before voting on the matter at a council meeting, said incoming Mayor Matt Little . "I think it is good to be flexible to a degree," Little said. The policy change "would not be a development free-for-all. It wouldn't be anything goes. ... [But] a rigid rule that you can't develop outside the MUSA is not helpful." MUSA stands for the Metropolitan Urban Service Area, which was created by state officials to slow suburban sprawl in the seven-county metro area. The goal is to make efficient use of the metro sewage treatment plants and other infrastructure by concentrating development closer to the urban core. Typically, cities request MUSA boundary expansions in areas where they deem development is needed. That usually happens every eight years when cities review and modify their comprehensive plans, which are reviewed by Metropolitan Council, Mielke said. Any MUSA boundary changes must be approved by the Met Council, a body of geographically representative members appointed by the governor. Under Lakeville's proposal, if landowners or developers of outlying sites requested service for sites near existing sewer lines, the City Council would support a MUSA expansion request to the Met Council, Mielke said. He is aware of about six relatively small sites, roughly 10 acres or more, outside the MUSA whose owners might seek a boundary extension, he said. "I think most of us are amenable to being flexible and having a little more discretion in allowing some development to happen," Little said. He noted the proposal might offset stalled developments inside the MUSA line that are foreclosed or face other obstacles. Land values jump when an area is included within the MUSA line, he said. "We have to make sure we are not favoring one development over another," he said. "The city does not want to play favorites." Mielke thinks the Met Council might approve MUSA boundary changes that the city supports. He noted the city is served by the Empire Wastewater Treatment Plant near Farmington, which has been enlarged and has capacity for small-site boundary expansions. "Met Council looks at regional impact, and there is no regional impact because the system has capacity to expand," he said. He noted that the Met Council approved a small boundary expansion in 2010 for the Crescent Ridge development after Lakeville showed its water and sewage system could handle the housing project. Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge noted that sometimes the council is willing to swap parcels in a city by withdrawing sites from inside the MUSA line in exchange for adding land outside the line. She said the council "wouldn't speculate on the chances of [granting] an extension until we've seen and evaluated the request." Jim Adams • 952-746-3283
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