Closer in: Cities first alarmed, now mollified

  • Article by: MEGHAN HOLDEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 5, 2014 - 2:37 PM

Met Council forecasts calling for big jumps in developed areas have been throttled back, easing concerns for those suburbs.

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With businesses such as Rahr Malting (above), one of the two largest barley malters in the United States, and incoming businesses such as Shutterfly, Shakopee has growing employment opportunities. “Northern Scott County isn’t being recognized as the employment center that we actually are,” said Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke.

Photo: JERRY HOLT , Star Tribune

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Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke was one of many city and county officials in the south metro who objected last fall to Metropolitan Council forecasts for his community.

An existing forecast that his city of 37,000 would rise to 52,000 by the year 2030 had been throttled way back. The new target was less than 50,000, and not until ten years after that — by 2040.

But newly updated projections have him feeling much better. They bring the 2040 target up to 57,400. “We were very happy with how they turned out,” he said.

The predictions hold great weight because they are the basis of decisions on future spending for things like roads and bridges.

“These forecasts are very important. They need to be as on-the-mark as they possibly can,” said Patricia Nauman, executive director of Metro Cities, a group representing local cities.

The revised projections also are welcome in the communities in the northern portion of Dakota County where the biggest upward revisions came — but for a different reason. Many felt they were being pegged too high and welcomed a lessening of expectations.

Overall, Metro Cities is getting much better feedback from cities this time around, Nauman said.

Last fall, “there was a pretty good contingent of concern that was expressed,” she said.

Newly developing suburbs generally thought their forecasts were too low, while inner-ring suburbs thought theirs were too high, she said.

Eagan was among the closer-in places feeling that the Met Council’s expectations were too lofty.

A forecast of 87,000 in the 2030 forecast was unreasonable, said spokesman Tom Garrison, based on the small amount of developable land left in the city. Currently, Eagan has about 65,000 people, and it is 95 percent built out.

The updated forecast instead projects 80,000 in 2040.

As the metro area’s demographics change, Eagan should be in line for major growth, partly because it benefits from sitting on a high-speed busway, said the Met Council’s Libby Starling.

“Eagan is well located in the region in terms of highway access, increased transit access, and it is beginning to expand in types of housing diversity,” with less emphasis on conventional single-family homes, she said.

Eagan is now gathering reactions to the revised population and household estimates, Garrison said.

Burnsville had similar concerns with its original projections, saying population numbers were too high based on land availability, household size and cost of redevelopment.

Like Eagan, officials there are reviewing the newest forecast. The city declined to offer any further comments.

In Shakopee, though Tabke is content with the new population predictions, he said employment estimates are still too low.

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