A group of landowners in Nowthen working to nudge their city’s border and join the neighboring city of Oak Grove will be staying put.
Several property owners in northern Anoka County recently struck a deal with Nowthen officials and dropped their petition to the state to detach from the city of 4,600 and be annexed into Oak Grove, population 8,400.
“It’s a compromise,” said Kent Roessler, a Nowthen landowner involved in the annexation push.
Nowthen generally sticks to a 5-acre lot minimum, while Oak Grove favors 2.5-acre lots. Nowthen landowners preferred Oak Grove’s less restrictive lot requirements, though they said they have no current plans to develop their properties.
Under the agreement, Nowthen will rezone the area to allow 2-acre lots. The changes will be reflected in the city’s 2040 comprehensive plan, documents show.
The chunk of land at stake — largely farmland, fields and woods — totals about 550 acres and hugs the eastern edge of Nowthen. It’s a tract that Nowthen officials said they didn’t want to lose.
“That 550 acres would have left a really ugly border,” Mayor Jeff Pilon said Tuesday. “All that tax revenue would have been over in Oak Grove for decades to come.”
The settlement, approved in late August by the Nowthen City Council, means the annexation dispute will no longer be heard by an administrative law judge. “We came to a settlement, which we believe will benefit the city of Nowthen and its residents and prevent us from having to do a long, drawn-out legal battle,” Council Member Mary Rainville said Tuesday.
Roessler, a well-known land developer in the area, approached Oak Grove officials in March about annexing his property. He said his family has long admired the way Oak Grove does business.
“They run their city more in line with the way that we feel a city should be run,” Roessler said.
He and several neighbors filed a petition in July to break from Nowthen and attach to Oak Grove. A hearing was scheduled for this month.
The annexation push stoked debates about land use and property rights. Planning for future land use, development and density represented key sticking points.
Pilon, who cast the lone dissenting vote on the settlement, said its terms may not be popular with all residents.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people in the city over the years, and they like their large lots. They like the size of our community,” Pilon said.
If the city fails to make the zoning changes, the landowners could refile their petition.
“The density wasn’t the most important part,” Roessler said. “The most important part is that the city changes their ways of operation. They reassured us that ... they are going to be more efficient.”