Cred­it River Township in Scott County will be­come a city in May, a de­ci­sion of­fi­cials say was prompt­ed most­ly by fears the town­ship would e­ven­tu­al­ly be eat­en up by an­nex­ations to oth­er cit­ies.

The town­ship — pop­u­la­tion 5,625, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent cen­sus es­ti­mate — is the first in Minnesota to in­corpo­rate since 2014, when Rice Lake, north of Duluth, re­ceived city sta­tus.

"If we start look­ing at an­nex­a­tion by oth­er com­mu­ni­ties, what's left of Cred­it River?" said Brent Law­rence, a Cred­it River town board su­per­vi­sor for more than a dec­ade. "It's going to be a lot easi­er to pro­tect our bor­ders."

Cred­it River also is in­corpo­rat­ing be­cause it has been facing po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ment in the north, Lawrence said, and de­vel­op­ers will want city wa­ter and sew­er services.

The switch will oc­cur af­ter votes are can­vassed in the city's May 11 e­lec­tion, when Cred­it River resi­dents will elect their first City Council, in­clud­ing a may­or and four coun­cil mem­bers.

Law­rence said most resi­dents won't no­tice any day-to-day chan­ges af­ter the tran­si­tion.

In 2018, Pri­or Lake an­nexed two small plots, totaling about 15 acres, in Cred­it River when their own­ers want­ed ac­cess to the city's sew­er and wa­ter to add value to the properties and attract de­vel­op­ment.

May­or Kirt Briggs said Pri­or Lake nev­er in­tend­ed to an­nex Cred­it River land but agreed to do so in those cases, with several con­di­tions, be­cause of the prop­er­ty own­ers' wishes.

But when a third an­nex­a­tion ap­pli­ca­tion came in 2020, the Pri­or Lake City Council de­nied it, Briggs said.

"We're ex­cit­ed by Cred­it River be­com­ing a city," he said. "We'll go up to eight cit­ies in Scott County and that's awe­some."

Law­rence said the town­ship has been plan­ning to in­corpo­rate since 2006, when of­fi­cials formed a com­mit­tee to ex­plore the change.

The town­ship start­ed the tran­si­tion by tak­ing over plan­ning and zon­ing du­ties from Scott County, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing a 2040 Com­pre­hen­sive Plan for the Metropolitan Council. A dec­ade ago, Cred­it River also be­gan ap­point­ing its clerk and treas­ur­er, as cit­ies do.

The town board ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion stat­ing a de­sire to be­come a city last July, and an ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge en­tered an ord­er in­corpo­rat­ing the town­ship as the city of Cred­it River this win­ter.

Cred­it River won't sud­den­ly hire doz­ens of new city employees. It will con­tin­ue to con­tract for snow plowing and road main­te­nance, have a dedi­cat­ed dep­u­ty from the County Sher­iff's Office and use the County Attorney's Office for pros­ecut­ing crimes.

Pri­or Lake's fire de­part­ment will still pro­vide ser­vices un­der a con­tract. And Cred­it River of­fi­cials have been work­ing with neigh­bor­ing Savage to plan for e­ven­tu­al sew­er and wa­ter hookups.

"If you like Cred­it River the way it is as a town­ship, you'll like how Cred­it River is as a city," Law­rence said.

Steve Fenske, gen­er­al coun­sel for the Minnesota Association of Town­ships, said they "hate to lose any town­ship," though there are times when "it makes good sense," in­clud­ing when more den­sity and de­vel­op­ment are ex­pect­ed or a city wants mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter ser­vices, a mu­nic­i­pal liq­uor store or to col­lect local sales tax­es.

He said it's un­for­tu­nate that be­com­ing a city is the only way some townships can avoid an­nex­ation.

He not­ed that town­ship resi­dents will no long­er be able to set their annu­al prop­er­ty tax levy by di­rect vote, though Law­rence said only about 15 peo­ple ever showed up to vote on the levy any­way.

And Cred­it River soon will be el­i­gi­ble for state funds from sev­er­al new sour­ces, in­clud­ing through Local Government Aid, town­ship of­fi­cials said.

There's more in­ter­est in run­ning for City Council seats than there was for the town­ship board, Law­rence said. "I think that there's a lot of ex­cite­ment," he said.

Erin Adler • 612-673-1781