Representing a concerned group of residents from his neighborhood in rural southwest Burnsville, Dan Callahan has negotiated with city officials for nearly 18 months in an attempt to increase the minimum lot size in the area from one acre to two. The goal? To prevent developers from buying up property and stripping the neighborhood of its country-life-in-the-city uniqueness.

Hours of meetings culminated on Tuesday with the city council voting unanimously to deny Callahan's request to change the ordinance.

So why did Callahan leave the council chambers smiling? Turns out bad information has turned into good news.

Callahan and his group were under the impression, based on a ruling by the city's planning commission, that allowing one-acre properties would force neighbors to ditch their septic systems and hook up to city sewer and water, an expensive proposition that, they believed, was likely to force them to divide their land.

Before long the rural feel of the area would disappear.

The rules set up for the area say septic systems are allowed on properties of two acres or more. Any developments with one-acre properties must hook up to city sewer and water. And Callahan's group had been told that state law would mandate owners of two-acre properties to switch to municipal sewer when their systems failed.

Turns out that wasn't true, the council told Callahan Tuesday.

"Our goal was to prevent anyone from being forced to have to bring sewer and water in," Callahan's wife, Brenda Callahan, said. "For one person to develop at the end of an area and drag all of their neighbors kicking and screaming along the way.

"If they are indeed going to go with the policy they say was already in place, then we are happy."

One subdivision of one-acre lots exists in the area; neighboring property owners, worried that they'd have to eventually hook up to city services at greater expense, decided to get city sewer and water when the lines were set up for that subdivision a few years ago. The Callahans worried that the same thing would happen to others.

"All we were interested in is people being left alone," Dan Callahan said.

"We didn't want to prevent people from being able to extend sewer and water," he continued. "That's property rights. We wanted to take away the financial incentive for people to divide their property into one-acre lots.

"We wanted to make it a level playing field."

Dean Spiros • 952-882-9203