Land Use – Connect the Dots

August 14th, 2005

It’s hard for me to understand people’s difficulty with “sustainability.” Isn’t it apparent that we have to consider the impacts of our actions on our surroundings? That our very lives are dependent on it?

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From the way Rice County is pushing the 11.5 million square feet of commercial and industrial development, what Lief Knecht realistically described at a Committee 1 meeting as “a new city,” it’s hard not to conclude they just don’t give a proverbial rodent’s rump, and as Gordon Kelly’s circular reasoning goes, “we’ve got to get off the dime because we’ve got to get off the dime.” The only logical reasons that come to mind are grossly misplaced trust, greed, special interest influence, delusion, inflated sense of self-importance, shortsightedness? Others it could be? Please let me know, as it makes no sense to me… Bruce Morlan’s asking “Who’s in charge here?” A logical question!

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Now they’re all forced to care — Minnesota’s Appellate Court has done what the ineffective MPCA, agency of Gov. Pawlenty, has refused to do — enforce the Clean Water Act. It’s an issue for the I-35 development because they cannot add to the pollution of Lake Byllesby, and the Cannon River is grossly impaired, pollution is an issue long before we get even close to Lake Pepin. The Impaired Waters List is no secret! Why is the consultant expressing concern about Lake Byllesby as the limiting factor when the Cannon River is on the Impaired List? Cannon River Watershed Partnership, where are you in this I-35 discussion? Rice County had better pay attention to this case’s implications for the county plans.

Here’s the actual decision — do take the time to read it:

In the Matter of the Cities of Annandale and Maple Lake NPDES/SDS Permit Issuance for the Discharge of Treated Wastewater, and Request for Contested Case Hearing.

Essential holding: Under 40 C.F.R. ยง 122.4(i) (2004), a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit may not be issued for a new source when its discharge will cause or contribute to the impairment of waters with impaired status under the Clean Water Act.

And let’s hear it for Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy for pursuing this case (I’m not a fan of their concept of energy policy, but this is a good thing). FYI – MCEA is looking for a Legislative Director.

And while you’re at it, check out the Northstar Sierra Club’s report Restoring Water Quality Certification in Minnesota.

There’s a STrib editorial about this today, and remember that the 2012 and 2009 dates are for PLANS, not removing the bodies of water from the Impaired Water List, which will take a lot longer:

Annandale’s water fix was inevitable

Whether the Clean Water Act should permit more flexibility is a matter for Congress; for now, the law is the law, and the only way for Annandale and Maple Grove to get their permit is for the MPCA to come up with plans for getting Lake Pepin and the North Fork of the Crow River off the impaired waters list.

That the agency’s current timetable calls for these to be completed in 2012 and 2009, respectively, suggests the magnitude of difficulty that cities and businesses all over Minnesota may be facing as they try to grow within the limits of the law. If MPCA can’t pick up the pace, and the Legislature provide the resources for doing so, Annandale and Maple Grove will have lots of company in their plight.

Waseca County is updating its Comprehensive Plan, long overdue, but the way they’re doing it, it’s better termed the “Incomprehensible Plan.” My client, Nancy Prehn, and her friend and neighbor Jean Hansen, held a meeting at the Waseca County Annex a couple weeks ago for citizens to discuss the proposed plan changes.

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That’s Jean at the blackboard, Nancy in front at the table on left.

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Jean’s husband Scott, and Jeremy Ellers (for Senate District 26). Sen. Dick Day and Rep. Connie Ruth were no shows.

Despite all the inconsistencies between the Comp Plan and other county plans and state laws, and despite the County’s lack of acknowledgement of its Water Plan and specific information and policy needs detailed in it back in 1997 that have yet to be addressed, total ignorance of impaired waters in Waseca County, the County’s Planning Commission went ahead and recommended adoption — after an amendment is made to acknowledge a little fact that the consultant did not know about — the presence of 7 billion cubic feet of underground natural gas storage!!! The County Commissioners will probably approve it soon. One of the more onerous provisions is that the Comprehensive Plan will be changed to allow residential development along every body of water in the county, from lakes to rivers to tiny creeks — all the water is ringed in blue. Is this sustainable development?


Development fever in the face of economic and environmental scenarios where it is not sustainable — it feels like it’s 1926 and we’re headed for a train wreck. Today’s New York Times had this reality check (thanks to Barbara Miller for passing it on):

Do try this at home: Assessing your area’s real estate bubble

“It’s taking a lot longer to sell a home,” says Karl A. Martone, a Re/Max Properties agent in Providence, where homes now sit on the market an average of 65 days, up from 14 days a year ago. The region has almost six months of inventory, which is up 35 percent from a year ago.

Indicators to look at are market activity, inventory, prices, failed to sell, price-to-rent ratio, loan quality, risk and popular sentiment. The article does report some good news about the idiocy of “interest only” mortgages:

Loan quality The popularity of interest-only mortgages could become one of the best indicators of a fragile market, several economists say. Mr. Thornberg of UCLA Anderson says it’s a sign that lenders are scraping the bottom of the barrel. “We are close to running out of shills,” he says.

I am SO grateful for my $32,000 mortgage balance! That low mortgage payment is the most important factor that lets me more or less do the work I love — as Jerry says, “to pursue that goal and feed the dog at the same time…” Mortgage payments are inversely proportional to independence!

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