The editorial page in today’s Northfield News says it all:

Good ideas and consequences

To the editor:

Here are some good ideas:

* Rice County commissioners rezoned 1,180 acres of prime farmland and wetlands along Interstate 35 to a highway commercial zoning designation. This can bring more money to the county.

* Farmers wanting to quit farming on the land can make a lot of money, to which they are entitled.

* Developers and businesses who want to take over the land can make a lot of money.

* New businesses can bring new jobs to the county.

* The county has a plan for responsible development.

* Input from the residents of the county is invited on the development plan.

Here are the problems:

* The Rice County commissioners have said development will bring in money for the county, but they have never said how to pay for it. Estimates to get started range from $20 million to $40 million.

* Over 50 percent of the soil in the development area will not handle development and must be replaced.

* No plan has been presented to cover the cost of necessary infrastructure.

* Farmers who want to continue to farm this land and homeowners who want to stay will be forced off their land by development pressures and unwelcome commercial neighbors. Many will lose a lot of money if the county says their pieces of the land will not be used for development, only related infrastructure, etc.

* Developers and businesses will ask for tax breaks.

* The cheapest development involves truck transfer facilities and large storage or display areas. Some of these will employ less than a dozen local people. The number of jobs per acre for these businesses will be small.

* The commissioners’ highway commercial zoning designation was not based on the county’s long-term development plan. When they realized what they had done, they quietly rewrote the plan. This is one of several instances where they violated their own laws. However, to date they have never held themselves accountable.

* City mayors and township board members, representing the majority of the citizens of the county, have objected to the many negative consequences of this plan. To date hundreds of questions and problems have been raised. Almost none have been answered, and few improvements have been made to the highway commercial plan. Local governments and citizens are being ignored.

* Numerous additional technical and legal problems with the highway commercial plan are now being raised, in writing, by concerned citizens committed to responsible and accountable government. More comments are encouraged, and must be submitted by Oct. 26 to the director of planning and zoning.

* More such development plans, that ignore the consequences to the citizens of the county, are starting to emerge. Whether residents of the county live near or distant from these development, in one way or another, all will pay for the benefit of a few.

Charles Skinner

A rezoning nightmare

To the editor:
As most people know, Rice County Commissioner Jim Brown made his move last November to rezone 1,100 acres of ag land along a three-mile strip of Interstate 35 — Minnesota Highway 19 on the north to Rice County Road 1 on the south — to highway commercial. Faribault, Dundas and Northfield, Bridgewater and Forest townships along with farmers and rural residents strongly objected. At one of the hearings, former Faribault City Councilor Fran Minnick called on the board to open up a smaller area to start out. Sounded like common sense to me.

The new county board approved a committee chaired by Gordon Kelley, under the guidance of RLK Kuusisto Consulting, to come up with a master plan by Dec. 31, when developers will begin rushing in. Plans now include shopping centers along with business and industrial parks and warehouses — a true hodge-podge.

RLK put together an Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR), available for public comment through Oct. 26. It is a set of 31 questions, designed to give information about the project that may have the potential for “significant environmental effects.” The document is available at Faribault, Northfield and Rochester public libraries, Rice County Zoning Office or the county Web site. Anyone who finds answers to the questions to be incorrect or incomplete should put it in writing to Rice County Director of Planning and Zoning Arlyn Grussing.

Questions will be answered and, one assumes, adjustments made or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) ordered if citizens call for it.

It is a daunting task for an ordinary person to review a document of 54 pages plus maps and exhibits. I suggest each person look at the table of contents and find one or two questions to look at. For me, it is No. 18: Wastewaters. A continuous discharge wastewater treatment plant on Heath Creek (or Wolf Creek as an alternative) is a very offensive idea. Fortunately, discharging to already impaired waters (in this case Lake Byllesby) is not allowed, so other alternatives were listed. It looks like warehouses and other businesses will go in on their own septics to start out. That doesn’t sound great, either.

I am just starting on the traffic section. Planned level of service (LOS) at several intersections are rated very low. At full buildout, 103,325 traffic trips per day are projected for the area. The intersection of Highway 19 and Rice County Road 46 is rated “D.” On a scale of A to F for failing, that is not good. And, as one of a dozen residents who spoke at the planning commission public hearing regarding the AUAR said last Thursday night, what about air emissions?

I empathize more with farmers and residents who will be negatively impacted by this massive development and less with those few who are standing in line to sell for big money. I guess we know which group Commissioner Brown is listening to.

Stephanie Henriksen


Concerning French Lake

To the editor:
It appears another taxpayer fiasco is on the drawing board for Rice County, as if the ill-conceived hyper-squalor producing Interstate 35/Minnesota Highway 19 corridor isn’t enough to impair more surface waters, disfigure more landscape and threaten to raise county taxes to the realm of the metro area. Now comes the bold new plan for a 350-unit “Gated Community” on French Lake that will disrupt and destroy the very countryside that it uses to sell these McMansions in the first place!

What will the outcome of adding 300-plus houses be to a rural place where they don’t belong? How about for starters at least 700 more cars on rural roads and tens of thousands of more car trips per year adding congestion and deteriorating roadways even faster. Water quality will suffer for all because of the excavations as well as the usual years of massive noise that is never even considered by these metro speculators.

And all for what? So a developer can make a huge profit at the expense of taxpayers and Rice County’s quality of life. If these projects are allowed, Rice County will know that their planning and zoning department and elected officials are corrupt to the core and that it is only a charade to give the appearance of democracy.

Besides setting an apocalyptic precedent for years to come, this is urban sprawl at its worst, with no accounting of true costs.

Lawrence Morgan

Wouldn’t ya think that this District has learned something about massive boondoggle development, corporations at the public trough, and taxpayer and public coffers sucked dry?


As my EXhusband would say, “Goes to show you don’t think!”

Leave a Reply