Whatever are they thinking? Let’s take a close look at this. That’s why I went to last night’s Northfield League of Women Voters discussion of Rice County’s “Master Plan” for developing 1047 acres, figure out the rationale, justification, whether the plan proposed by the County makes sense:

1047 acres.jpg

The discussion was moderated by Kathleen Doran-Norton, of the League (photo from another venue):


Here’s what Rice County is proposing, they call it “Economic Development”, their Master Plan:

North Section
South Section

How did they choose that area? That’s confusing, because the County Board did NOT vote on that land. First, it was not even on the agenda, it happened under an item listed as “housekeeping,” bait and switch. And here’s how the discussion went in that “housekeeping” section:

Brown: … I’d like to move that we ask Staff to initiate a rexoning of the area from around the Highway 1 intersection of 35, to, ah, going north up to Highway 19 as a Commercial, ah, Highway zone area and proceed with the necessary steps of public hearing and additional …

Grussing: Would this be on both sides of 35 or just on the west side?

Brown: West side.

Grussing: OK

Chair Olson: We have a motion. Is there a second?

Minnick: Second.

Chair Olson: Second by Commissioner Minnick.

OK, let’s see, it was only for area west of I-35? And I got this information from the tape of the meeting, with two others present also observing the same statement, and I submitted an affidavit of this fact to the County. Given that the motion was specifically for the west side only, even after prompting, I think the county should start by removing anything east of I-35 from consideration.

Back to the meeting. It was standing room only, even the kids chairs were covered with adult gluteous maximus overhangs, but only one County Commissioner bothered to attend. Jessica Peterson was that lone Commissioner, she is on “Committee 1,” and she did a good job updating the group on how we got to where we are, a balanced account of history and overview of process and what to expect with the steps going forward. You would think that Jim Brown, who represents the affected area, would attend, but nooooooo….

There was also the full presentation by Loren Abraham, Abraham + Associates, an Architect from Hastings (Boat, anyone? Pup too?), not the abbreviated version we saw when the Rice County Planning Commission so rudely cut it short.


As he mentioned, there is information available for the taking at the Rice County website that shows that this area is not suited for this development, take a second and look at all that’s offered! And here are some examples:

Prime Soils Map

Septic Suitability

Groundwater Sensitivity

National Wetland Inventory

And Rice County does have a Water Plan! I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about it!

I’m very concerned about the proximity to Union Lake and drainage to the wetlands across 35 to the east, and about Heath and Wolf Creek. I asked about baseline studies of the condition of Heath and Wolf Creek, and Cannon River Watershed Partnership does not have that info, per Hillary Ziols. If CRWP doesn’t have this info, who does??? Apparently, there are no baseline studies, and they have not been tested and so logically could not appear on the state’s “Impaired Waters” list. I’ve contacted Arlyn Grussing to get this information included in the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR). This is the environmental review that the Planning Commission had adopted without any idea what the EQB’s guidelines are, they admitted on the record that they had not reviewed the EQB’s report! As I told Arlyn Grussing, given past performance of the County, I’m not confident that they will complete the AUAR as required, but I am certainly giving them every opportunity to get familiar with the rules and follow them!

The Infrastructure issues are extensive. The County’s consultant, RLK Kuusisto (oh, my, talk about a hyperactive website!) partially addressed sewer and water, but have NOT addressed who will pick up the $17,000,000 price tag. Here’s the RLK review of comments made at the June 9, 2005, Planning Commission hearing.

What I want to see, the BIG issues (I’ll get more specific as the AUAR moves forward):

Water Quality – baseline reports on all affected waters, and plan accordingly
Infrastructure – what’s needed, what does it REALLY cost, and who pays $17 million for water and sewer
Cost/Benefit Analysis – what’s the point of this, let’s get specific
Traffic and Road Infrastructure – what’s needed, what does it REALLY cost, how long do we have to wait for it, and who pays

Most important is the cost/benefit analysis. I see many concerns, many people voicing concerns, and I don’t see anyone lining up to develop out there, certainly not saying so at the public meetings. What’s driving this, Commissioner Brown?

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