Rice County exposed!!

June 29th, 2005

Today’s STrib has an article about the Rice County plans for development of I-35!

Rezoning worries some

Shira Kantor, Star Tribune

June 29, 2005

Rice County’s plans to clear the way for development of some 1,200 acres west of Northfield have some neighbors concerned about growth and the way it is handled.

Late last year, commissioners voted to rezone the swath of land along Interstate Hwy. 35 between Hwy. 19 and County Road 1 from agricultural to highway commercial. The designation would allow commercial and industrial development.

“It’s almost like they’re creating another — or trying to create — another town out here,” said Diane Von Ruden, who lives in the rezoned area west of I-35.

Von Ruden and her husband, Chuck, voiced concerns about plans for utilities and roads, increased traffic, and the fact that the county “is getting into development. That’s usually what the cities do.”

A county economic development committee recently drafted a map of what could be built on the land. It includes plans for a wastewater treatment plant and a water tower.

Arlyn Grussing, the county planning director, said the county is doing an environmental study of the area, which remains zoned for agricultural use until Dec. 31. Public comments on the study could be taken from July 18 through Aug. 17.

The rezoned acreage would be by far the largest commercial/industrial area of the county. Some 90 percent of Rice County is zoned for agriculture.

Grussing said the land was rezoned as a long-term strategy to help the county boost its ailing commercial tax base. Commercial property accounted for 26 percent of the county’s tax base in 1993, he said, but it dropped to 16 percent by 2002.

That is largely because of an influx of new residents, Grussing said. Some 1,700 new residents come to Rice County per year.

That explanation doesn’t help Stephanie Henrickson of Bridgewater Township, who worries that the district will disrupt the environment.

“For me, the most immediate shocker was the map they passed — a utilities map with a wastewater treatment plant located on Heath Creek, which is sacred ground to many of us,” Henrickson said.

A group calling itself Rice County Land Use Accountability Inc. has sued Rice County over its land-use planning and environmental review policies. The suit addresses the rezoning of the 1,200 acres and other land-use decisions.

Contact the writer at 612-673-7275

or skantor@startribune.com.

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