Last April, The Center for Sustainable Living organized discussions and met with city consultants regarding the revision of the Northfield Comprehensive Plan. Citizens voiced their opinions at a town meeting to speak about land use and development. The Center for Sustainable Living has always been an advocate for the preservation of natural and agricultural landscapes, not merely for “aesthetic” qualities, but as a viable economic, educational, and environmental community resource.

On February 4th, the Northfield City Council will vote regarding the request by Johnson Reiland Homes to annex 55 acres of agricultural land on Wallstreet Rd. While the Northfield Planning Commission unanimously recommended against the request, the council still must vote on the proposal (and is free to decide in agreement or disagreement with the planning commission). Northfield resident, Dorothea Hrossowyc, whose farm rests adjacent to the requested land, has a call to citizens to appeal to their local city council representative.

Below is a letter from Dorothea summarizing the issue, and her request for citizen involvement.

A special thank you to all who attended the Planning Commission Public Hearing last Tuesday regarding the request by Johnson Reiland Homes to annex 55 acres on Wallstreet Rd and to rezone to allow 2-4 houses per acre (the possibility of 225 houses on that property) The good news is that the planning commission voted unanimously against both requests. It was very exciting to see so many people there and have such a strong statement from the community for careful and sensible decisions about agricultural land in accordance with the land use principles as outlined in the proposed comprehensive plan. About 41 people were present, the vast majority there to express opposition, and the planning commission had an additional 14 emails from people who were not able to attend. I have also heard from several more people who wrote to the commission and the Council, so I am sure there were at least 20 emails or letters sent. That was a great response on such short notice, and I really appreciate everyone who came and who wrote. Thank you to you all.

City Planner Dan Olson outlined the basis for the staff recommendation to deny the request citing that the land was not in the priority area as defined by the proposed comp plan, and that the development could not be seen to be of sufficient benefit to the city as a whole. A thoughtful email from former commission chair Margit Johnson, which was cited at the meeting, outlines that the proposal goes against several of the land use principles in the proposed comprehensive plan. Several community members spoke eloquently about preserving the land and keeping the rural character of Northfield, not allowing it to become another piece of suburbia. Northfielder Mark Fisher urged the planning commission and the Council to deny all annexation requests until the Proposed Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Ordinances revisions are completed and the residents have had time to review the final documents, which are held out as the blueprint for future land use in Northfield. Jeri Hurlbutt noted that for the commission to approve a request that is clearly outside the land use principles as outlined in the proposed plan would increase cynicism about city government and its willingness to listen to the people at a time when faith in its functioning is low,

However this issue is not yet settled as it will come to the City Council Monday February 4 at 7 pm. Several commissioners mentioned that the City Council has on several occasions overridden the recommendations of the planning commission. So your emails to the City Council before Feb 4th and attendance at that meeting is crucial.

What you can do now:
**Write an email to City Council members (addresses below) urging them to vote against this annexation request. Request that they abide by the 12 land use principles outlined in the Proposed Comp Plan which came out of public discussions, recommendations by staff and planners, and which was unanimously approved by City Council in July 2007.
**Please attend the Council Meeting on Feb 4 if possible, and speak to the issue that evening.

Here are some things to consider in your comments. Many of these were cited that evening.
1. Agricultural land is an economic resource to be protected, an economic resource for the city, the state and the nation. It is crucial that cities stop the encroachment onto farm land and eating away at this valuable resource.
2. It is possible to say no to further development. It does not have to be inevitable. If it is, our whole economy will suffer. It is ok to say no to further development.
3. Northfield residents have expressly stated we do not wish to turn into suburbia.
4. This parcel is not in the priority growth area.
5. The land use principles expressly state that the city should develop infill first, then redevelopment, then at the edge of existing development.
6. This parcel adjoins two working farms which are economic resources to the city, and which wish to be able to continue farming. Annexation and development contiguous to operating farms sets up a domino effect in which each farmer has to develop in order to pay for the assessments from previous development and so one farm after another falls at a loss to agricultural production, the crucial rural economy, and creates suburbia.
7. 100-225 houses in that area would bring stress to the infrastructure on Wallstreet Rd and 4th Street and bring a huge amount of traffic right through a traditional and historical Northfield neighborhood.
8. Keeping Northfield green should be a priority. The Proposed Plan clearly states develop the green field areas last.
9. Northfield has enough houses already for its projected population for at least 5 years, some say we are 7 years out. Many of these houses already sit empty.
10. City staff should pay attention to the expressed wishes of the residents and respect the process of the Comp plan revision.
11. Many citizens have expressed regret about the heavy development that has already occurred in the north and south sides of town, and hope city planners will pay attention to these concerns about the future “blueprint” of Northfield.
12. It is time for the City to start seeing agriculture as prime economics

To send your comments to the City Council:
Dan Olson, City Planner, dan.olson@ci.northfield.mn.us 645 3056
Jim Pokorney, First Ward, jim.pokorney@ci.northfield.mn.us 663 6170
Scott Davis, Second Ward, scott@ward2.net 507-664-9548
Arnie Nelson, Third Ward arnie.nelson@ci.northfield.mn.us 507-645-4553
Jon Denison, Fourth Ward, jon.denison@ci.northfield.mn.us 507-412-1259
Kris Vohs, at large kris.vohs@ci.northfield.mn.us 645 6009
Noah Cashman, at large, noah.cashman@ci.northfield.mn.us (612) 618-8273
Brian O’Connell, Development, brian.oconnell@ci.northfield.mn.us 645 3056
Lee Lansing, Mayor, lee.lansing@ci.northfield.mn.us

Thank you for staying vigilant about this issue, and about sustainable land use in Northfield.

Dorothea Hrossowyc

3 Responses to “Council to decide fate of agricultural land on Feb 4”

  1. on 24 Jan 2008 at 3:18 pmChris Sullivan

    I would also like to alert residents to an additional threat to ag land and our beloved Big Woods State Park.

    URGENT —
    Fireworks within the statutory limits of the Big Woods State Park? Who thinks this is a good idea?!

    It is true, Hollywood Pyrotechnics is trying to push through rezoning of agricultural land next to the Big Woods State Park to allow fireworks testing, storage and manufacturing — within statutory limits of the park! Changing the zoning would allow other light industrial businesses to locate there also if the property should ever be sold. Besides, is it right to show preferential zoning for one particular business? Won’t other businesses or landowners feel entitled to the same treatment when they want an exception to the zoning ordinance for their pet project?

    This pristine woods in Rice County, just outside Northfield, needs to be protected. It is currently surrounded by preservation lands and agricultural land. Help make sure that industrial companies do not jeopardize the Big Woods — keep the zoning agricultural.

    Is the Big Woods State Park important? By February 12th, Rice County Commissioners need to hear from you. Let them know that our State Parks are prized.

    Show up and demonstrate your support of the Big Woods State Park on February 12th.


    Send letters by e-mail to: RCadmin@co.rice.mn.us asking for copies to be distributed to the Rice County Commissioners. Paper copy directly to Commissioners home never hurts. To have some of you call will help get a read on the thinking of Commissioners as we head into the 22nd. Let us know what you learn.

    Board of Commissioners –

    Government Services Building

    320 NW 3rd Street
    Faribault, MN 55021

    Faribault Phone: 507-332-6101
    Northfield Phone: 507-645-9576
    Lonsdale Phone: 507-744-5185

    Jake Gillen, Commissioner
    24062 Cabot Avenue
    Faribault, MN 55021
    (507) 334-5746 (Home)
    (507) 332-6101 (Office)

    Galen Malecha, Commissioner
    1607 Pheasantwood Trail
    Northfield, MN 55057
    (507) 645-6041 (Home)
    (507) 332-6101 (Office)

    Milt Plaisance, Commissioner
    24330 Bagley Avenue
    Faribault, MN 55021
    (507) 334-7612 (Home)
    (507) 332-6101 (Office)

    Steve Bauer, Commissioner
    6386 Farwell Path
    Faribault, MN 55021
    (507) 334-9700 (Home)
    (507) 332-6101 (Office)

    Jim Brown, Commissioner
    6420 Halstad Avenue
    Lonsdale, MN 55046
    (507) 744-4500 (Home)
    (507) 332-6101 (Office)







  2. […] posted on an issue that came before the Planning Commission a couple of weeks ago. The CSL post, “Council to Decide Fate of Agricultural Land on Feb. 4″, includes a letter and a call for action regarding a request, by Johnson-Reiland Construction Inc. […]

  3. on 25 Jan 2008 at 10:52 amScott

    If you haven’t done so yet, please read Tracy Davis’ blog posting on Locally Grown Northfield for her observations and perspective from a city planning point of view on this issue.

    Many thanks, Tracy!

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