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Paynesville Press - Jan. 22, 2003

Annexation concerns voiced at hearing

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Concerns over annexation dominated a public hearing on the city's new comprehensive plan last week.

The city held an informational meeting and the planning committee held a public hearing about the comprehensive plan on Monday, Jan. 13, attended by a dozen residents.

During the hearing, controversy arose over the plan's future land use map, a document that identifies areas outside of the city for potential growth and possible annexation.

Some township residents at the meeting expressed concern that the land use map indicated areas that the city intends to annex.

Ray Lein, who lives just outside of the city in Paynesville Township, wanted to know if the city was going to stage a "land grab" and force him to become part of the city.

Planning commission chairman Jeff Bertran assured concerned residents that the city's intention is not to force anyone to become part of the city. "This plan is not a fast-track to annexation," said Bertram.

Although the city has the power to annex properties without the property owner's consent, Bertram emphasized that normally the city's policy is to only annex properties at the owner's request and indicated this policy should not change.

However, according to Bertram, businesses and developments moving into the area could want city services such as water and sewer. If the township is unable to provide these services, developers could petition the city to annex their properties, he said.

Lein emphasized that his family has been on their property for over 19 years, does not want city services, and does not want to be annexed.

Warren Nehring, a former member of the township board, questioned the future land use map, as published in the Paynesville Press on Wednesday, Jan. 8, because it showed the Paynesville Township Hall and the Koronis Civic Arena within an area of possible annexation.

While the township hall does sit within an area indicated on the map for single family residential development, not all of the land on the map is destined for annexation.

According to Bertram, the lines on the map are not absolute and the city has no intention of annexing the town hall.

Still, city leaders believe Paynesville is destined to grow, especially when improvements to Highway 23 are made. The comprehensive plan and its future land use map were intended as tools to plan for that growth. The future land use map identifies properties for future development and the type of development for which the property would be best suited.

For instance, in an effort to keep growth orderly, planners identified new industrial areas in the same area as the existing industrial park. Likewise, new commercial areas were identified along the proposed Highway 23 routes where businesses might locate to benefit from traffic.

Although annexation was the public's main concern at the meeting, the issue of stormwater runoff was also raised by Peter Jacobson and Dale Lorenz of the Koronis Lake Association (KLA).

During the informational meeting, Jacobson (who is also the publisher of the Paynesville Press) said that the KLA was concerned about the amount of stormwater runoff the lake and the river could have to accomodate as a result of growth. During the public hearing Lorenz requested that the plan include a provision that run-off levels after development should be no more than pre-development levels.

The planning commission assured Lorenz that the city's policy required developers to control their stormwater by building holding ponds if necessary, but council member Dennis Zimmerman agreed that such a provision could act as a reminder to the city to look at the environmental aspects of development.

After almost an hour of discussion, the planning commission voted unanimousley to accept the plan and refer it to the city council for approval, contingent on a few minor changes of wordage. The completed comprehensive plan should be presented to the Paynesville City Council for approval at its meeting tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 22) starting at 6 p.m.

According to planner Chad Carlson, the approved plan can be revised and should be updated when a Highway 23 route has been determined, since the highway could have a large impact on the city's growth. He added that the plan should not simply sit on a shelf, but should be reviewed periodically.

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