By Ryan Gueningsman
Plans for a utility sharing agreement between the cities of Delano and Independence to connect sewer and water from Delano to a site in Independence for a future “big box” development have been tabled.
Delano City Administrator Phil Kern said at a city council meeting Tuesday night that, as of that morning, Delano city officials learned Independence would not be able to stand by what had been prepared in a draft utility sharing agreement.
Two weeks ago, a committee meeting took place between representatives from both cities to continue working on the agreement. A draft agreement was prepared and available for the council at its meeting Tuesday.
“That agreement was consistent with the discussions taking place as of last Tuesday with the subcommittees,” Kern said. “The members (from Independence) who were involved in negotiations through the subcommittee reported back to us in Delano today they couldn’t stand by the agreement that’s in our packet tonight, and they needed to go back and have further discussion with their city council.”
Because the utility sharing agreement was not able to be reached, the issue was tabled for the time being by the Delano City Council.
“We don’t have something that’s realistically able to be agreed upon,” Kern said.
The City of Independence had also requested a land-use change review by the City of Delano for the site, which is located at the northeast corner of Highway 12 and County Line Road. As an adjoining jurisdiction, Delano had 60 days to review the proposal and respond by Dec. 29. The meeting Tuesday was the last scheduled council meeting before that date. The City of Delano conducted a public hearing regarding the request Dec. 4.
“We outlined the background of discussions, and the backbone of a potential utility sharing agreement between the City of Delano and the City of Independence,” Kern said.
Plans called for a commercial development on the 23 acres of land, which would include 160,000 square feet of retail space, anchored by a 120,000-square-foot “big box” store, most likely Target. The developer is Ryan Companies, a Twin Cities-based retail development company.
Knowing that a utility sharing agreement is not in place between the two cities, the Delano City Council voted Tuesday to recommend denial of Independence’s land-use change request to the Metropolitan Council, which has final authority over the request.
In a draft copy of the denial letter presented at the city council meeting, three reasons for the city’s recommended denial of the change were highlighted.
The first was the absence of municipal utilities. It was noted without municipal sanitary and sewer, the entire area would be reliant on private well and septic systems.
The letter said Independence has not demonstrated these private systems would be adequate to serve a project of this size at this location. It noted the City of Delano also has concerns with the City of Independence’s ability to monitor, manage, or require maintenance of large private systems to protect against system failure and potential environmental impacts for both cities.
The City of Delano has also extended utilities to the border of the project site, and the letter noted these utilities have the capacity to serve the site if a shared service agreement can be negotiated.
The second issue addressed in the letter was stormwater, noting the project area drainage flows west through developed portions of Delano to reach the Crow River.
It was noted the proposed change in land use would “significantly increase the impervious coverage of the lot and volumes of stormwater generated by the site.”
The letter also states no information has been provided to indicate how stormwater will be managed on the site related to water quality, water volume, or rate control.
The final issue addressed in the denial letter was traffic. To date, no information has been provided to detail anticipated traffic impacts or required improvements.
The letter concludes that “without a demonstration that these impacts can be mitigated to the satisfaction of both cities, both at the time of development and in the future, the proposed land use change is premature and should be denied.”
Where does Independence go from here?
Independence City Administrator Toni Hirsch said she knew Delano would not favorably review the land use change unless the utility sharing agreement was in place.
“It was expected, if they didn’t get that agreement,” Hirsch said. “We knew we were going to get a negative comment from them because they told us that during the process.”
As of late last week, Hirsch said Independence city officials have not had the chance to talk about the issue, and said she was unsure of the next steps that would be taken.
She explained that after some figuring, it seems Independence will come out “on the low end of the totum pole.”
“It doesn’t make sense to move forward if we’re not going to come out ahead,” she said, explaining the City of Independence is a participant in the fiscal disparities program, which is a revenue-sharing program for cities in the seven-county metro area.
When a city in that area such as Independence receives a commercial or industrial building, the city receives some of the original tax base, but only a portion of it. All of the other cities in the seven-county metro area also stand to benefit from the project.
“It gets split between communities that are in there,” Hirsch said. “The amount of money in this pool gets divided up.”
Because Independence doesn’t stand to receive the full tax benefit from the property, it would be unable to pay what Delano had requested from Independence in the draft utility sharing agreement.
“We would like for it to work out with Delano, but now our council has to meet as a whole,” Hirsch said. The next regular Independence City Council meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 23.
“We should be getting something out of the deal,” Hirsch said, noting Independence will need to regroup, and take a look at things.
“See what other options, if there are any at this point, because of the way the economy is setting,” she said. “I wish that it could be more workable. A lot of time and efforts have gone into it on both sides.”
Hirsch said now that Independence does not have a favorable review of the project from Delano, officials from Independence will need to meet as an entire city council, and admitted the city doesn’t have much time to get a response to the Metropolitan Council for its consideration.
“We want to make the right decision, but we don’t have much time,” she said.
Attempts to reach Tony Barranco of Ryan Companies were unsuccessful as of press time.