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January 24, 2021

12/28/2020 11:54:00 AM
County Board sets wages, McMahon attends last meeting

County Commissioner George McMahon took his financial/bonding expertise, his passion for veterans and a brand new Rush City Tigers winter knit hat with him last week as he said farewell to the County Board.  The hat was a gift from Commissioner Mike Robinson.  McMahon served 12 years, and did not seek re-election last month.

Marlys Dunne, Chisago City, will be sworn-in come January.  

Ironically, his last bit of advice came in the form of a successful motion for the Board to reject the county HRA/EDA’s recommendation to refinance debt.  

McMahon suggested, and commissioners agreed, that the balance owed from 2011 borrowing by the Housing and Economic Development agency should be paid down, instead of refinanced for a better rate.  

A consultant from Baker Tilly public financing advisors,  said he would return with a new financing plan for shortened terms and when interest rates are lower for a more attractive savings.

Commissioner Rick Greene noted the county highway department is also making some noise about buildings that no longer serve their function. Maybe by the time they bring a plan, the county will be better positioned to restructure debt in general.

~ During public comment two township officials braved covid-19 and appeared in person to talk about the City. of Lindstrom’s extra-territorial review and their concerns.

Sherry Stirling, Chisago Lake Town Board and Owen Kuhnly, Franconia Town Board turned to the county to exert some authority over Lindstrom having adopted new subdivision regulations/guidelines for the area surrounding Lindstrom.

Kuhnly said not one affected landowner in Franconia was individually notified that this was pending.  He said if Lindstrom indeed, has initiated a process where it can “strip away” township parcels.  “It’s a scary thought’ if townships won’t be able to plan for the future, fearing there won’t be any taxpayers left to pay for a project.  The township never had a conversation with Lindstrom about these new border area subdivision standards, he stated.

Stirling said the extra-territorial review was done in reaction to a land use proposed on the north shore of North Lindstrom Lake. Rather than just working out a process for annexing those six acres into the city, Lindstrom exerted statutory authority to halt development around all its borders.  The moratorium was lifted in November when Lindstrom adopted the ordinance.

The issue is that under the new city ordinance,  Lindstrom gets final say over the size of lots in plats.  Adjacent plats must must be small lots. Further out, Lindstrom changed rules to 10 acres minimum.  Under township (county) zoning this was a five acre minimum.
Realtors and large tract owners need to receive information of this sort directly, Stirling said. “This significantly changes how growth in this area will happen....it will discourage developers”

Stirling said the city and township used to do a years-long property tax equalization agreement to facilitate annexations.  This way the township wasn’t suddenly losing revenue when parcels  annexed. It won’t work like that under the new city ordinance.

County Environmental Services Director Kurt Schneider said there are facets of this that need to be hashed out.  It is just one area of a large county, he continued, plus the county retains oversight on permits and land use.  The process itself is fuzzy,  but seems to be involving Lindstrom only when dividing a parcel is proposed.  Schneider agreed with the commissioners the impact of Lindstrom’s action need to be better understood and it would be helpful to hold a joint meeting and “become familiar with” the details.

This was also Chair Ben Montzka’s final session as chairman of the board.  Commissioner Montzka said it was a pleasure to be part of a non-partisan group that wanted to simply do what was right for the whole community.  The new chair will be chosen at the organizational meeting the first Tuesday of January.

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