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August 17, 2022

7/29/2022 11:42:00 AM
Lent, Stacy hold informational meeting

In their first formal opportunity to learn and ask questions about an impending dissolution of Lent Township— approximately 100 citizens took advantage of this meeting event Monday night.

Stacy and Lent Township  began the process of combining into one municipality after a show of hands at the township annual meeting last March.

Chair of the Lent Township Board Rick Keller welcomed everyone to town hall and explained  to the audience that elected officials do not know every concern people have;  but the city and township tried to negotiate what were perceived to be key issues.  

Keller said once the contract for the orderly annexation/boundary adjustment is ready to submit to the state, there will be another public meeting.

Residents were sent a letter to attend this week’s meeting and a number of attendees said the township should have communicated much sooner.  

There was an exchange between Keller and a resident in an area of Lent Township that has been negotiated to annex into Chisago City.  

Dave Chelberg felt the township just “rolled over” and is letting Chisago City take the sections along Lofton Avenue, on the east side of Carlos Avery WMA.

It was explained the township had no option, once the Stacy annexation plan entered serious reviews. There are state notice deadlines for interested parties, like Chisago City, to insert themselves into the land boundary revisions and protect their interests.

Any judge assigned to a Stacy-Lent annexation request would have to rule that city services are more easily extended, to this region out of Chisago City than to come out of Stacy, said Keller.

Citizen Rebecca Davis suggested the orderly annexation agreement get some more details written into it, because items like taxes and hookup to sewer, etc. are not specifically addressed. “Get it in writing,” she advised.

Citizen Jeff Barrett asked when the “vote” will be held and the audience learned there is no referendum required.  There will be no “vote.”

Citizens were assured they’d get to see the annexation agreement prior to submitting it for final state action, however.

 Chisago City Administrator John Pechman allayed some concerns when he explained that the sections proposed to enter Chisago City are covered by existing ordinances that will allow hunting to continue, ATV riding, and other rural land uses.  Chisago City not long ago absorbed a huge area of Wyoming Township (which  dissolved) and has had experience dealing with the transitioning of properties.

Both Stacy Mayor Mark Utchet and Pechman assured Lent citizens the cities have no intention of extending infrastructure and hooking-up people with functioning septic systems, to city sewer or with wells, onto the municipal water system.

In other matters:

~ Post offices do not change under this contract to annex.  The city will be named Stacy but public township facilities like the fire hall and township hall will maintain their historic “Lent” monikers.

~ The city council will stay five-members with two being Stacy residents and two being former township residents and the mayor term will be at-large.  There will be two election cycles established in this format, if the annexing official agrees.   Afterwards it will be all at-large seats won by the candidates who get the most votes. The candidates who garner the most votes in the first two merged balloting, will serve four year terms and the lesser vote-getters will have two year terms to stagger the seats.  It is unclear if the state will decide annexing  in time to hold an election for the merged city by November this year or if ballots will be offered seperately at least once more.  Filing for offices for the next general election opens August 2, so it’s probably best to simply file if you are interested.
~ There is no specific “timeframe” for the process.  Orderly annexation greements with Chisago City and North Branch ( two property owners Carlson and Herbst, on the townline,  petitioned to annex into the North Branch area) plus the contract between Lent and Stacy, need to be drafted yet.  It is preferred legally to submit them all at the same time.

~ The city of Stacy mandated stormwater program fee, of $43 annually,  is being restructured so incoming township residents won’t pay this.  It was not explained by Mayor Utecht  how this will work.  Taxes also are not being altered (ie: divided into districts) to reflect urbanization.  The parcel market value and its use will determine your tax just like it does now.  

~ Officials all remarked on well the two zoning codes are coming together and how similar in format they are.

All Lent supervisors were on hand and Stacy was represented by Mayor Utecht and Council member Tim Sawatzky.  

Township Attorney Peter Tiede participated virtually.

He summed up how the township got here,  by saying it was inevitable the surrounding cities would take measures in the future to absorb pieces of Lent Township and, Tiede added,  “...Over time, the township would no longer be viable.”

Supervisors said going about this cooperatively is the only way to keep the Lent community together.  Plus, the costs for associated legal services if this became a contested case or hostile action are avoided.

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