January 5, 2006 at 5:32 a.m.
As recent as Dec. 1, the Town Board decided it would hold a public hearing to review the six-month study completed by the law firm of Rinke-Noonan.
But as both entities received word that Chisago City was again interested in annexing portions of the township, the Town Board moved ahead. Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of approving the consolidation at a Dec. 6 special meeting, before a public hearing could be held.
Residents of both entities packed the gymnasium at Wyoming Elementary last Wednesday. The overall mood and comments made were extremely favorable to the impending consolidation.
No one signed up formally to speak during the hearing, but a number of questions were asked, mostly by Wyoming Township residents.
Town Board Chair Roger Elmore opened the meeting by summarizing a chronology of events that led up to the consolidation.
A joint meeting between the two entities was held in May which featured a straw vote by those in attendance. The vote overwhelmingly approved of moving forward and spending $40,000 to complete a study into the consolidation.
The findings were brought back to the board and council last month and the consolidation was approved.
Elmore apologized for not holding the public hearing before approving the consolidation, as promised.
“It was a purely defensive move,” he said. “Otherwise we felt we would have faced another contested annexation from Chisago City.”
Elmore explained that township and city representatives, along with members of a consolidation committee, worked hard on the consolidation agreement. He said the most difficult discussions were how to deal with taxes, merging a city with a township that is mostly rural in its tax base.
In a summary available at the hearing, residents viewed a bar graph detailing the tax impact on properties within the city and former township.
Taxes for former township residents will decrease, on average, from 2005 to 2006. After that, residents will see an increase in 2007, decreases in 2008 and 2009 and increases in 2010 and 2011. The overall tax impact on a $250,000 home is estimated to go from $500 in 2005 to $690 in 2011.
Taxes for city residents will see an average decrease over the same time span. In 2005, the owner of a $250,000 home paid city taxes of about $1,058. That number is estimated to decrease to $986 by 2011, but with increases to $1,235 in 2006 and $1,181 in 2007.
The consolidation agreement states that a rural service taxing district will be established for former township residential areas. This means that properties will be taxed a a rural rate, not a city rate, until city water and sewer are available.
Greenway Ave., the Hwy. 8 corridor and the Comfort Lake area are targeted for extended municipal services first, the agreement states.
Once sewer and water are available to residents formerly utilizing private well systems, those residents will have five years to hook into the system. Other provisions apply that would stipulate a faster hookup deadline.
Zoning and land use ordinances in the former township would remain intact until a new comprehensive plan could be completed for the city.
The township recently completed a new comprehensive plan, so it will serve as the basis for the city’s, consolidation attorney Tim Sime explained.
Some residents voiced concerns over elections of the new council. As it stands, the new council will consist of two council members and two appointed former town board members and the mayor.
At its last meeting, the Town Board appointed Elmore and supervisor Ron Swenson to the new city council. Three council seats will then be up for election, along with the mayoral position, this November.
Two township residents said they would like to see all council positions up for election this year.
Sime said it was decided to have only the three seats up for election that were already due for election this year.
He said it was important to the two entities to have at least two members in place who were on the previous council or town board. “You’re going to need people who already know what’s going on,” he said.
Sime said during the consolidation process, there was talk of increasing the council to seven members, with the mayor. It would have to be approved by the voters, he explained, which could be done as a yes or no question on the November ballot.
Township Planning Commission member Buck Schott urged residents to attend the Jan. 3 Chisago City Council meeting, at which the city would be contemplating pursuing another hostile annexation of portions of Wyoming Township.
“I’m one of the residents who received a letter asking me to sign over to that city,” he said. “You have my support and the support of most of us here. I think this is a good thing.”
Elmore said the necessary paperwork has been filed with the state and it is now up to the state to give final approval. It is on the agenda for a Jan. 12 meeting.
The population of the former township will roughly double the size of the new city – going from 3,700 to 7,200.
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