BAXTER — A fast-moving permit process at the Crow Wing County level had Baxter officials considering options for annexation Wednesday.
The subject rose so quickly, the city had to add the item to its agenda at the last minute.
At issue is the proposed Dondelinger auto center development on the corner of Highway 371 and County Highway 77. Preliminary site plans at the city show a Dondelinger Chevrolet Cadillac and Hyundai development along with a body shop at the corner.
For the city, a concern was putting all that commercial development on septic mound systems when city sewer and water is just feet away. The proposed development is on 11.86 acres in Unorganized Territory, which is governed by Crow Wing County. According to the development plan, the parking lot space runs right to the edge of land in Baxter, which is along Highway 371 in front of the proposed building area.
Wednesday the city council unanimously voted to pursue two plans of action. The city is petitioning the state for a public hearing on the question of annexation. In a second motion, the city voted to seek a joint resolution for annexation with the cooperation of Crow Wing County.
Whether the votes are there on the county board was an unknown for the city. But Gordon Heitke, Baxter city administrator, said it would have been inappropriate to bring the matter to the county before the city council had discussed it. If the county did file a joint resolution, Heitke said both time and money would be saved in the process.
The city was feeling the time pressure after the county approved a permit to allow the filling of 47,545 square feet, or nearly an acre, of wetland on the property. With a high water table, sandy soil and ground water that moves from that wetland toward residential wells and Red Sand and White Sand lakes, Baxter officials said they were concerned about storm water at the proposed auto development and how a septic system would be able to treat it.
In addition to the environmental concerns, the city noted its comprehensive plan for orderly growth and for a frontage road to extend north to keep local vehicle traffic off a busy Highway 371. Heitke said if the property is developed without considering the space for the frontage road, the property damages may be too high to afford to put one in later. No matter what happens now, Heitke said there is little doubt the land will eventually be within Baxter’s city limits.
“One can say with a great deal of confidence we are going to end up in the same place anyway,” Heitke said.
Heitke said with the city sewer and water services there to connect to, state law identifies that as grounds for annexation. If the county were to agree the annexation made sense, Heitke said that would eliminate the need for a hearing and the involvement of an administrative law judge to rule on the matter. With the joint resolution, Heitke said the annexation could be completed in 30 days. Heitke said they thought they would have more time to discuss the project but it was obvious the county was moving ahead and processing the permits now.
A concern for the city was the county granting of the permit with the Board of Water and Soil Resources approval to fill the wetlands before the Corps of Engineers provided its findings.
With annexation, Heitke said a second site plan could be pursued. The second plan would reduce the amount of wetland filled by 12,000 square feet and put the future frontage road in a better position. “We have two methods of getting there,” Heitke said, adding if the county decides not to participate in a joint resolution, the city is covered by starting both petitions now.
“This project or this situation meets the requirements for annexation,” Heitke said. “It’s very obvious this warrants annexation through state law.”
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org.