BARROWS -- Members of three area township boards and the Brainerd City Council agreed Tuesday to develop a subcommittee to open dialogue between the neighboring government entities about annexation issues.
The Township Annexation Advisory Committee, made up of township board members from Oak Lawn, Long Lake and Crow Wing townships, has been meeting since January to develop a joint proposed resolution to present to the city council about annexation concerns. On Tuesday night at the Crow Wing Town Hall, the committee met with five city council members to discuss annexation and land use management.
Mark Haglin, Oak Lawn Township supervisor, said the township boards aren't opposed to orderly growth or situations in which property owners owning land adjacent to the city petition to be annexed. Haglin said they are concerned about the city forcing annexation on residents because of sewer and water extensions to developments or the annexation of land without the township boards' knowledge.
Haglin said he feels sorry for Unorganized Territory north of Brainerd, where the city annexed about 1,200 acres of land in 2000. Not all property owners wanted to be annexed, said Haglin.
"We hear rumors that the city has these false incentives, trying to lure people into the city," said Haglin. "We don't know if this is true. ... I don't want you guys to come out here and say, 'We want to annex Oak Lawn Township.'"
The committee, in its draft resolution, requested that Brainerd officials agree on several points:
* The city would not annex land, even if a township resident becomes surrounded by city annexed land, unless the landowner seeks to be annexed.
* The city informs its citizens of the potential costs of annexation and development of lands to the existing tax base.
* The city and townships discuss proposed annexation areas and how best to serve those areas. In addition, the committee proposed that all notices or inquiries concerning annexation that come to city staff be brought before the township boards for discussion as well. The committee also wants the city to refer developers to the townships for joint city and township discussions.
* The city agrees to have a township representative on the city planning commission with equal voting power on matters related to newly annexed lands.
* The city accepts township residents' input on conditional uses for annexed land and applies those conditions to the land developers.
City council members Mary Koep, Bob Olson, Gary Scheeler, Lucy Nesheim and Jim Dehen attended the meeting, in addition to a few city staff members. Council member Ann Nelson Fisher, unable to attend the meeting because of a Brainerd Personnel and Finance Committee meeting scheduled at the same time, sent a letter with her response to the proposed resolution. Crow Wing County Commissioner Dewey Tautges also attended Tuesday's meeting.
Dehen said he wouldn't feel comfortable agreeing to a resolution that would tie the hands of any future council members, giving away the city's annexation rights under state statute.
Annexation, said Haglin, is a dirty word to township residents.
"Once you put the word annexation in there, it perturbs our residents," Haglin said. "It means to them you're going to take us."
"I think this meeting is the first step to come up with communication," said Olson. "We don't need all of these ill feelings between township residents and officials from Brainerd."
"If we do come to an agreement, maybe it would be appropriate to call it a peace accord," said Scott Pakarinen, a Crow Wing Township board member.
Discussion involved sewer and water assessments and situations where developments could remain in the township and develop cluster sewer systems instead of hooking up to city services.
Haglin said the townships simply want to be kept informed on annexation requests and city development plans that affect them.
"If you wanted to live in Brainerd, you'd move to Brainerd," said Tautges. "I understand where you're coming from. As a country boy, I'd be apprehensive, too."
"We just want to know," said Mark Platta, a Crow Wing Township board member.
Council members told township board members that they would select three city council members to represent the city on a subcommittee that included a board member from each of the three townships. Tautges said he would ask the county board for a county representative to sit on the subcommittee to represent Unorganized Territory. The subcommittee, which would include input from city staff, will meet to go over these proposed resolutions to develop some type of agreement between the city and townships.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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