Recent City Updates:
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
As we enter fall, I wanted to provide an update on some of the issues the city has been working through this year.
1.) Conservation Subdivision Ordinance: This proposal was developed to create an incentive to preserve 25% of buildable land area in its natural state for residential development in the parts of the city where sewer and water is available. The incentive is created by allowing development without extended negotiations with the city if the plan preserves this level of open space. The proposal was reviewed by a joint planning commission and council meeting over the summer. In August, there was a round table with 2 smaller developers not working currently in Corcoran who gave positive feedback on the idea and expressed that they would be extremely interested in using this approach in the city and leaving the open space as a community ammenity. If adopted, this would be a way to ensure a different development style from what we see in our neighboring cities and would allow forest and prairie spaces to be preserved and integrated into the city proactively. The next steps are for the council to review a few specific questions about how park dedication would be handled.
This is a follow up to the idea I spoke to in this blog post from 2020:
Here is a link to the video of the council’s roundtable discussion:
Here is an example of what a development with 25% open space preservation could look like:
Here is what the existing subdivision ordinance allows by right (without a PUD agreement):
These two concepts both contain the same number of home sites, but one consumes all of the builiable area while the other allows high value resources to be preserved or created as part of the development.
2.) Federal grant for rural internet rollout in Corcoran: The city has applied for a grant of $5.7 million dollars to extend high speed fiber internet to approximately 500 homes that are currently underserved. Congressman Phillips and County Commissioner Anderson have submitted letters supporting the application. A decision on the application is expected this fall. If granted, Comcast would commit its own funds in addition to the grant and complete the build out by the end of 2022. There would be no city funds required for this project.
3.) Residential Conditional Uses: The planning commission held a hearing to discuss two options for ensuring residential areas can retain their residential feel. One option would remove most conditional uses from residential areas. The second option would implement stricter setback requirements and other standards when conditional uses are considered. At the hearing, there were no dissenting voices from the public, and several residents spoke in favor of one or both options. The next step will be for a follow up session to refine the proposed setback and other performance standards to ensure they would be adequate and reasonable while also being effective. This topic was previously discussed in this blog post:
4.) Cook Lake Highland proposal: This project was ultimately approved over the summer after significant revisions from the project as proposed in 2020. After several reviews with the planning commission, parks commission, and city council, the proposal was significantly transformed. Improvements include the removal of a 3 story apartment building from the project and the preservation of nearly 8 acres of permanent open space, including several acres of high quality maple and basswood forest. The project also will create trail connections from the existing Bass Lake Crossing trails to the Maple Grove trail system, the creation of single family homes as a buffer to the existing neighborhood trail, preserving the existing trail as an off-road amenity, blocking the view of the co-op for existing neighbors with both single family homes and what will be a wooded corridor along the trail, as well as preventing signage directly along County Road 10. The co op will also be much farther from the county road than the Maple Grove developments nearby.
Throughout this process, the council worked to encourage collaboration between the developer and residents to ensure as many concerns could be addressed, and the developer made all of the above changes in response to those expressed needs.
5.) Updates to Nuisance Ordinances: The council has directed staff to update ordinances adopted in the early 2000’s to increase flexibility for storage in rural parts of the city. These updates are to be reviewed at the September 23, 2021 meeting. A public hearing for feedback will be held. We are trying to balance the needs to prevent real blighted conditions while allowing flexibility for reasonable use of property with these updates, and staff has estimated that ~70% of current violations would no longer run counter to the proposed code.
There was a lot of discussion on this topic over the summer, and I posted about it here:
6.) Town Hall Meeting: To promote better dialog between the council and citizens, Mayor McKee proposed a town hall meeting be organized this autumn. This would differ from usual council meetings where public feedback can happen during public forum, which is not structured as a dialog, and instead try to generate back and forth conversation between the elected representatives and the people of the city. Mayor McKee and Councilor Vehrenkamp will be proceeding with planning for a meeting, and I will post details once they are available.
I think it would help the council to get public feedback on the new actions taken so far in 2022, and what priorities exist for 2022.
While there remains much activity and more improvements to make, considerable progress has been made in 2021. I look forward to continuing to advance the interests of residents and the long term health of the city given this progress.