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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Nichols

Water System Updates

One purpose of the NE District moratorium was to enable water system planning. The NE district is presently a mix of rural well and septic, with some use of municipal water from Maple Grove. However, the agreement with Maple Grove allows them to refuse to provide water at their discretion, and this has prevented land owners with property along the high traffic County Rd 30 route.

While the comprehensive plan is not set up the way I would have done it, it is important for the city to try to follow and improve upon it going forward. That means that the city needs to be able to provide for its own water system in order to have control of its own destiny. Without that autonomy, attractive projects for Corcoran could be halted by the decisions of others to further their own goals.

The water system cost has been estimated and discussed by the city several times in 2021 and 2022. It is expected to be considerably more expensive than initial estimates, pushed up by inflation, materials costs, and the federal infrastructure bill increasing demand for projects. However, the costs for this kind of project is provided through a non-property tax system, so that existing residents will not see the costs. Instead, there are per-acre fees that the city assesses when property develops that are used to pay for this kind of water infrastructure. Additionally, existing residents will not be required to connect to the new system and should expect to pay none of the costs.

Per acre development fees needed to be raised substantially to be able to cover the anticipated water project, in addition to future needs in other parts of the city. I have consistently pressed for these fees to be re-assessed to ensure we can completely cover the needs for water system costs with an acceptable margin of safety in the case of recession or other slowdown affecting this funding mechanism. This spring, that increase was implemented, with per acre fees in the NE district increasing to ~29k/acre. It is anticipated that with fees collected based on development in 2022, there will be a safety margin sufficient to allow bond payments to be covered for the next 3-5 years, even if development pauses entirely for that window.

Detailed discussion with the city’s consulting finance experts on this topic can be found here for reference.

Where should this infrastructure go?

At the start of this planning process, the previous council had negotiated to have a small part of a small park in the Bellwether neighborhood serve as the site for the future water tower. When this development came before the council for approval, I was resistant to the park being so small, measuring only 7.7 acres, with ~1 acre dedicated to water infrastructure. It would also have placed a water town in the middle of a neighborhood that is already bordered by industrial and commercial real estate. That model would have resulted in something like what is documented in this shadow study:

Thankfully, the current council was open enough to the idea of relocating the water tower to a site closer to the treatment plant, where it will have an impact on future commercial and mixed use property instead of a low density neighborhood. The city has worked to determine feasibility of using a parcel off of 116 near Hope Community Church instead, which is guided for Mixed Use development and will likely have a more commercial character. By using this location, large infrastructure will be located near the development it will support.

What should the infrastructure look like?

The water treatment plant is undergoing design work, including architectural design. The council meeting on August 11th is planned to determine the selection. The treatment plan location is on the east side of 116 and will be a prominent landmark in town due to its visibility on a major road. Three options have been developed, and resident feedback is encouraged. The potential to create a landmark building that will serve the city for the next century is a great opportunity to gain resident feedback. Please let council know your thoughts!

Option A: Vertical cement panels, brick and stone

Option B: Horizontal and vertical cement panels, brick, and stone

Option C: Horizontal cement panels, brick and stone

Additional Features

The building will grow longer over time if capacity needs to be increased, and a longer building could start to look out of proportion. I am advocating for the use of agricultural architectural details like cupolas on the roof and side dormers in the roof line to break up the large elements to minimize this effect, and to try to make the building more attractive and better connect to Corcoran’s agricultural roots.

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