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Monday, August 10, 2015

Lake Elmo Will Have to Accept Major Development with the Gateway Corridor/ Gold Line

1-2016 update: 

Lake Elmo Kicks Gateway Corridor out!

Thanks for sharing the below article and getting the word out Lake Elmo. It's truly your effort that made the difference for your beautiful city (and to keep it that way). 

9-25 update: Here's more evidence. This is coming from a March 2015 meeting about survey data and station area planning. It was not available to the public (according to the face sheet). we had to file a data practice act request to view this info and go into the County Government Center to take these pictures of the meeting data.              (see other photos from the meeting at end of this article)

8-30 update: The extent of the plans are worse than the .5 mile deep initial report here... digging deeper I've found the Gateway Corridor hired a world renowned consulting firm from New York that specializes in unraveling whatever resistance Lake Elmo may foster in this late stage. They're HR&A Advisors, Inc.
In a July 2014 letter they make it clear their task was to focused on assessing how to get the MOST development: "To determine transit’s ability to catalyze new development"

This is not the Lake Elmo we know.
What's worse: Mayor Pearson (who represents Lake Elmo on the Corridor Commission) appears to have told them Lake Elmo loves development because the firm stated on page 9: "To the north of I-94, the City of Lake Elmo envisions mixed uses and higher densities through rezoning and the provision of new infrastructure" (emphasis added)

Lake Elmo, a beautiful rural city of 8,000 residents, the majority who are strong supporters of retaining their small city charm with slow growth. Evidenced by quick replacement of city councilors, administrators, and planners who merely claim to be on the citizen's side regarding growth to get in office and decide to follow their own agenda once seated. In 2014 
two such City Councilors were replaced by "slow growth" supporters Julie Fliflet and Jill Lundgren. While Councilor Anne Smith, who's championed the cause to keep Lake Elmo growth in check, is serving her third consecutive term. 

Through it all Lake Elmo appears to be under constant pressure to embrace fast growth and development. Everyone from the Met Council to private developers view their city land as prime real estate to host development. The Met Council learned the hard way not to push Lake Elmo after they went to court against each other over growth about ten years ago. After a lengthy court battle the Met Council backed off and eased the mandate for the city to triple it's population by 2030 according to the Pioneer Press article: Lake Elmo's population won't have to triple by 2030, Met Council says . Developers are also hearing slow down with a one year moratorium on growth from Lake Elmo this year. 

Citizens of Lake Elmo are equally as passionate to control growth. The latest example is the citizen run "No Lake Elmo Airport Expansion" with a facebook page that has gained nearly 500 "likes" in less than a month They oppose the additional runway that would host just a 4% increase in air traffic by 2035 according to this Pioneer Press Article: More Lake Elmo expansion opposition: This time, the airport

However, what Lake Elmo residents and city councilors apparently do not realize is the greatest threat of forced development is coming hand in hand with the construction of the Gateway/ Gold Line mass transit corridor through the city. Last year the route was chosen by corridor planners to head east through Washington County on the Lake Elmo side of I-94. The apparently ill informed city council voted unanimously yes for this plan. This was after Afton, another city who's residents also fear fast development, gave the planners a no vote for the corridor to pass on their side of I-94. According to a Woodbury Bulletin article: Bus Rapid Transit to stay north, skip Woodbury's developed core

It's time to wake up Lake Elmo.
Since early June I've been communicating with the self proclaimed "slow growth" majority of the Lake Elmo city Council explaining the following facts/evidence to no avail (Smith, Lundgren, and Fliflet). Primarily, even if Lake Elmo residents support growth, they likely don't support the high to medium density growth the Corridor is planning to force upon you:

1.) Here’s why it’s “forced” development:
The Gateway Corridor is applying for the Federal "New Starts" grant (p.8 of  2015-2018 Gateway Corridor Strategic Communications Plan). 
When the Feds determine whether to grant funds they use a "Project Justification Rating" tool to rank the transit corridors that deserve the limited funds.

Here's how they judge: 
-mobility improvements (20%), 
-environmental benefits (10%), 
-cost effectiveness (20%), 
-operating efficiencies (10%), 
-economic development effects (20%), 
-and public transportation supportive land use (20%)

The final two criteria will attempt to be influenced by the corridor planner's .5 mile   two mile deep rezoning and build up plan our from the corridor. Corridor supporters will state these are only plans and not required... technically true; however without the rezoning of Lake Elmo the corridor would have little to no chance for the federal funding neglecting to honor this massive 40% deciding factor. As you can see in the (now outdated) screen shot of the Gateway Corridor plans (p.25) they go nearly a half mile into Lake Elmo along the entire corridor. Later plans reveal they increased the range to Two Miles deep (see update below).

 Lake Elmo, you have Corridor planners assuming they're re-zoning your city for a massive business park (fancy word for strip mall), density housing, and commercial development. In fact obtaining the federal matching funds depends on ramming this development down your throats.  

When a Citizen Advisory Council member asked Lisa Weik, the County Commissioner who heads the GWC Commission, how they plan to get cities to accept these plans she stated the development planning around the corridor would be handed over to the Met Council in 2016. As we know, the Met Council is the most influential power house in urban planning, development, and placing mandates to achieve such goals in the State. 

2.) On the July 7th County Board meeting a pro-corridor special interest group called East Metro Strong presented to the County they're: "developing a vision for transit-supported growth in the East Metro"

East Metro Strong presented to the County Board on how the Corridor is going to be a boom to your area. They are:
-Planning to accommodate the "Soaring demand for new small lots, townhouses, condos, apartments."
-"Sketch desired land uses for Communities in the transit‐corridor vision area"

​Because: "Development comes to LRT, BRT, walkable places"
​and "More than half of Minnesotans want to live in walkable, mixed‐use neighborhoods

Do you want walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods Lake Elmo?
This is just one of many groups that are planning what's best for your city and it revolves around the Corridor.

3.) All the major cities in WC with transit routes being proposed have Low income housing projects being expanded or built right on the line or the "feeder bus line" leading to the Bus Rapid Transit stations see the evidence (exception is Woodbury with high a budget to resist the influx of low income housing pre-corridor... probably lacking in Lake Elmo):

Forest Lake (Rush Line): Forest Oak: high density housing "creating tax base" 

Newport (Red Rock Corridor): Red Rock Apartments: connected to transit station 

MahtomediPiccadilly Square a couple blocks from future Rush Line Corridor route (see pic above)

Cottage Grove (Red Rock Corridor): So many crimes and shady activity they renamed the project from "Parkside" to "The Groves" and it's right on 80th for the planned feeder line stop. (google: Parkside Cottage Grove and police)

4.) If you want to get an idea of the pro-growth agenda the Gateway Corridor is actively working on than just attend a St. Paul transit event or review this 70 page document from the one that happened last month on what Station Planning for the Gateway Corridor is really all about. Some quotes for the document:  

"Create opportunities for new development/redevelopment to accommodate residents attracted by the BRT amenity and build destinations and community assets."

"Quality housing for a mix of incomes and a variety of ages is desired in order to help build strong, sustainable communities along the Gold Line"

"Facilitate subsidized affordable housing for portions of new residential development where there is a local need identified at the time of development."

"Land use change prompted by the market for BRT-accessible development

Unfortunately, this overwhelming evidence has not convinced your "slow growth" city Councilors to go public (Smith, Lundgren, and Fliflet) despite presenting all this overwhelming evidence. You are getting blindsided with development with the Gateway Corridor Lake Elmo and city councilors are publicly silent. If anything, quite the opposite. In this July 10th Star Tribune article your champion Anne Smith stated:
"A council divided on other issues is united in wanting that, she said," (referring to the Gateway Corridor) 

In all my e-mails the most reassuring comment was from Smith on 8-6-15:
I am not for it.  I understand they need municipal consent and I will not give it.In October I asked them for any reassurance they can give you and only Smith responded to defend her promise that she’s working to retain Lake Elmo charm. She pointed to on September 15th she voted against giving the special interest group East Metro Strong $20,000 to “research” how the corridor could help Lake Elmo. Simply voting no is not enough to prevent the Met Council and the State from steamrolling you in 2016 when they plan to take over planning and construction. 

One thing is for sure: It's not a matter of 'if' it's a matter of 'when'. the Corridor can not be built unless it has matching federal funds... in order to convince the feds to fund the Gold Line they need this concentrated development in Lake Elmo. 

(it's all the corridors in the Country competing with MN for federal dollars)
As the Corridor Planners told the county board: "Our competition is ahead and not waiting"... they want the best chance at funding... they do that by having plans with as high density as possible to convince the feds their corridor is going to serve the most riders and fulfill the TOD goals for the grant:

Please Contact your city councilors Lake Elmo if you don't want your city to become the next St. Paul:

Also Contact your State Senator Karin Hously who supports the construction of the Gateway Corridor despite your conservative views on growth. She authored the senate bill to fund the Gold Line in the 2015 Legislative session. 

Don't forget to thank your State House Rep Kathy Lohmer for understanding all that's at stake. She supports investment in roads and bridges and opposes the construction of the corridor.

Read more here: 

Exclusive: 8 local Republican Legislators Explain their Position on Transit

Also check out:

At Her Own Crossroads: Will Representative Fenton Lead or Appease

Lake Elmo, it looks like you're being lied to... it looks like we're all being lied too:

More photos from the spring meeting: 

8-24 update: 
The planners have released plans to re-route some of the corridor out of LE. It's discussed in this star tribune article from Sunday 8/23 stating they're making the change for the "growth shy Lake Elmo." 

However, before considering this a victory for those who wish to protect Lake Elmo realize the fact is the change is only removing .9 of a mile from the 3.9 miles that the corridor takes in Lake Elmo 

See original picture below

And with the change there's no proof that it will change the development plans for the .9 mile section