BL school vote is Tuesday
By Gary W. Meyer
The Big Lake City Council is facing some weighty decisions on two crucial developments on East Hwy. 10 improvements and the proposed Eagle Lake Resort, following oft-times contentious discussions in a special meeting Tuesday night.
The council, along with Big Lake Township and county officials, met with MnDOT representatives to get the most recent low-down on the highway improvements, some proposals not to their liking.
They later met for an hour with the Eagle Lake folk and heard another request for extension of a sanitary sewer line to the park site, five miles to the north.
MnDOT officials were asking for city support for a highway frontage road plan Tuesday, but said it could be delayed until mid-December.
The Eagle Lake people suggested a city answer to their sanitary line request should be forthcoming in January or February at the latest. (Details of their presentation to the council are in related story.)
MnDOT and local officials have met oft-times in the past several months, attempting to iron out agreements on the placement of a frontage road south of Hwy. 10, running from 172nd Street on the east to Co. Rd. 43 in Big Lake. Tuesday, the only major point of disagreement was that the access road, designed by the MnDOT, would join Co. Rd. 43 south of the veterinary clinic.
Roger Risser, project manager with MnDOT, said it was necessary to loop the access road to the south of the veterinary clinic and an access that far back (south) to provide adequate stacking of vehicles approaching Hwy. 10 from the south.
He said it would become critical to allow that much stacking space in the future if the adjacent Northstar Commuter Rail station becomes operational, and a several-hundred residential unit development, Heritage Village, is built south of the railroad tracks.
“We know there are a number of contentious issues,” Risser said. “But we will need to start (frontage road) construction by 2003, or this one-time funding will go away.” The funding he was referring to was the grant of $177 million to MnDOT District 3 for this and six other projects in Central Minnesota.
Terry Humpert, MnDOT District 3 engineer, agreed a stacking area for cars in a growing area like Co. Rd. 43 should exceed the minimum 330 feet, and definitely not be left as the 145-foot depth of the frontage road (Humboldt Ave.) accessing Co. Rd. 43 from the west.
MnDOT officials did not address concerns of land west of Co. Rd. 43, but were drawn into debate on the reshaping of a frontage road to serve the commuter rail area in the future.
Rollie Peterson and Ron Klindworth, owners of an approximate five-acre parcel abutting Co. Rd. 43, contended the value of their land would be considerably diminished if it was further chopped up by a frontage road set back deeper to conform with the access of a frontage road to Co. Rd. 43 from the east.
Peterson said they were told if they allowed frontage roads and improvements, it would serve them better in the future. He questioned if they would have any value left in the land if it were reshaped for another road.
City Councilman Jim Dickinson was clearly irritated with the MnDOT officials, claiming they hold meetings to get local input, then go about their plans as they wished.
He then asked the MnDOT people if they had funds to buy lands which they devalue with their road projects. The MnDOT has such funds, it was reported.
Betsy Wergin of the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners spoke in favor of more than minimum car stacking spaces approaching highways, saying the City of Zimmerman is now faced with buying properties to relocate an access road that is in gridlock during rush hours.
Klindworth asked if it would be better to not to allow the proposed federally-funded park and ride lot on their land, adjacent to the proposed Northstar depot.
Wergin, county representative to the Northstar planning board, said if the park and ride lot were to go at this time, the Big Lake commuter depot would likely be scrubbed as well.
“This would be very detrimental to the commuter rail process,” she said.
Dave Schwarting, county highway engineer, spoke in support of the MnDOT setback proposals for the frontage roads.
“I see 10-15 cars in there (awaiting access to Hwy. 10) every morning,” he said.
His argument was later rebutted by Klindworth, owner of Big Lake Lumber, regarding the number of cars on Co. Rd. 43 in the morning.
But Jim Sanford, township supervisor, contended it was not safe to access the highway from Co. Rd. 43 and urged the highest priority for all would be to get a signalized intersection.
Humpert and Risser said plans for a signal at Co. Rd. 43 are still in the works, but will be pursued as a project separate from the frontage road.
Ewald Petersen, township supervisor, suggested it would be to everyone’s benefit to outline a plan to improve all frontage roads, north and south of Hwy. 10, along with the signalized intersection. He later asked and learned the MnDOT does have funds available to do an overall plan for the area.
Petersen did catch Risser on one issue. Risser said three crossovers between Co. Rd. 43 and 172nd Street would be closed if the frontage road is built. He did not earlier report this to property owners.
Several members of the Big Lake Board of Education and Supt. Bob Lageson also were in attendance.
Big Lake Schools, as part of their Dec. 19 school referendum, are proposing to purchase property north of the Big Lake American Legion and design a new elementary school on that site, adding traffic to Co. Rd. 43.