The city of Medina is asking neighboring cities and government jurisdictions to comment on its wellhead protection plan — a document required by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Medina residents and businesses also are being asked for comments.
Medina Public Works Director Steve Scherer presented the wellhead protection plan to the Medina City Council at its Tuesday, Feb. 5 meeting. City Councilors gave him the go ahead to ask neighboring jurisdictions for comments.
The City Council also took up other business, including approval of a settlement agreement in the lawsuit of Woodridge Church vs. City of Medina. (See separate story in this newspaper). Here are highlights of the Feb. 5 meeting.
WELLHEAD PROTECTION PLAN
Public Works Superintendent Scherer explained that Medina already has submitted part one of its wellhead protection plan, a document summarizing the city’s sources of water and related data. The next step, part two of the wellhead protection plan, is to spell out a plan of action for protecting these water sources from contamination. Medina must submit this part two action plan to the MDH by April 19 so the city can get MDH approval by Aug. 13.
The wellhead protection plan applies to three areas in Medina that have access to city water — the Hamel area, Independence Beach area and Medina Morningside area. Water in the rest of Medina comes from private wells. According to the plan, the Independence Beach area has the highest potential for drinking water contamination.
Scherer said in his report to the City Council that preventing contamination of drinking water is less costly than “remediation” (cleaning it up after it is contaminated.)
“Thankfully, we are in a low vulnerable area,” he said. Medina soils are heavy clay that protects the groundwater underneath. However, they are contaminated with radium, and this was one reason that Medina built a water treatment plant to serve Hamel area water customers.
Threats to Medina city wells would come from places where the clay soil cover is pierced, thus allowing contaminants to enter groundwater, Scherer said. For this reason, the city is sending out letters asking for information about uncapped wells that are no longer being used. The goal is to cap these wells to keep out contaminants.
Also, the wellhead protection plan calls for Medina to regulate future development to prevent drinking water contamination.
Scherer was confident that Medina could meet goals set out in the 10-year wellhead protection plan. He asked city residents and businesses to send him comments within the next two weeks.
AG PRESERVE APPROVAL
The City Council directed city staff to prepare approval resolutions for two requests from Daniel and Jill Johnson pertaining to three properties located at 2505 Willow Drive. The first request is for a comprehensive plan amendment that would reguide the land use from Rural Residential to Agricultural and the second is for a rezoning from Rural Residential to Agricultural Preserve.
In order for a property to meet the state’s Agricultural Preserve requirements, it must have a minimum lot size of 40 acres. The three Johnson properties span a total of 61.5 acres, so the City Council approval will be contingent upon combining the three properties into one lot. Also, the Metropolitan Council must approve a comprehensive plan amendment.
In a letter to the city, the Johnson’s explained what they would like to do with the property:
“Over the past nine years we have invested time, energy and resources in enhancing the rural character of our property. We have planted over 1,000 native trees, restored habitat and fought diligently to remove invasive species from our meadows and woodlands. We have farmed hay, restored over-grazed pasture areas and carefully managed run off. We have made those enhancements with the goal of restoring and preserving the rural farming character of our home and surrounding land. It is our hope to stay in our home for many years surrounded by farm pastures, natural meadows and native woodlands. We also would like to increase the farm use of our land with organic farming of apples and selected crops.”
Putting a property into Agricultural Preserve has consequences for both the city and the property owner. The property is restricted to agricultural use for a minimum of eight years via a covenant. The covenant stays in place until eight years following the owner’s request to rescind it. Property taxes for an Ag Preserve property are lower than those for a Rural Residential property, according to City Planner Dusty Finke.
City Attorney Ron Batty said Ag Preserve properties are exempt from special assessments for items such as road improvements. This means the city would have to pick up the cost of the special assessment or raise special assessments for neighboring properties.
City Councilor Liz Weir asked whether Willow Drive would be due for reconstruction within the next eight years and what the financial implications would be for neighboring property owners who might have to pay special assessments.
Public Works Director Scherer said he expected Willow Drive to need an overlay but not reconstruction in about five years.