The Independence City Council, Tuesday, March 25, expressed its support for a Three Rivers Park District master plan for a proposed regional trail between Carver and Baker Park Reserves. Council support came in the form of a joint resolution with the city of Maple Plain.
After the meeting, Independence City Administrator Toni Hirsch said that, at this time, Three Rivers simply was looking for a formal document indicating that the master plan has the joint support of the two cities, both of which are likely to be affected by the route of the trail. The park district eventually would determine the trail route.
Meanwhile, planning commissioners and city councilors from both Maple Plain and Independence met on Feb. 25 with Three Rivers Planner Ann Rexine to discuss a variety of trail routes. At that meeting she said she needed a joint resolution from the two cities by April and that it would take at least five years for trail construction money to become available.
That same evening the Independence City Council decided to support Maple Plain’s preferred route. If Three Rivers agrees with the two cities, the trail would exit Baker Park, head west along Main Street in Maple Plain and then travel south on County Road 19 until it hits County Road 6. At this point the trail would take users west on County Road 6 and south on County Road 110.
At the March 25 meeting, the City Council also took up other business.
BOARD OF APPEALS
Mayor Marvin Johnson said the council had a meeting with Hennepin County Assessor Melissa Potter. She briefed councilors on issues that might pop up at the upcoming Local Board of Appeals and Equalization meeting in Independence. This will be the meeting at which property owners can begin the process of appealing their valuations for property taxes payable in 2015.
Independence’s Local Board of Appeals meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, at Independence City Hall, 1920 County Road 90.
Johnson said property owners should call Potter at 612-348-3046 prior to the board meeting. Owners might be able to work out their issues with her before the meeting. So far Potter had done this with everyone who had called.
Johnson said the biggest property tax issue in Independence is significant increases in valuations for properties in the Agricultural Preserve and Green Acres programs. Valuations have increased from $6,888 per acre for taxes payable in 2014 to $7,800 per acre for taxes payable in 2015. Pastureland owners have experienced a 41.5 percent increase from $2,755 per acre to $3,900 per acre.
A long-time farmer, Johnson said he has been attempting to get attention for this problem at the state Capitol and at the Metropolitan Council. Changes in state law would be needed to improve the situation for farmers in the Twin Cities area. He has gotten “no movement” on the issue from either body.
He said the benchmark for property values of Minnesota agricultural land is southwestern Minnesota farms that occupy large tracts of land cultivated by large machines. Smaller metro area farms “can’t hold a candle” to the out-state farms in crop production. Increased commodity values have made the out-state farmland more valuable.
Increases in residential property valuations in Independence have been more reasonable, Johnson said, as he looked at Potter’s report. The value of residential property has increased by 4.8 percent and the value of lakeshore residential property has increased by 4.5 percent. Valuations of commercial and industrial properties are about the same as the previous year.
MCCOY PREPARES TO RETIRE
Ray McCoy, director of West Hennepin Public Safety, told the council that he was giving them his last public safety report prior to his retirement in April. WHPS Sgt. Gary Kroells will step into McCoy’s position and give the next report.
WHPS will honor McCoy at an open house 4:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, at Independence City Hall. A program will begin at 6 p.m.
McCoy’s WHPS career has spanned 30 years.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “I am thankful for your support and hiring people with great core values. Through that we have been able to provide a high level of service” to Maple Plain and Independence.
For the past three years WHPS and McCoy have been grooming Kroells for his eventual transition to the directorship. WHPS is getting ready to hire a police officer to replace Kroells. Meanwhile, Police reservist Matt Rosati will move into a uniformed police officer position on March 31. He is a graduate of Orono High School and the father of three, including twin girls.
McCoy said WHPS was getting ready to train Independence employees on workplace safety on Wednesday, March 26. One of the planned exercises would be how to work with an irate member of the public.
The City Council also approved a request from Ray and Carrie Caruso pertaining to their property at 3560 and 3610 County Road 90. They asked for a vacation of a portion of a drainage and utility easement across the two properties.
Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]