consultants are sandburs

Sunday, March 26, 2017

OAK GROVE: Tossed around by Big Sumo. Strib published, but is it news? In the sense, nothing new; it's Met Council, again, as always, dictatorial.

This is an all politics is local post.

Strib today published, in its "North Metro" online coverage, "In Oak Grove, a fight over sprawling development illustrates Met Council tensions -- Oak Grove envisions large rural lots while agency pushes controlled growth. By Eric Roper, Star Tribune, March 25, 2017 — 8:01pm."

"Sprawling development" is editorilizing on the news page; worse, within a headline; both practices which should be discouraged in one of only two statewide published daily newspapers. Keep that editorial/op-ed stuff separate.

The question is better set as the desirability for housing diversity; i.e., the availability of comfortably spaced large lot development vs. crammed in stuff, including rabbit hutch shared wall which, some, but clearly not all, might prefer to live in. Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbors," which begs the paraphrase, "Good distances make good neighbors," as the complete story on large lot desirability; a truth despite all propaganda emanating from Met Council's tell them crammed-tight housing is desirable often enough and perhaps they'll believe tendencies.

Strib's item stated in opening:

In Oak Grove, residents can have a slice of the country — acres of land between houses, room for horses and riding ATVs — just 30 miles from Minneapolis.

That peaceful Anoka County setting is at the center of a battle over exurban sprawl and the power of the Metropolitan Council, a fight spilling into the State Capitol where lawmakers are pushing to roll back the regional planning agency’s authority. City leaders want more land made available for developing homes on 2½-acre lots, but the Met Council is enforcing a decade-old compromise that preserves rural land in a corner of the city until there’s demand for traditional suburban subdivisions.

Again, "sprawl" editorializing, uncalled for and offensive in an ostensible news report.

The fact is, much of Ramsey where I live has neighborhoods of homes on acre and acre and a half lots, entirely sufficient in size for private domestic water well and septic drainfield needs; and the Met Council promulgated and/or inspired horseshit term "failing septic systems" is yet one more falsehood which offends. They don't fail, not often, and if/when any very infrequent failure happens, repair is the answer, not rhetoric. Ramsey has an ordinance requiring annual inspection by a licensed septic system contractor, pumping and inspection/repair making the Met Council propaganda a total shibboleth. They are passive natural bacterial based sewage digestion systems not needing flocculants or other processing chemicals used in some versions of centralized treatment, which if properly done and not undersized use the same natural sewage digestion bacterial basis the septic systems use. It's the same thing, on a privatized localized scale. It is true that established one-acre neighborhoods generate no cash flow for Met Council coffers, but none is owed by such environmentally sound alternative arrangements. Each home in such neighborhoods, since being built, has privately capitalized all actual housing needs with no need to subsidize governmental capital expenditure, a truth apart from what Met Council might prefer.

With Met Council and its fellow traveler henchpersons, what else can you expect? They sell flushes, and need cash flow from it to service bonding for their sewer network and treatment facility capital expenditure decisions - which are made as an imposition which tramples over local control norms of government. They decide, folks have to live with it. That is the nutshell of the ways and means of centralized planners (remember Stalin's five year plans if you want a slippery slope argument).

Strib continues - and note in the following quote, the "failing septic tanks" BS insertion - an argument bandied about without much real evidence but lots of propaganda gusto:

“It’s like a cartel,” said Oak Grove Mayor Mark Korin. “They’re dictating … with the belief that they know what’s best for growth patterns.”

The battle pits the city’s vision of houses on large lots against regional planners’ desire to limit “unsustainable growth patterns.” The impassioned debate illustrates the Met Council’s daunting task of protecting rural land from sprawling development in a way that still gives cities enough flexibility to grow as they wish. And it comes amid renewed criticism, particularly among Republicans, that the appointed board has grown too powerful with too little accountability.

[...] “Ultimately, we are trying to have a cost-effective means for providing wastewater services and transportation access for everyone in the region,” [Met Council Chair Adam] Duininck said. “That’s why we have a regional plan.”

The city has an influential ally at the Capitol in House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who represents part of Oak Grove and co-authored an unusual measure to override the Met Council’s plans for 2,600 acres at the center of the dispute.

“This is an example of they’re a little out of control and we need to reel them back in,” said Daudt, R-Crown. [...]

Metropolitan Council plans have long aimed to preserve rural areas ringing the Twin Cities until there’s demand for development dense enough to cover a fair share of related regional infrastructure costs, from roads to sewer service. Sprawling development there could impede that growth in the future, the agency says. [...]

But housing built on 1- to 2½-acre lots has nonetheless chewed up land in Oak Grove and other Anoka County cities like Andover and Ham Lake. Undeveloped and agricultural land fell from 83 percent of Oak Grove’s total acreage in 1990 to 68 percent in 2010.

“It’s inefficient and it throws costs onto the rest of the region that we all have to bear,” said Jim Erkel of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, noting the need to redesign roads for more traffic and bring sewer pipes to areas with failing septic tanks. “It almost always results in a demand for regional investments, but its density is too low to support them.”

There is more to Strib reporting, including an illustrative map, so do read the original. But that last paragraph; this Erkel individual quoted claiming a, "need to redesign roads for more traffic and bring sewer pipes to areas with failing septic tanks," which is an assertion deliberately ignoring two actual simple truths:

First, denser traffic and bottlenecking on roads results from shorter stretches of road with denser housing along them, that's the cars-entering-per-mile-in-rush-hour conundrum, ramp backups, etc.; and second, there simply is no existing epidemic of failing septic tanks among one acre suburban/exurban homes, where they've been built and have decades of history exactly opposite to that fright claim of the earth being poisoned because of septic tanks. It's pure bullshit (that being something which properly installed and maintained septic systems could handle outside of dairy manure levels). Agrichemicals, lawn chemicals, yes they are problematic, but where homes exist and have existed since the 1970's in neighborhoods of one acre size Erkel's dumb assertion of a need to bring sewer pipes is a total falsehood. There is no such need there. Things exist fine "as is" in such happy neighborhoods, where residents' major fear is over an unneeded sewer and water governmental cramdown; not a fear of properly maintained and working privately financed individualized sewage handling being anything beyond just fine and sufficient. The Erkel man is a jerk; if not a pure shill; one or the other unless a little of both. Went to planner school with a planning degree is my guess; i.e., the "little of both" category.

Also, in that extended quote, it is not a "daunting task" for bureaucrats to dictate, to stand on the throat of contrary but less powerful opinion. It seems, instead, Met Council's minions enjoy it as with Lake Elmo in litigation, and the more planner paychecks secured by saying "daunting task" the more Met Council employees smile.

Now, frequent readers of Crabgrass know it is not "Republican oriented" but rather Sanders "democratic socialist" in the beliefs of what government owes its citizens; vs any outlook the other way. Hence, Strib writing is biased in the declaration, "comes amid renewed criticism, particularly among Republicans, that the appointed board has grown too powerful with too little accountability." The sentiment transcends two-party politics. It is a question of relation between the individual and notions of freedom and diversity, vs one-size-fits-all overcentralization. A question of desiring less government along with responsive government. A responsive democratic socialist approach need not be payroll heavy, it being policy and not payroll that defines the outlook.

All of that is a lead-in to the below "between the dotted lines" republishing of what by now is likely as appropriate for Oak Grove as for Ramsey and Nowthen as originally written in the February 27, 2015, item, "Met. Council, comp plans, planners, all that stuff," a post which suggests a simple and quite short legislative solution to the Met Council heavy boot problem, for desiring locales:

See links, here and here.

In what some might see as a perfect world, there would be a statutory amendment cutting Ramsey and Nowthen from the Metropolitan Area. All it would take is a bit of statutory tuning; MS Sect. 473.121, subd. 2, adding one or two further "excluding the city of ..." specifications. Few words, big relief.

Let others do comp plans and suffer. It would be relief. Elk River seems to do okay, outside of the metro area.

Presumably that statutory route still exists, even with the legislatures' drive to every session diddle language hither and yon in the code via enactments purposed to prove paychecks are being earned, i.e., presuming that the cited statute in intervening time has not been amended to where it might not be so easily tuned to fit local preference.

Met Council 4-on-40 cramdown is effectively forestalling any practical current development of land, unless and until they've pipes there so they can sell flushes. There should be no wonder it offends.

Strib's reporter, instead of buying into chapter and verse of Met Council planner-speak gospel, should visit Ramsey neighborhoods of 1+ acre homes and ask the residents there if they are happy as is, or would they rather move to the shared wall Ramsey Town Center.

At least drive through the fairly recently built Tiger Meadows, higher end homes on 2-1/2 acres, and look next at Ramsey Town Center. Why would that diversity of housing options not be better than one rabbit-hutch size must fit all? How could it not be, from homeowner perspectives independent of planner bias?

It might likely would be an eye opener for the Strib reporter to so expand a perspective.

And, those older 1+ acre homes are AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Prices show this. Housing, to be affordable, need not be shared wall rental, alone. A well diversified mix, including suburban and exurban small homes on large lots, is better than ONLY cookie-cutter densities. Each has its place. That fact, unfortunately, is outside the propaganda aims Met Council flush-sellers will admit, despite it being clearly apparent by the 1+ acre modestly priced homes selling quickly as they are listed. The market does speak that way. Despite a Met Council deaf ear.

The fact that Met Council has totally taken off the table 1+ acre new home building where sewer/water do not now exist and where landowners or developers might want to build and sell that density, does not mean it is socially undesirable. Incompatible with selling flushes to subsidize greatly capital intensive central STP, that it might be, but in terms of desirability to families able to afford to buy a first home; would they rather comfortable separation or a first home equivalent of shared-wall rental? The likely answer, some might want the one, some might want the other, but what is the true soundness of a policy that is biased to a fault toward providing only the one, not the other?

Unsound? Met Council would never admit that.

__________FURTHER UPDATE__________
The Oak Grove situaiton is not new; politics was local back in July 2009 also. A decade can pass, the relentlessness of Met Council is a constant. BIG SUMO is as relentless as Crabgrass on your lawn of life.

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