Annexation opens doors to future development, growth

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 30, 2000

During an August trip to Washington D.

Monday, October 30, 2000

During an August trip to Washington D.C., I had the good fortune of taking in an exhibit featuring the Berlin Wall. Yes, right there in Washington D.C. is a section of the famous wall that separated East Germany from West Germany. It’s a fascinating structure with graffiti on one side and cold gray on the other.

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Despite no longer sitting in its original location, the symbol of the Cold War remains a powerful reminder of the barriers man is able to erect to keep people in or others out.

While the Berlin Wall is certainly a dominant physical structure, not all barriers need to be such imposing reminders. Often barriers can simply be built by our actions, or lack thereof.

Here in Austin a terrible barrier is about to be created if the citizens of Austin don’t get out and vote "yes" for ordinance 450 on Nov. 7.

For those who aren’t familiar with ordinance 450 it is a resolution approving the city of Austin’s annexation of 55 acres of land west of the J.C. Hormel Nature Center. The Austin City Council approved the annexation, but a group opposed to the annexation, and consequent development of the 55 acres, was successful in petitioning for the amendment to go before the people of Austin.

Now, on Nov. 7, the people of Austin will decide if we are to move ahead with much needed housing, and a potential marketing tool for attracting workers, or if we are to erect a barrier – a barrier that will scream out to every potential residential, industrial or retail developer, "Don’t come here."

Yes, a "no" vote to the annexation of land will essentially put up a wall around the city of Austin, keeping potential economic development out. And, in case anyone has noticed, this community cannot afford the erection of barriers that will negatively impact its growth. Certainly, none of us wants to see potential jobs and workers going to Albert Lea, Owatonna and Winona instead of Austin, but that’s what will happen if the residents of Austin vote "no" on Nov. 7.

The annexation of the 55 acres of land west of the J.C Nature Hormel is needed for a housing development. The proposed development would bring the construction of houses ranging in price from $100,000 and up. The proposed development would create affordable "new" housing. The thought is the proposed development would allow current home owners in Austin an opportunity to step up, thus opening up existing lower valued housing stock for potential first-time home buyers.

Make no mistake Austin needs housing to attract workers for all of the positions currently available in this community and will need even more workers as local businesses continue to grow.

Those opposed to the annexation would like people to believe that the annexation would negatively impact the J.C. Hormel Nature Center and the construction of homes on the acreage will lead to more flooding in Austin.

These arguments are absurd.

First, the city has no plans to expand the Nature Center to the west. City officials indicate expansion of the Nature Center currently isn’t necessary and that any potential expansion would happen to the north and not across the road that separates the Nature Center and the 55-acre tract of land.

As for flooding, remember any potential development on this 55-acre tract of land needs to go through all the proper channels to receive approval. The annexation of the land is only the first step. Any potential developer would still need to work with city officials, and seek city approval, as the process went along. Such a process includes items such as soil tests and appropriate drainage plans.

Finally, the group opposed to the annexation claims it is not their intention to stop the development of housing in Austin, only in this particular location. The group certainly may believe its claim, but it’s dead wrong.

If this group is successful in blocking this annexation, who’s to say the next group won’t be successful and the next?

We elect government officials to make tough decisions and to do what is best for this community. This annexation case is a perfect example of an unbiased group – the Austin City Council – deciding the best course of action for the city of Austin and a biased group – the annexation opposition group – giving a hoot only about their own self-motivated interests.

All of Austin’s residents need to consider on Nov. 7 the ramifications of failing to heed the advice of our elected officials. Certainly none of us wants to live in a community surrounded by a barrier.

A "yes" vote to ordinance 450 is a vote for growth and progress. A "yes" vote is the right vote. Get out and vote on Nov. 7 and make a positive statement regarding Austin’s future.

Neal Ronquist is the publisher of the Austin Daily Herald. His column appears Sundays. E-mail him at