Annexation mediation to meet July 22 at City Hall

Published 9:20 am Friday, July 4, 2008

The three parties involved in mediation over the annexation of Lansing Township have determined a date and location for their first meeting — July 22 at the Austin City Hall.

Representatives from the City of Austin, petitioning residents and the Lansing Township Board will attempt to reach compromise with the help of Administrative Law Judge Scott Newman, who was approved April 17 by the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings.

Mediation was chosen after the three parties failed to reach an agreement during two meetings this spring, when they debated whether Austin or Lansing were better suited to equip the township with a sewage system. Currently, some township residents are relying on straight pipes, which discharge waste and sewage water directly into the Cedar River.

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In August, the Austin City Council agreed to annex about 700 acres of the property at a cost of $2.95 million for utility expansion and hook ups. In return, the city would incrementally garner property taxes from the township over a five-year period, until it reached 100 percent.

Two months later, the township board rejected the annexation order, opting instead build a separate, independent system for about $3.5 million.

Several local residents would later submit a request to the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings, Municipal Boundary Adjustments, after collecting need petition names.

The move forced the issue into a process that would ultimately determine which solution — city’s or township’s — would be used.

If Judge Newman isn’t able to help petitioners and the township reach resolution, the case moves to a public hearing setting by a separate administrative judge.

The deadline for a final decision is March 31, 2009; the petition is denied by default otherwise. City engineer Jon Erichson has said a decision could be reach by then.

Some are particularly skittish about the timeline, considering impending fines for some property owners that would reach $500 a month. The fines would be issued by the Mower County Environmental Services, and may occur as early as September.