City, Troy draft boundary agreementA meeting the night of Tuesday, Feb. 1, among members of the City Council and Troy Town Board brings the entities closer to inking a long-awaited cooperative boundary agreement. It’s been in the works for many years and was last revisited in 2005-2006.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
A meeting the night of Tuesday, Feb. 1, among members of the City Council and Troy Town Board brings the entities closer to inking a long-awaited cooperative boundary agreement. It’s been in the works for many years and was last revisited in 2005-2006.
With the agreement still on both of their to-do lists, the city and Troy formed a cooperative boundary committee in September. Its members include town of Troy Supervisor Jason Kjos and Town Chairman Ray Knapp, City Planning Director Buddy Lucero, City Council member Scott Morrissette, and City Administrator Scot Simpson.
Morrissette said the group has met weekly and worked cooperatively on the draft plan. He said the meeting Tuesday was to update both boards on the status of the agreement. Meetings and discussion among both will continue.
Morrissette said the agreement would filter through both entities’ planning and governing bodies before being finalized. That might not happen until March, according to Simpson.
“We still have a long way to go with this,” added Morrissette.
He explained that drafting a plan had been the first phase, and the second phase would be gathering public input.
Simpson said, “The main purpose is to negotiate a boundary line that would clearly define the zoning, planning and land use jurisdictional authority between the city and the town.”
City of River Falls officials created a stir during a period of fervent development activity when they declared a moratorium on development in a wide zone that included parts of Troy and other towns.
The draft agreement proposes consolidating several boundary lines -- subdivisions, sewer service, the city’s urban area -- into a single one that is clearly defined.
The plan defines that one boundary as much smaller than the one declared years ago.
“We’ll have one boundary, whereas now we have several,” said Morrissette.
Essentially, the city’s area of jurisdiction would go from 12.5 square miles to 4 square miles.
The draft agreement also cancels out the controversial 1/35 rule that restricted some property owners from subdividing their land in certain ways.
Morrissette, on the City Council a year, said it’s his understanding that the action back then was taken to protect the city’s interests. He says if nothing else, the process made everyone realize they needed to be proactive, not reactive, in their boundary-agreement work.
He thinks a good thing about the draft/new agreement is that residents won’t have to go through multiple bodies for approval of land plans.
The councilman and cooperative boundary committee member acknowledges people’s concern about “attachment” and annexation. He said it is a misconception that the city can force someone to hook into city infrastructure.
“Annexation can only occur if a property owner comes to the city and asks to come into the city,” he said.
Morrissette and Simpson clarify that attachment is the transfer of properties from a town to a city or a city to a town, often used for a cooperative boundary agreement. They said annexation is for when there is no boundary agreement in place.
The difference to people in the newly attached areas will be: Their property taxes are calculated according to the city’s mill rate instead of the towns’; and, they have the option to hook into city infrastructure.
A summary of the agreement says, “Property owners cannot be attached or forced into the city unless it’s a health and safety issue agreed upon by the city and the town…” and includes a section on how owners can defer assessment costs for up to 10 years.
The draft plan includes a few maps showing the areas to become attached to the city, which are mainly properties adjacent to Hwy. 35 on its western side and four acres west of County Road U, along the Hwy. 35 service road.
The plan claims those four acres represent the only change since 2005 to the “no-contest attachment” areas within the boundary agreement.
The committee recommends that Troy and the city of River Falls work together on a master plan for the Hwy. 35 corridor -- essentially the main entrance into the town and city that needs to be “attractive and functional.”
Morrissette said it is mostly agreed that the west side of the highway would be zoned for commercial and business.
“This looks (20 years) into the future and says here’s what the plan is,’” he said about the agreement, adding that it would be much easier to see the different areas as well as what would or would not be possible within them. “We want the same things out there.”
Morrissette said on behalf of the city and Troy, he and the committee encourage people to provide input and feedback.
He called the agreement “good planning and the right thing to do” and said it’s good to keep communication open, especially among neighbors.