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Afton city attorney: trails required at Cedar Bluff development

Concerns were raised by Afton City Council over Cedar Bluff Homestead's monument sign, (left) which is not permitted by the city's ordinance.

Public trails are to be part of Afton's new Cedar Bluff development.

At least that's what Afton City Attorney Fritz Knaak said he discovered after reviewing documents filed through Washington County.

"It couldn't be clearer," he told Afton City Council members on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Knaak had been directed by council members earlier this month to research the matter after the developer said in January that trails weren't planned.

Council member Joe Richter asked how the paths are defined. Knaak said the council is charged with creating the plan.

That leaves more work ahead. Knaak said documents he reviewed didn't provide a clear picture of where the trail would go. A representative for the developer said he would provide the city with a color map.

The issue was raised at a Feb. 13 special meeting. Initial development plans called for a trail, a gazebo, a picnic shelter and a parking lot. All of those structures, except the trail, were scrapped, however, after the Minnesota Land Trust requested they be removed to protect the integrity of open space preservation.

One thing the development won't be keeping is its monument sign.

Council members voted 3-1 to approve an ordinance banning new monument signs in the city. That goes for the stone monument sign at Cedar Bluff, too.

"This is Afton," Ronningen told the council. "It's not little developments within Afton."

Council member Bill Palmquist, the lone dissenter, said he agreed with the argument, but asked that Cedar Bluff be granted a one-year reprieve from enforcement of the ordinance. He argued that the sign "would be nice" to have up for prospective buyers to see.

But if they buy, they may expect the sign to remain, Mayor Pat Snyder responded.

"I think this is the time to enforce it," she said.

Council settled on a plan that requires Cedar Bluff to remove engravings from the stone within three months.

Council members also considered whether a Planning Commission recommendation governing park-land dedication fees would affect Cedar Bluff.

Planning Commission chairwoman Barb Ronningen outlined a recommendation calling for council to adopt a change to the city's current system that requires developers either pay a flat fee or set aside a 10 percent portion of their land for public use.

Under the Planning Commission proposal, developers would pay 10 percent of pre-development costs to the city. Those funds would go toward parkland preservation and upkeep, Ronningen said.

Richter asked whether that policy would be wise to enact with Cedar Bluff - a development that has already dedicated 70 acres to the land trust.

"It's almost paying twice for a park dedication," he said.

He also wondered just what the money would go toward since the city doesn't have things like a bike path system that require substantial maintenance.

"Unless we have a real park plan in place, the 10 percent seems a little excessive for Afton," he said.

Council members agreed that the issue should be reviewed and reconsidered at next month's meeting.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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