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A Letter from Erin Johnson of Open Hands Farm re: the Waterford/Northfield Agreement

Dear friends,

Yet again, Waterford is struggling to protect its precious agricultural land for food to feed Northfield for future generations. Waterford Township’s annexation agreement is under attack and we need your help.
On Monday January 11th, Joel Walinski and Brian O’Connell from the City of Northfield came to the Waterford Town Board meeting. They presented a memo to the Board that was written by the new City Attorney, Chris Hood. The memo (http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/2/2010CCR008–ATTACH-1-Memo-re-Waterford.pdf) declared the Waterford annexation agreement, which the governor signed into law in 1981, to be null and void. He went on to advise the council to stop making payments to Waterford for the annexed Sheldahl property and that the annexation part of the agreement has no binding effect. His memo states this clearly: “Based on the foregoing, I recommend that the City stop any further tax reimbursement payments to the Township based on the 1980 Joint Resolution as such payments are not authorized by law. With respect to future annexations in Waterford Township, the City should move forward with consideration of such matters pursuant to governing ordinance and state statute without consideration of the 1980 Joint Resolution as it is not relevant and does not have any operative effect. The City Council may want to consider, at this time or in the future, approaching Waterford Township regarding the development a long-term orderly annexation process to guide future growth, development and municipal services in the Township.”

The Northfield News (2 articles at the bottom of this paragraph) has focused its attention on the council vote to stop paying Waterford Township’s portion of the taxes from the Sheldahl annexation, however, they fail to mention that if the council votes to stop paying the taxes, they are then in effect, voting to ignore the annexation agreement, which leaves the Township very vulnerable.
This story came out in the Northfield News on Monday.
http://www.northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=51201
This story came out in the Northfield News on Tuesday.
http://www.northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=51207

This situation has many problems:
1) The City gave the Township one week notice before bringing this to a vote by the City Council. This is not adequate time for the Township to respond appropriately and to research our options. The City Council speaks of keeping good relations with the neighboring townships, but this type of action sends a clear message that they are not interested in working with us by not allowing the Township a reasonable amount of time to prepare for a vote by the City Council that could alter Waterford’s future. Why are they trying to rush this through?

2) Chris Hood, the attorney who was recently hired by Northfield, specializes in annexation of township land. He is well known for questionable tactics and non-collaborative approaches. A quick Google search of “Flaherty and Hood annexation” shows how involved in annexations his firm has been.

3) The city staff that came to the Town Board meeting are trying to paint this as a way to stop paying the Township, and by doing this they are glossing over the fact that this vote could undermine the annexation agreement. Mary Rossing was on KYMN yesterday morning and only mentions that this vote would be to stop payment. She never mentions that this vote could also undermine the annexation agreement. You can listen to her interview if you go to http://kymnradio.net/audio/misc/rossing011310.mp3
As we bring this up, they will likely try deny it, but how could the vote not effect the annexation section of the agreement when these two points are a part of the same agreement? By ignoring one part of it, wouldn’t they be ignoring all parts of it?

4) There are questions being raised that the Council members violated Open Meeting Laws by individually reviewing and making decisions about the memo with Joel Walinski in private. This is another example of questionable tactics being implemented during this process. http://www.northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=51235
.

Please consider attending the City Council meeting on Tuesday the 19th at 7pm at the Northfield City Hall.
If you can’t attend the meeting, please consider writing to or calling the City Council. If you would like help with what to focus on, please let me know. I will be drafting a letter to the City Council in the next day or two and can send you a copy. The email addresses for the council are below.

The 2 points that are very important to get across to the City Council are 1) voting on ignoring payments does not only stop payments, but it also leads us to believe that they will ignore our annexation agreement. 2) ask the Council to table this vote because there has not been adequate time to review the materials and act appropriately.

The Waterford Town Board does not know of a single Waterford resident who wants to be annexed into Northfield. The only people who have shown interest in annexation are people who only own land in Waterford and do not have to live with the consequences of higher taxes and industrial sprawl. Overwhelmingly, the Town Board has been told by Waterford residents that they do not want city services, and that the services they have now are perfectly fine.

Please forward this email to anyone else that you know who might be interested.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. The future of Waterford’s agricultural vitality may depend on it.

Erin Johnson

City Council addresses:
mary.rossing@ci.northfield.mn.us
rhonda.pownell@ci.northfield.mn.us
kris.vohs@ci.northfield.mn.us
jim.pokorney@ci.northfield.mn.us
betsey.buckheit@ci.northfield.mn.us
erica.zweifel@ci.northfield.mn.us
jon.denison@ci.northfield.mn.us

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