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Midway Township seeks annexation agreement with Duluth | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Published December 29, 2012, 12:00 AM

Midway Township seeks annexation agreement with Duluth

Duluth Mayor Don Ness announced Friday that the city has entered negotiations for an orderly annexation of Midway Township, whose property along the Interstate 35 corridor into Duluth has drawn interest for commercial development.

By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune

Duluth Mayor Don Ness announced Friday that the city has entered negotiations for an orderly annexation of Midway Township, whose property along the Interstate 35 corridor into Duluth has drawn interest for commercial development.

It also has drawn the attention of the city of Proctor, which took steps earlier this month to annex the neighboring township without first informing Midway Township officials.

Earl Elde, chairman of the township’s Board of Supervisors, said Duluth’s interest in annexation means a possible end to the “hostile takeover” that Proctor’s action represents to township officials.

“We would be remiss if we did not thoroughly explore this option,” Elde said Friday.

Proctor Mayor Dave Brenna called Ness’ announcement Friday a continued attempt by Duluth to work against the interests of his city.

“There’s bad blood,” he said, adding that he hadn’t heard “zip” about any Midway deal with Duluth.

Ness said talks with Midway officials began shortly after the Proctor vote to annex. “Midway was taking the initiative,” he said. “We had conversations asking what the interests are here.”

The Duluth City Council voted to enter into official negotiations after a committee of the whole meeting Thursday night. The Midway board agreed to enter talks in a Dec. 20 vote.

An orderly annexation agreement would supersede and block any future annexation efforts.

Brenna said he was blindsided by the news of the negotiations with Duluth.

Midway officials said the same in early December when they heard that the Proctor City Council had voted to annex the township in the third such vote since 1991.

After the Dec. 3 annexation vote, Proctor City Administrator Jim Rohweder said the move was necessary for the future of Proctor’s tax base.

“We need to grow or we’re in big trouble,” he said.

But Midway officials said they wanted to have a say in any such proposal, with consideration given to the wishes of its 1,400 residents that the township keep its rural character.

Brenna said Proctor will not give up its fight to annex. He predicted that the state will break the township into pieces to satisfy its neighbors.

“It’s their prerogative,” he said of Midway’s move. He wondered how residents would take the news, given that they had been leery of higher taxes if their property became part of a city.

He also defended Proctor’s action to annex.

“A lot of people in Midway are for it,” Brenna said. “It’s the vocal ones who aren’t. When we talk to people about it, they get it.”

Ness said there shouldn’t be any hard feelings between Proctor and Duluth. He said Duluth has dealt fairly with the city in the past, including a 2011 agreement allowing Proctor to annex the St. Louis County fairgrounds land.

Brenna wasn’t as diplomatic in describing his relationship with Duluth officials.

“They lie to you,” he said. “They’re not good neighbors. I can’t see Duluth protecting the rural environment like Proctor would.”

But Midway officials said Duluth has expressed greater interest in Midway’s wishes to retain its character.

“Our residents want to keep it a rural, bedroom community,” Elde said.

Jim Aird, a member of Midway’s Board of Supervisors, said Proctor can’t guarantee that Midway would be developed according to residents’ wishes. He said an orderly annexation would shield Midway from “unwarranted and undesired annexation that would run counter to our desired type and level of present and future land use.”

A state administrative law judge will need to rule on both the Proctor and Duluth proposals.

Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said state law is on the side of an orderly annexation because it allows for slow growth and consideration of retaining the feel of rural areas.

Duluth owns nearly 20 percent of Midway land — about 2,000 acres — all south of I-35 along Skyline Parkway and recreation trails. Ness said the agreement meshes with Duluth’s plans for those recreational areas.

The earliest development would be around the interstate, Ness said. The rest of Midway would remain as it is unless the two bodies negotiate something else. That could be a 20-year process, he said, depending on the interests of both government bodies.

Midway would retain its government structure under an orderly agreement.

Details on an agreement will be worked out before the Jan. 10 City Council meeting. The Midway board also plans to meet that day to consider an agreement. Duluth wants the agreement in place for state review alongside Proctor’s plans.

“What we want is smart and thoughtful planning to take place,” Ness said.

In a news release, the township outlined what it envisions in an agreement with Duluth:

  • No development would occur until a majority of property owners in the area abutting Duluth petition to be annexed into Duluth.
  • No land would be annexed until property owners in Midway and Duluth requested it.
  • Midway would preserve its governmental structure, including its planning and zoning.
  • No other annexation action could be taken by Hermantown, Proctor or Duluth while an orderly agreement is in place.
  • The agreement would satisfy Duluth’s interest in appropriate development near its property in Midway, following current land-use plans along the interstate.

Midway Township seeks annexation agreement with Duluth | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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