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By Bill Mars Guest columnist Apr 7, 2021

The for-profit National Home Builders want a one size fits all approach in Minnesota’s 850 cities and 1,700 townships. That is why they are advancing legislation in St. Paul that is a serious threat to the local control entrusted to cities in how they grow.

If losing local control were not bad enough, proposed legislation holds the potential for raising the taxes of residents in growing cities.

There are two questions before your legislators:

Who should oversee housing growth? A. The cities. B. The state.
Who should pay for growth? A. National Home Builders. B. Existing taxpayers.
How are the proposals bad for cities and taxpayers?

Elimination of local control. The NHBs want legislation that encourages duplexes and fourplexes to be built alongside existing single-family homes. Cities want all types of housing; and local controls specify where high density housing is best. Should legislation move forward, local controls and protections would be eroded, and the character of single-family neighborhoods would be forever changed with the addition of multifamily units next to single-family homes.

Capping of development fees. Every new home in a city gets connected to water and sewer. In a land of 10,000 lakes, cities have vastly different landscapes which adds to the complexity and cost of infrastructure. The capping of fee(s) would have significant negative implications for cities and taxpayers. If NHBs are successful, cities will either make budget cuts or raise taxes on existing residents to cover the unfunded gap on infrastructure brought by growth.

Building fees based on size vs. valuation. Today, cities use valuation to determine building fees. Valuation makes sense because it recognizes the variation in one home as compared to another. Consider two 1,500-square-foot homes. One has two bathrooms and a basement, the other, one bathroom and no basement. Today’s valuation fee can distinguish between the two homes. The NHBs want to shift the building fees from valuation to one based on size. If successful, this would be a serious setback to Housing Affordability for first-time buyers. That buyer would find the permit fee on a starter home disproportionately high. Conversely, the higher amenity home, would get a break as their fee would be proportionately low. This is neither equitable nor fair especially when you consider the low supply of affordable housing.

Let your legislators know what their answers should be to the questions facing them. (Hopefully, you believe, as I, that the answer to both questions is “A”!)

There is no time like the present, legislators need to hear from you today. Please tell them to leave local controls in place and make National Home Builders pay for the growth they bring.

Bill Mars is the mayor of Shakopee.

Please

By Trinity Carey tcarey@swpub.com Mar 24, 2021

Nine local mayors have sent a letter to Scott and Le Sueur County legislators stating their opposition of housing focused bills proposed this legislative session, which they argue will shift control of growth and development in communities from local to state government.

Prior Lake Mayor Kirt Briggs, Savage Mayor Janet Williams, Belle Plaine Mayor Christopher Meyer, Elko New Market Mayor Joe Julius, Lonsdale Mayor Tim Rud, Montgomery Mayor Thomas Eisert, Jordan Mayor Mike Franklin, New Prague Mayor Duane Jirik, and Shakopee Mayor Bill Mars signed onto the letter which House and Senate majority and minority leaders, Gov. Walz and other local and state officials were cc’d on.

The legislative proposals opposed in the letter are SF915, SF914, SF801 and HF1085. Proponents of the legislation say the initiatives will increase home affordability.

“They’re all about reducing local control, taking decisions away from the cities, away from planning commissions, putting it up at the state level, and also limiting or curtailing certain fees on cities,” Briggs said. “What the impact of that is, it will add cost to the citizens. Just because you reduce the fee doesn’t eliminate a cost. As a matter of fact, it transfers that cost.”

Prior Lake City Manager Jason Wedel and City of Elko New Market Administrator Thomas Terry testified in opposition of SF915, which limits municipal planning and zoning controls, during a March 16 Senate Local Government Policy Committee meeting.

The bill encourages municipalities “to enact public policy to facilitate the development of unsubsidized affordable housing,” by allowing smaller lot sizes for single-family homes, allowing duplexes or fourplexes on lots zoned for single-family homes or allowing mixed use development, it states. The zoning practices are similar to those adopted in Minneapolis.

In his testimony Wedel noted that city comprehensive plans already designate portions of the city for such zoning.

“What this bill does is jeopardizes residents who have already purchased homes in our community and expect similar homes to be constructed around them consistent with the city’s comprehensive and zoning plans,” he said. “To suggest this change in land use after they have already made what is likely the single biggest investment they will ever make is not transparent nor equitable.”

Terry stated that legislative mandates and restrictions on cities were not necessary for local municipalities to bring a variety of housing opportunities to communities.

He specifically noted in his testimony actions taken by the Elko New Market city council such as adopting reduced residential lot sizes and an accessory dwelling unit ordinance to provide more affordable housing options.

The letter sent to legislators states proponents of the legislation’s “affordability narrative is false. It lacks data, credibility, and seeing any of these legislative proposals into law would serve to raise taxes on our existing citizens!”

One recipient of the letter was District 55 State Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake who said it’s an issue of balancing competing needs.

He’s heard developers argue it’s expensive to build in Minnesota citing permitting fees while cities are concerned the legislation will take away local control.

“I think it’s balancing the needs of a growing community with the needs to make sure that the growing community has its cost of development covered and that those decisions are made locally,” Pratt said, adding that home affordability needed to be looked at as a whole.

“One of the things we try to do in the senate is make sure that we take the feedback from stakeholders on both sides of an issue and what I hear in these letters is that the city officials don’t feel like they’ve had an opportunity to be heard and so this is a bill that probably requires a little extra work,” Pratt said.

Read more at the Prior Lake American:


Personal Dock Rentals Prohibited. https://tinyurl.com/yrc5ka6x


On November 4, 2019, the Prior lake City Council approved multiple amendments to the City Code related to boat slips and mooring facilities. The primary purposes of the ordi- nance amendments were to clarify language related to person- al boat slip rental and revise the ordinance language related to controlled access lots.


A Personal Boat Slip allows the mooring of five (5) or fewer restricted watercraft allowed for personal use by the owners or tenants of residential riparian lots. A Restricted Watercraft is defined as, watercraft for use on or stored on the public waters except for the following:

• Watercraft 16 feet or less in length which uses no motor or a motor of 10 horsepower or less; and

• Watercraft 20 feet or less in length, which uses no motor and is propelled solely by human power.


Personal Boat Slip amendments included, but were not limited to:

• A revision from a maximum of six (6) slips to a maximum of five (5) slips per property.

• A new 10-foot dock setback requirement from the side property line if three (3) or more boat slips exist.

• Language added to clarify all restricted watercraft moored at the lot shall be owned and registered to the owner of property (or immediate family) or property tenant (or immediate family), not both. Immediate family includes the spouse, parents, children and grandchildren (all including step- and foster-) of the owner or tenant or the owner or tenant’s spouse.

• An allowance for a boarder, or boarders, to place a total of one (1) slip, provided the property owner is not using slip(s). If property owner has a slip, then a boarder would not be permitted to have a slip.

• Specific language added to clarify rental of slips is prohibited.


A Controlled Access Lot, sometimes referred to as a Homeowner Association Lot, is a riparian parcel of land used as a mooring facility for non-riparian lot owners with access to public waters. Amendments to the Con- trolled Access Lot regulations included, but were not limited to:

• A revision of the boat slip to shoreline ratio from a maximum of one (1) slip per 18.75 feet of shoreline to one (1) slip per 40 feet of shoreline.

• A revised way to measure shoreline from the previous method of measuring the contour of the ordinary high-water level (OHW) to the current, which is the lesser of the contour at the OHW or a straight line between where the two side lot lines intersect with the OHW.

• A requirement that shoreline counted in the boat slip ratio must be usable (no wetlands, marsh, bog, etc.)

• A requirement that land counted toward in the shoreline length must abut or lie within 10 feet of navigable water.

• Language requiring watercraft to be owned and registered to owners or tenants in the subdivision or their immediate family. Immediate family includes the spouse, parents, children and grandchildren (all including step- and foster-) of the owner or tenant or the owner or tenant’s spouse.

• Language added clarifying rental of slips is prohibited.


It is not the intent of this ordinance amendment to affect the operation of any current legally existing HOA controlled access lot. All legally existing controlled access lots would be allowed to continue as they are currently approved. Legally existing dock systems can still be maintained, and configurations can change with city approval; however, the number of slips cannot be increased.

Please note, this is a summary of the approved ordinance and does not include all City Code amendments. To review the full ordinance, please visit cityofpriorlake.com or contact the Community Development Department at 952-447-9810.

Feb 23, 2021

It seems evident from Glen Weber’s Feb. 6 letter to the editor about accountability and truth, and earlier letters, that he harbors an intense dislike of Republicans in general, and anyone else whose opinion differs from his own. Each letter of his, that I recall, has included a personal attack on the credibility or integrity of someone else.

Wes Mader’s Jan. 23 column, “American Democracy on the Brink,” was the latest to draw Weber’s wrath. Weber accuses Mader of “irresponsible partisan editorializing,” apparently because Mader considers both political parties responsible for the past four years of turmoil in Washington. Apparently, Weber cannot tolerate the possibility anyone other than Republicans can be responsible for the turmoil in our government.

Weber continues with another phrase “outlandish partisan opinion” to belittle Mader’s reference to the current impeachment trial as being political. In an earlier letter to the editor, he referred to a column by Mader as “an example of questionable writing, more fitting for a high school history class.” While Weber is quite articulate in berating others, it’s really not very becoming to use that talent to ridicule everyone who might disagree with him.

Weber says “accountability and truth must prevail,” and then seems to indicate that he subscribes to the notion that Russia stole the election from Hillary Clinton in 2016 (which she continues to claim). Weber and other Democrats are entitled to that opinion, just as Republicans who believe the 2020 election was rigged are entitled to theirs. But, if Weber’s thesis is that believable information can only come from Democrats, he might be reminded that a two-year investigation at a cost of tens of millions of tax dollars, couldn’t find tangible evidence to support Hillary’s claim that Russia stole the election from her.

The editorial page of our local newspaper provides opportunity for those who are willing to publicly express their views. However, if submitting a letter is an invitation to be publicly ridiculed by someone with a different opinion, it won’t be long before the only ones we hear from are those who verbally bully others.

Weber’s letter accuses Trump of using “the bully pulpit.” Has it occurred to him that he’s been using this newspaper as his pulpit to bully anyone who disagrees with his version of the truth? That’s been the approach taken by too many in the administrative and legislative branches of our federal government for too many years, and the result has been the loss of civility and a divided nation.

Mader’s column included criticism of the leadership on both sides of the political aisle. It singled out both a Democrat and a Republican for special compliment, and reminded us of the need for term limits in Congress, as supported by 80% of Americans. Weber who apparently is a diehard Democrat, calls this “irresponsible partisan editorializing.” I wonder what a diehard Republican would call his letter.

John Siskoff

Prior Lake

Please read more at the Prior Lake American:


By Wes Mader Community Columnist Feb 20, 2021

Assuming Congress passes the President’s request for another $1.9 trillion, which is in addition to the $3.1 trillion already approved, the total amount “allegedly” being justified for COVID-19 aid and relief will reach $5 trillion.

That’s $5 trillion from those who will pay taxes (including from our kids and grandkids pockets), but does anyone know or care who gets the $5 trillion? Since five trillion is an incomprehensible number, let me try to put it into perspective. According to the Congressional Research Office, America’s total cost for WWII (inflated into today’s dollars) was $4.1 trillion, plus $150 billion via the Marshall plan to rebuild a totally devastated West Europe.

By today’s political standards, that had to be a bargain. President Biden and the current Congressional majority would have us believe that it should cost way more to deal with the effects of COVID-19 in America, than all of America’s costs related to WWII.

With unemployment in America declining, with COVID-19 vaccines already developed and in production, with the stock market at record high, with 401Ks of workers and retirees in relatively good shape and with empty school buildings available for students who I believe should be in school, is another $1.9 trillion really needed?

The obvious answer is no. But a $1.9 trillion package is a great place to hide money for special interests and for expenditures that wouldn’t stand up under public scrutiny. Hiding unjustifiable expenditures is one thing that many in Congress are good at, particularly those who have been there for decades.

Without question, some COVID-19 relief dollars already spent have been helpful. But as always happens when Congress rushes to pass legislation to give away money, individuals and organizations line up to collect their share of the pork. Taxpayers can expect that almost every city, county, state, tribal government, school district, business and charity in the country will make application for the funds.

An article in this newspaper in July of last year reported that over 600 businesses in Prior Lake had already received forgivable loans under the Coronavirus Payroll Protection Program (PPP). A more recently available report indicates that some of the largest loans went to the SMSC Tribe. If interested, readers can determine for themselves how much our local governments and school district received.

The national news media hasn’t provided in-depth reporting to help citizens understand the magnitude of the waste, but some credible news sources have reported that the CARES Act, which is less than a year old, is already “rife with abuse.”

One example reported is that banking institutions that get to help give away the money, are finding their own employees fraudulently tapping into the funds. One report said that Wells Fargo had fired 100 employees for the abuse (NPR, Oct. 15, 2020).

It would be helpful if the national news media would also report on the absurdity of some of the planned expenditures, and the names of lawmakers responsible for squeezing them into the legislative bills. Unfortunately, the public will continue to be left in the dark.

Some lawmakers will claim there are restrictions in place that determine who is entitled to get the COVID-relief money. True, but without validation, restrictions can be meaningless. According to the July 2020 story in this newspaper, the 600 businesses in Prior Lake received their PPP loans on the basis that 7,000 jobs would be saved. Readers can make their own judgement about the credibility of whether 7,000 jobs were saved, and whether anyone from the government actually validated the claim.

It’s doubtful that any in Congress who support the massive spending bills will have read the thousands of pages of bequests that will be funded, but I expect each will be able to flag for their political supporters and donors what they’ve been able to squeeze in for them.

I doubt any will stand up and offer any credible explanation of why the additional amount needed is $1.9 trillion. If Americans don’t care, why should they?

Please read more at the Prior Lake American:

Wes Mader is a former Prior Lake mayor. Following retirement after serving as president of Bowmar Aerospace and Defense in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Wes and his wife Char retired in Prior Lake.