Examining Lake Elmo

Urban planner Nathaniel Hood, writing at Streets.mn, is asking whether a city like Lake Elmo can be “pro-business” and for “organized growth” at the same time.

The discussion is sparked by a weekend article in the Pioneer Press in which business interests lamented the city’s approach to growth by removing their parcels of land on the border to get them out of the control of the city.

Says Hood:


Lake Elmo saved itself at the expense of others, of whom now struggle with growth in an age of economic austerity. It’s hard to feel bad for those communities though, they welcomed “growth” with open arms.

It doesn’t appear if stopping sprawl was ever one of Lake Elmo’s primary goals; the town merely wants to maintain rural character and charm. Over the last two decades, Lake Elmo seems unfazed by sprawl happening elsewhere – they just didn’t want it in their backyard. In reading the article, you’ll discover that Lake Elmo did created an unfortunate zoning code that favors one home per 2 acres, which can be classified as ‘rural sprawl’. Yet, this sprawl never really happened because of the municipality’s unwillingness to extend sewerage lines and more difficult and rigorous approval process. Now , as it stands today, Lake Elmo revised its master plan to promote development near its existing downtown-village-like infrastructure.

The economic downturn has its advantages. It halted the breakneck speed of sprawl long enough for communities to assess what they want to be. Can a metropolitan city maintain its rural charm and grow at the same time? If so, how?

Find the entire article here. It’s well worth reading.

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