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Commissioners rip Elk Run

Olmsted County leaders put their objections in writing

By Jeffrey Pieters

and Heather J. Carlson

news@postbulletin.com

Olmsted County commissioners made no secret where they stand on Elk Run.

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Led by Mike Podulke, commissioners on Tuesday ripped the proposed development, part of an eight-square-mile commercial and residential development zone envisioned near Pine Island. Commissioners unanimously approved sending formal comments listing their objections to the Pine Island city government under a state-mandated planning process called an Alternative Urban Areawide Review.

Podulke called Pine Island "irresponsible" for its role in promoting Elk Run, which if completed in full would be about one-fifth the size of Rochester. Podulke said he feels Pine Island failed to give sufficient thought to many of the costs and wider effects the development is likely to have.

The plan, according to the formal comments, "does not really describe the roadway infrastructure needed," other than simply to access U.S. 52.

"The real biggie is the transportation issue," said county board Chairman Jim Bier. "It’s a small city you’re going to plunk down. There’s a lot of issues with township roads and local city streets that need to be addressed."

By 2025, the Elk Run development, plus developments that would cluster around it, would house a population near 20,000, according to the developer’s projections. Pine Island’s current estimated head count is 3,251.

The added population would generate heavy traffic — for example, about 12,800 cars per day on Pine Island’s Main Street, and about 40,000 cars over the Zumbro River crossing on 125th Street, according to an analysis by the Rochester-Olmsted County Planning Department.

Those are volumes associated with some of Rochester’s busiest streets. But Rochester doesn’t hold a patent on high-volume development in this area, said Abraham Algadi, Pine Island’s city administrator. "Things will happen outside of Rochester, and Rochester needs to swallow hard and take it," Algadi said.

He questioned whether county officials consider Pine Island residents second-class citizens and asked if "we’re not deserving of having a development that can provide the right tax base for us?"

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On page A4: Pine Island to work on objections.

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