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BAXTER CITY COUNCIL: Baxter to consider major building policy change

BAXTER — The Baxter City Council on Tuesday will be considering a proposal to amend city ordinances to allow building homes on vacant lots of record to be built with septic systems and water wells. 

The proposal, if approved by the council, would only be allowed where city services currently are not available. Projects may still be initiated by a petition of 75 percent of landowners in a project area.

The idea is being considered by the council following its April 5 decision to update the capital improvement plan map by removing proposed dates for street, water and sewer projects. Instead of dates, priority areas — ranging from earliest area of consideration to later area of consideration — have been identified on the map. 

The April 5 change, Mayor Darrel Olson noted, was done because placing dates on proposed projects created a uncertainty for property owners and staff. 

But with the April 5 change it was determined that since the city wouldn’t guarantee dates for city services the city couldn’t prohibit homes to be built on vacant lots of record with septic systems and wells. 

“If we can’t tell people they’re going to have sewer and water at a certain point, then we can’t tell them they can’t build,” Olson said. “In effect it’s a taking, we’d be taking a bundle of rights.”

City Administrator Gordon Heitke said the proposed change would not apply to new plats for R-1 single-family residential projects. Those developments would still require water and sewer. Other proposed requirements include installing septic systems and water wells on the same side of the property where future city services are anticipated or, if unable to do that, having the pipes for future services installed.

Also clarified on the city’s capital improvement plan map was the city’s project initiation policy. A petition of at least 75 percent of all landowners in the project area can be submitted by Dec. 31 for consideration by the council, or the council may initiate the improvement in cases where the project would address a critical need or economic development project. 

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.