Dellwood Drive de-annexation a no-go
Properties in the northwest part of the city will stay in the city of Brainerd.
BRAINERD — Having a city de-annex, or remove a property from the city limits, normally comes at the urging of a property owner.
When the Brainerd Planning Commission directed staff to look at de-annexing or detaching property along Dellwood Drive, a property owner said he pays city taxes and has no desire to leave Brainerd to be annexed into Baxter or Crow Wing County.
Todd Wallin lives on 20 acres on the corner of Dellwood Drive and Wise Road.
“I have been in Brainerd for 25 years. During the land wars with Baxter, I was Unorganized (Territory) at the time and I chose to go to Brainerd because I didn’t want to be part of Baxter, because it’s Baxter. … We’ve been out there, I mean me and my neighbor Randy, and we are the two entities of Brainerd out there.”
The idea for de-annexation was broached during a March Planning Commission meeting when Chuck Marohn, commission member, brought up the idea of detaching the land because he didn’t foresee a time when the city would provide services there. The discussion came up after a mini self-storage facility sought a conditional use permit to build on Dellwood Drive.
Marohn said Brainerd seemed to be having a crisis with all the development going out on Highway 371 in the late 1990s and without having any property there began annexing in the area of Wise Road to get to highway frontage. Marohn said the property should never have been in Brainerd. James Kramvik, Brainerd Community Development director, said he was told Crow Wing County essentially didn’t want the property anymore and asked Brainerd and Baxter to split it up.
On March 15, the issue of de-annexation was back on the Planning Commission’s agenda bringing the two Brainerd residents on Dellwood Drive out to attend the night meeting. In terms of city services, Wallin said he has a well and septic system and is fine with that. He was annexed into the city of Brainerd in 1998. After Dellwood Drive was redone, Brainerd paid Baxter to snowplow its portion of the street.
“As far as being de-annexed, you know, obviously I’m not in favor of that because my taxes would go up,” Wallin said.
Wallin outlined what he thought would happen with his property, first going to Unorganized Territory before Baxter would step in with expected changes in what he could do in terms of shooting guns on the property.
In a memo to the commission, Kramvik noted if a property were detached, it would have to be assigned to a neighboring city or township. Brainerd Public Utilities has provided service to the area since 2017 when it entered into an agreement with Crow Wing Power to serve new and existing customers on Dal-Mar, Serene Pines, Wise Road and Dellwood. Kramvik reported BPU was able to add that service territory after the land was annexed into Brainerd. Wallin said being able to connect with BPU cut his electric bill in half.
“BPU paid $75,916 for electric system infrastructure from CWP and BPU invested an additional $122,573 to serve existing, as well as any new customers,” Kramvik reported. “Total BPU investment in this project is at least $198,489. BPU is currently serving 37 electric accounts in this area.”
In 2022, Brainerd reported BPU had sales of 357,637 kilowatt-hours from those 37 accounts.
“Staff does not recommend detachment of Dellwood Drive properties as Brainerd Public Utilities supplies power for these properties and has invested in infrastructure,” Kramvik reported. “These properties do not presently add any considerable costs to the city of Brainerd to maintain infrastructure.”
At the March 15 meeting, Marohn said he wasn’t asking for detachment/de-annexation but wanted to have the conversation. Marohn said his calculations, based on money spent annexing electrical gear from Crow Wing Power and the properties and their typical power consumption, the money made on power is $11,000 a year, or a 20-year payback on the investment.
“I feel like we are still kind of infected with this idea that the more we can grow horizontally and the more we can extend our utilities and provide services beyond our current neighborhoods, the better off we're going to be financially,” Marohn said, adding the comprehensive plan says “no.”
“But it seems like internally we still have this kind of general operating system,” Marohn said. “I'm not suggesting that we, as a commission, recommend to the council detachment, that we go forward with this process, that we aggressively do this. But I am suggesting that, you know, we have a really good plan, we have a really good set of insights that we put together. And I would just like to see them embodied in our day-to-day operations a little more.”
Commission member Kevin Yeager asked Marohn how he wanted to have that conversation.
“It’s Wednesday night, we drove this applicant in here thinking we were going to detach his property to Dellwood,” Yeager said. “So my question to you Mr. Marohn is in what capacity would you like to have this conversation that doesn’t involve us reaching out to specific people of Brainerd thinking that we’re going to detach their property? You're talking about a global conversation. How would you like to see it happen that isn't specific to somebody?”
Marohn said he wasn’t sure why the conversation was a hearing or on the agenda the way it was. He suggested it could be a discussion without having to notify specific residents or a formal process but a conversation on planning.
“We are the Planning Commission, we should be able to have planning level conversations,” Marohn said.
Yeager said he understood they were talking about a specific property when it first came up and now the tenor is to have a larger conversation not specific to any property. As for Marohn, he said the mini storage is going forward and the city wasn’t going to de-annex the property. But there are lots of properties on the edges of the city with no plan to provide services to them or a commitment to develop those properties.
“That's the conversation that I would like to see us have,” Marohn said. “Where are these places? And what's the actual point?”
In reaction, Commissioner Michael Duval said there are purposeful conversations about rural living and areas where the city isn’t planning on running out sewer and water and residents aren’t begging for those services either.
“I did offer at last month's meeting that if we're going to look at this, I would like us to look at annexation leases here,” Duval said. “But I'll tell you right now, I don't see that as a priority for staff time and I wouldn't be advocating that we jump down this avenue here with a number of other higher priority items that we've outlined that we'd like to address this year.”
To give staff direction, Duval moved the commission not recommend detachment with the Dellwood properties. The commission voted and unanimously agreed.
Yeager apologized to the Dellwood Drive residents for bringing them out to the meeting at City Hall.
Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.