Category Archives: Economic Expansion Committee

NDDC Meets with Rice County on Real Estate Tax Issue

RiceCountyTaxes.jpgThis morning the NDDC’s E R Team met with representatives of Rice County to discuss the issue of rapidly rising real estate taxes. Pictured from left to right are County Administrator Gary Weiers, County Auditor Fran Windschitl, and County Commissioner Galen Malecha.

Commercial real estate taxes in Downtown Northfield have been increasing on average 30% per year for the past 7 years. These increases are threatening the economic viability of the downtown district.

The folks from the NDDC and Rice County reviewed the sources of the issue, efforts at the state level, important data and background material to assemble, and what we might be able to do together in order to protect the vitality of this powerful economic engine for the County. Perhaps most important, we also identified additional allies that we could enlist in this effort.

The folks from Rice County clearly understood the issue and showed great creativity in moving to address it. We thank them for driving up from “down south” and look forward to working with them further on this important matter.


TasteCrew.jpgI think it was success.

The Second Annual Taste of Northfield, that is…

I was so busy and there were so many people and there was so much going on that I didn’t have time to take many pictures, much less try to quantify the results.

When Dan Bergeson, Dale Finger, Joe Grundhoefer and I “debriefed”, a little after ten o’clock last night, it seemed like, based on vender sales, we had about three times as many people as last year, and that wasn’t including the girls scouts.

While the papers scream out about a town allegedly sinking under chemical and political chaos, the citizens and the merchants of Northfield steadily move forward…

…and occasionally have a heck of time together.

Others will probably comment more thoroughly and cleverly than me about the event, so I’ll just thank those who made it possible.

In addition to our Corporate Partners, College City Beverage and Malt-O-Meal, over sixty businesses contributed to the event. Then there were the approximately one hundred volunteers, who did everything from pick up trash to organize the silent auction. Although the NDDC provided the brains, 1st National Bank and The Key provided the brawn.

After the party is over, there is the clean-up. Here are Kellen Kirchberg of the Key (you can barely see the top of his head), Rick Estenson of the 1st National Bank (you could hardly see the sun around his big back), Dave Shumway of the 1st National Bank (all that shoveling and sweeping paid off last night), and Eric Emmons of The Key (cautioning Rick about not hurting himself), loading the picnic tables on a trailer for their return to the City Shop.

To everyone that supported the event, “Thanks, we needed that…”.


Perhaps you too have been at least peripherily following the Miss Rockaway Armada. It’s a group of a couple of dozen or so artists floating on a raft (shown here under construction) from St. Paul to St. Louis. This morning I actually visited their website. I found it to be rather interesting.

I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that they have some philosophical underpinnings to their quixotic quest. I expected their expressed desire to interact with the communities along the river, sharing art and absorbing culture. What really caught my attention was their concept of Pirate Utopias or, more specifically, Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ).
Continue reading TAZ or DMD?

More Heavy Lifting Gets Done

Following up on the recent Block Head Gathering, NDDC E. R. Team members started work on minimizing the adverse impacts of Highway 3 Reconstruction on our community’s economic vitality.

Encouraged by Northfield’s Public Works Director Heidi Hamilton’s offer to take the NDDC’s recommendations for signage to MNDOT, NDDC Community Advisor Victor Summa and Executive Director Ross Currier spent Saturday morning driving around in the rain, visualizing a visitor coming to Northfield, confronting the highway work and still figuring out how to buy a hamburger from the Quarterback Club.

Our innovative thinking included putting signs warning about the construction zone a quarter of a mile before the “road closed” signs are located to clue people in to the upcoming detour signs, suggesting that the detour signs be City of Northfield signs instead of the ubiquitous orange construction signs to make them more distinctive, and giving more detailed information on access to businesses than is typical. Here’s Victor outlining the concept to the rest of the E. R. Team.

We’ll follow up with Heidi on the success of her efforts with MNDOT. Then we’ll move onto the Library Plaza construction work planned for later this summer.

If you have some thoughts, please let us know.

City Council to Discuss Chapter 1306

In the course of following Norman Butler’s efforts to relocate Chapati into the vacant Church of the Rock building, I became aware of Chapter 1306 of the 2003 Minnesota State Building Code. In my amateur summary, Chapter 1306 requires the installation of fire sprinklers in all projects, regardless of any other fire and safety elements that are part of the project.

Northfield apparently adopted Chapter 1306 in October of 2003, with no public discussion. The city also chose to include the Subparagraph 2 on New and Existing Buildings, which many architects, building owners, and contractors have told me is financially prohibitive for historic structures.

The problem with it appears to be that trying to reto-fit a sprinkler system into these projects can be aesthetically damaging and economically devastating for hundred year-old buildings.

In a rather unusual twist, the end of the chapter of Chapter 1306 requires that a municipality submit a copy of the ordinance adopting MSBC 1306 to the state within 15 days of adoption. Although Northfield apparently adopted 1306 in October of 2003, they did not submit the materials to the state until August of 2004.

A number of municipalities that adopted 1306 have “unadopted” it, including Hastings. Apparently the complete lack of flexibility of the requirements have proved unworkable in the city’s historic downtown.

The Northfield City Council will be discussing Chapter 1306 at Monday night’s meeting. Business and building owners, as well as architects and contractors, are urged to attend.