Bridgewater Township on Wednesday approved a three-year annexation agreement with Northfield.
The agreement, which was expected to be approved by the Northfield City Council Tuesday, means the township cannot seek incorporation until the agreement expires or one of the two entities withdraws from the agreement. A six-month notice must be give before withdrawal.
The agreement includes quarterly meetings between the two boards to discuss a possible new annexation agreement for joint planning and zoning, which could include a provision that Bridgewater can use the city’s zoning authority in the township.
“That’s what we are going to investigate,” Bridgewater Supervisor Glen Castore said Thursday.
The city would agree not to initiate litigation against the township during the agreement.
Castore said the township has been seeking additional control of zoning and is willing to work with the city to address the issue so it can avoid the cost posed by petitioning for incorporation.
“We had some objectives that we were trying to reach,” he said. “Incorporation was one of the means.”
The township is grappling with the projected loss of the county landfill within the next 20 to 25 years. Castore said 25 percent of the township’s monthly revenue is generated through the landfill. The county pays a fee to the township as that’s where the landfill is located.
“We’re looking to replace revenue we know we’re going to lose. That’s what got this all started,” Castore said. He noted the township uses the funding to buy gravel, and he believes the township would do a worse job of maintaining roads and mitigating flooding if that is lost.
“One option for replacing that revenue is to have some agriculture-related businesses locate in the township,” he said. “In order to do that, we probably need to control the zoning, which is currently controlled by the county.”
Castore also sees board action has a preventative step.
“The city does not want us to incorporate, plain and simple,” he said. “If we don’t incorporate and have any annexation agreement, we don’t have any protection at all against annexation.”
Northfield City Councilor Brad Ness said the agreement is “kind of a starting point in our negotiations.” He supports extending the agreement and expects it to one day take on a longer term.
“Hopefully we’ll get an agreement that’s acceptable to both parties,” he said.
Ness said although zoning decisions are controlled by the county, the city would likely support zoning measures Bridgewater takes as long as they do not infringe on a Northfield development. He said he is unsure of whether city zoning authority could be used in the township.
Ness said he was relieved the township did not petition for incorporation.
“That was a big part for us,” he said. “Any future development areas that are in the current orderly annexation agreement, that would disappear. There is a way for two cities to exchange land, but the statutes currently don’t support an easy way to do that.”
Dundas Administrator Janelle Teppen said the agreement was “good news,” because it delays any township petition for incorporation.
“We’ve been pretty clear about that,” she said of Dundas’ stance on the township possibly seeking to incorporate.
“The city of Dundas didn’t support it. We felt threatened by that. We’re glad to see, for the time being, Bridgewater is delaying any action toward incorporation.”
She noted Dundas has an annexation agreement with Bridgewater that lasts through 2033. Bridgewater holds a portion of its land in an annexation reserve district, where, should development proposals come, Dundas could move to annex.