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In Empire growth is slow, but sure

This softball complex along Highway 3 is one of the most visible signs of growth in Empire Township.

Driving between Farmington and Rosemount on on Highway 3, it might look like Empire Township is experiencing a surge in development, but looks can be deceiving, according to township board chairman Terry Holmes.

Sure, there are new houses being built in the Providence development east of Highway 3. And several lots are up for sale. But all the activity is right on schedule, albeit, a very slow one.

"This whole thing has been coming in over the process of 10 years," Holmes said. "It's moving along, but it's nothing new."

He thinks maybe people are noticing the changes to that area of the township thanks to the large equipment near the new softball field complex that is being built just south of the Highway 3 roundabout, next to Southern Hills Golf Course. Most of what people see from the highway is the construction of a concession stand and bathroom buildings, though the streets and parking lots leading up to the fields are also under construction this summer.

Construction of the fields started a couple of years ago, and township officials had hoped the fields would be ready for use this fall. However, the long winter and very wet conditions earlier this summer put this year's summer projects behind schedule, Holmes said.

The land abutting the ball field property is zoned for commercial development. The land is owned by a bank, not the township, Holmes said, but it is up for sale. Township officials will welcome a development proposal if one comes, Holmes said.

Other than the work on the Providence development, which includes the ball fields, Empire township is experiencing very little growth. There has been talk in the past of the township one day filing to become an incorporated city, but that day is a long way off, Holmes said.

"We're not moving progressively fast to that era. We haven't even talked about it in the last year or two. We're dealing with what we have, and it's sort of status quo," he said.

Holmes has been involved with some of the planning discussions for the future UMore development on the University of Minnesota's land at the north end of the township. As 160th Street marks Empire's northern boundaries, much of that property is subject to growth in the long-term future.

Empire township also has an agreement with the city of Farmington that affects the borders and any orderly annexation that comes along. That agreement extends through 2032.

To date, Empire township has a population of approximately 2,428 residents. It's a small, close-knit community, and that's just fine with township officials.

"To us, (growth) just seems to be progressing at a pace that we can control. We don't want to get too far out ahead, but at the same time, we do want to do things right," Holmes said. "We're not fast by any means."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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