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Visioning for new gateway corridor

Planner Eric Maass talked with Farmington residents Tammy Helgestad (left) and Julie Simonsen about the Highway 3 Corridor Project at an open house Nov. 28 at Farmington City Hall. Both women live in homes along the highway and showed up to find out more information. Kara Hildreth / Contributor

Visioning is underway for the Highway 3 Corridor Plan after a public comment open house on Nov. 28.

Adam Kienberger, city community development director, led the open house along with planners, Eric Maass and Tom Ramier-Olson who work for the consulting and design firm of WSB & Associates in Minneapolis.

"This is about what can be done at a local level and what steps can be taken to gather public input," Kienberger said.

Farmington resident Tammy Helgestad lives on the west side of Highway 3. She showed up to listen, learn and share concerns.

"For me, there are some concerns, but we actually live on a frontage road to Highway 3 and where we are there are four lanes already," Helgestad said. "I see people wanting four lanes going from Rosemount to Farmington and I understand that, but what they have to realize is to do that, you have got to take people's property."

The City of Farmington has not discussed future plans regarding any private property along the state highway.

"I wish they (the public) would understand that a little more because if it was their property the city was looking at taking, they would look at it a little bit differently," Helgestad added.

Helgestad agrees Highway 3 needs to be updated and there needs to be some consideration made to install traffic controls along a busy and sometimes unsafe commuter road. She recalled how years ago her husband and neighbors petitioned to have Main Street closed off from Highway 3 due to public safety concerns. Accidents happen while attempting to enter onto the busy highway. The road closure was not made right away, but eventually the road was finally closed, Helgestad said.

Farmington councilmember elect Joshua Hoyt was at the open house and said the project will be a big deal for the future of Farmington, but he voiced disappointment in low numbers for public turnout.

"It is a foregone conclusion that something is going to happen on Highway 3, but what is it?" Hoyt said. "We are trying to get it right the first time so we don't have to go back and reinvest and change it," and that will be the challenge."

The city contracted with WSB & Associates to develop a Highway 3 Corridor Plan for a fixed amount of $39,995. The project is expected to take up to six months to complete.

The Highway 3 Corridor Plan, an offshoot of the 2016 Downtown Redevelopment Plan, calls for strengthening connections into downtown.

Highway 3 serves as the north and south entrance into the city and connects to Castle Rock Township on the southern edge and Empire Township on the northern edge. The corridor study focused on land uses on either side of Highway 3.

Community suggestions

Farmington resident Julie Simonsen would like to see the project include a sound barrier. She lives on the west side of Highway 3, at the corner of Ash Street and her backyard borders the highway.

"It is very noisy and there are times when we cannot sit in our backyard and have conversations in the summer when it is nice out," Simonsen said. "We knew when we moved there that there would be traffic."

The Simonsens planted bushes and pine trees to act as a soft sound barrier. As a Farmington resident for 34 years, Simonsen said her husband has called Farmington home for 60 years and they want to be engaged in this city project.

"Because I live there, it affects us and I hope to have some say in it and I want to be informed," Simonsen said.

Kienberger explained the development plan is part of the city's long-term 2040 Comp Plan.

"Being that it is one of the oldest commercial corridors in the community, there are a number of different uses on Highway 3 on either side, some of which is residential land and there is some other mixed land uses," Kienberger said.

As the corridor project moves forward, city staff will work in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Dakota County, Empire Township, Farmington Planning Commission and Farmington Economic Development Authority.

The city welcomes feedback from residents via an online Social Pinpoint tool at bit.ly/2E4qtJg. To date, more than 120 comments are shown.

WSB firm planners will present public comment information at the City Council work session on Monday, Dec.10. The consultant team will compile community feedback and work with the council to turn ideas and feedback into actionable steps.

Residents can find out more information about the Highway 3 Corridor Plan at bit.ly/2E1wYfV.