High turnout for city-held meeting on Lake Ann
FARMINGTON — Mystic Meadows residents made their presence known at a meeting April 23 to find out more information about the encroachment issue and the future of Lake Ann from city leaders. The meeting was held in the atrium of Akin Road Elementary School in Farmington. Residents were seated at round tables and were asked to answer questions on forms placed on the table that will be returned to city staff and the council to review.
History of Mystic Meadows
City engineer Katy Gehler said the housing development took shape on farm fields in 2005.
"In order to facilitate the development, the developer had to build land up and in some cases 8 to 10 feet up to make the lots for the housing," Gehler said. "There were two options: he could haul fill in to build the land up 8 to 10 feet or the other option was to use fill onsite."
The developer chose to use fill from land onsite and needed to make the stormwater ponds bigger and deeper. The stormwater pond is called Lake Ann.
When the economic downturn hit during the housing development, the property went through a tax forfeiture process that has taken a number of years to work through, Gehler said. The out lots were intended to be deeded back to the city upon completion.
Gehler explained there are two major purposes for the storm water ponds.
First, the ponds serve the function of being there to manage peaks in large stormwater runoff. Second, the ponds are needed so there can be treatment of stormwater for sediments and nutrients. The ponds are also required to be in place by federal and state regulations.
With the maintenance of the out lots, Gehler said the staff and council will need to have a discussion on how they fit this work into the city's capital improvement plan with talks about budgeting and prioritizing.
"We do not have city code that prohibits you from having non-motorized boats like kayaks, canoes and paddle boats, and we do not mind if you use them as long as you bring them back on your property when you are done," said Gehler.
The city code also does not restrict residents from skating on the pond during the winter.
Historically, the city has allowed residents to mow a 10-foot wide strip of native grasses, leaving the rest alone. Some residents have improved areas of the buffer zone, Gehler said. That does not apply to land that is publicly owned.
Gehler said the city has taken information in about grandfathering in improvements that have been made in the buffer areas.
"That is not an automatic, but it will continue to be a discussion we will have. We want to know, what is your vision?" Gehler said to the meeting attendees. "We want you to think fully about this and think about what the ponds offer in terms of natural habitat."
Residents could fill out sheets about visions in terms of five areas. The areas are treatment function, natural habitat, buffer function, access to water and recreational uses.
Save Lake Ann group frustrated
"There is a little bit of frustration because we feel that we have spent the last six weeks hopefully respectfully and openly communicating from most of us what our goals and ideas are when it comes to the out lots and Lake Ann," said Holly Bernatz, a Farmington resident and leader of the Save Lake Ann movement. "I think a lot of us came tonight because we expected to hear something back and that we would know a little bit more about what the city's ideas were."
"We wanted tonight's meeting to set the groundwork for where we are coming from and why this is a topic of discussion," Farmington City Council member Katie Bernhjelm said. "Every decision we make with you guys affects the entire city, too, because we have to make sure our codes are enforced across the city and not just Lake Ann but with everywhere else in Farmington."
Explaining how the city code states residents can use the lake for recreation, Bernhjelm said "Nobody is trying to take this away from you."
City Council member Joshua Hoyt said at the end of the day, a decision like this cannot be rushed and the council must take into account the city code and legal implications that also take into account the developer's side.
"You have all made good points and I cannot disagree with any of you ... we all want the trails to be nice and it is not going to happen in June — it is part of a process," City Council member Terry Donnelly said.
Residents will forward vision sheets and return the information to City Hall by Wednesday, May 8, in person or email. Farmington City Council will discuss the residents' feedback and how to proceed at a future work session in May.