Scandia’s efforts to accelerate development of the Gateway Trail from William O’Brien State Park to the Scandia Village Center came tantalizingly close this spring.
First, a short background. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has now acquired the entire right of way (ROW) for the Trail from William O’Brien to downtown Scandia. Almost half the ROW is in an agricultural preserve tax category that prevents a change in use for eight years. Our key proposal was to immediately allow this change in use when it is for a trail or park.
The bill for immediate use was authored by our local Representative Bob Dettmer and Senator Karin Housley. It had bipartisan co-authorship, particularly from the Washington County delegation. The bill had two hearings in both the House and Senate, first in the Agriculture Committee and then in Taxes. Our city administrator, Neil Soltis, and I testified at every hearing. The bill passed Agriculture unanimously in both the Senate and the House, and then was included in the Tax bills of both House and Senate and in the ultimately passed Omnibus Tax Bill. Unfortunately, the Governor and Legislature did not agree on the Tax Bill and it was vetoed.
Our authors did an excellent job. Scandia resident John Herman was key in both spearheading and guiding us through the legislative process. The DNR supported the bill as did Washington County Commissioner Fran Miron. Bike MN and Minnesota Parks and Trails also helped us in the effort. There were many supporters, both through letters and in person, from the Scandia community, particularly Janie O’Connor from Cycle Scandia and Lisa Philippi who helped with lobbying. And our lobbyist John Kaul, who was sponsored by contributions from local citizens and also lobbies for Washington County, was always on top of the progress. Many thanks are due all around for a first-class effort.
We’ve come to understand that sometimes it takes more than one try. Next session there will certainly be a tax bill, since the state needs to conform to the Federal changes. Given our unanimous support by the key committees and legislative leaders for inclusion in the final tax bill this session, we feel very well positioned to be in the next tax bill. Our prognosis is good.
While not an ultimate success, our effort was a success in many ways. Our city staff and supporting citizens did a great job. The lobbying effort moved the bill forward in a contentious session in a bipartisan way that positions it well for next year’s tax bill. We built a good coalition and had good Executive Branch support. And it provided fabulous visibility for Scandia as a cycling mecca and showcased our city’s parks and Gammelgarden. Thanks again to all who made this effort possible. Our path to success should be easier in 2019.
Christine Maefsky is the mayor of Scandia.