Suburbs - General Topics

Twin Cities Suburbs
twincitizen
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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby twincitizen » February 1st, 2019, 5:39 pm

Random thought:

It's kinda wild how any two 2nd-ring suburbs could merge and immediately become:
-the largest suburb
-3rd largest city in the metro,
-3rd or 4th largest city in the state.

Plymouth and Maple Grove - 149k
Coon Rapids and Blaine - 127k
Burnsville and Apple Valley 114k
Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center 111k
Woodbury and Cottage Grove - 107k
Eagan and Inver Grove Heights 102k
etc.

Bloomington is only 86k. Heck, even a combined Edina and St. Louis Park would top 100k (not that it would ever happen).

While Bloomington would continue to be recognized as a principal city (due to MOA/airport, high # of office jobs, etc.), someone else being the largest suburb (and #3 or #4 in the state) would still have some obvious benefits, namely the heightened profile and name-recognition regionally. It would also be considered a "City of the First Class" by state statutes (over 100k), though I'm not sure if that comes with any fiscal benefits. The larger the city, the more legislators you'd have going to bat for a big funding priority or whatever. Of the list above, I think the Brooklyns make the most sense (and not just because we could have a suburb called Brooklyn). After the Brooklyns, Coon Rapids and Blaine would make some sense.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby Multimodal » February 1st, 2019, 6:09 pm

We do have very small suburbs here, both dimensionally and population wise.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby mamundsen » February 1st, 2019, 7:06 pm

I vote for the Brooklyn’s to join but new city is named Park Center. (Like the high school) it would honor the previous cities and avoid any negative connotation of Brooklyn.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby LakeCharles » February 4th, 2019, 8:21 am

What is the negative connotation of Brooklyn? Hipsters?

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby SurlyLHT » February 4th, 2019, 1:58 pm

I heard Coon Rapids wanted a more positive name and the City of Blaine is named after a corrupt Maine politician. With that said it would make more sense for Coon Rapids/Andover to merge or Blaine with Ham Lake or some of the small suburbs to their south since the roads flow north/south. Hilltop/Columbia Heights/Fridley and some of these small cities might gain more by merging together.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby kellonathan » February 4th, 2019, 2:58 pm

I wonder if people of St. Anthony/Lauderdale/Falcon Heights actually prefer to be living out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul city limits, or if there is any other benefits to it, such as lower tax, maybe? I understand there's history behind small villages not wanting to be annexed by growing major cities, but I wonder if the same narrative still applies, now that most of these "small villages" are surrounded by sea of suburbia.

St. Anthony can be split up along the Hennepin-Ramsey county line, and Lauderdale can be split up to be parts of St. Paul and Roseville, maybe.
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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby Tcmetro » February 4th, 2019, 3:53 pm

Most people residing in smaller suburbs are willing to pay higher taxes because it means more local control over public services and also a willingness to pay to keep certain people out (e.g. zone out apartments, even though they would bring more tax money in). Small suburbs with budget issues are less likely to be taken on by larger cities because they would not improve the larger city's budget. Those cities with small tax bases and high demand for services will have to struggle, meaning needs go unserved and bond raitings fall to levels that make borrowing to pay for large scale projects unsustainable.

To the Twin Cities credit, the Metropolitan Council provisions regional goals for affordable housing that require all municipalities to take their share. Also, tax sharing helps boost budgets in cities that have weak tax bases and prevents competition for development.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby sdho » February 4th, 2019, 5:56 pm

When I first moved to Richfield, I didn't see particular value in being in a separate city from Minneapolis. But I guess now I get it. A few things I really like:

1. Local politics are much more accessible. You can call your council member and you will get a response, 100%. You can get appointed to some board/commission with zero experience and no "contacts". Although the seats with more competition will be somewhat more selective, anyone can get their foot in the door.

2. Local politics are mostly nonpartisan, and not clearly controlled by a single political party.

3. I like that, by virtue of being small, we are forced to some extent to standardize and work well with others. Minneapolis just does weird stuff, like continuing to install brand-new traffic signals that violated the MUTCD.

There are a few things Minneapolis does well I wish we'd take on -- sidewalks being a big one. Parks quality being another. But that doesn't really translate to specifically wanting my home to be in a different municipality.

At least in my experience, there's not necessarily a widely shared attitude that bigger is better. I have suggested that perhaps Richfield should aim to regain its population peak of 50,000 -- a mini version of Minneapolis's goal to regain their peak of 500k. For some people, that's great. Others question why it would be a goal to change or increase size at all. They like the way it is (currently, not previously, and certainly not how it might be in the future).

Similarly, I've never really heard anyone clearly say Bloomington should strive to hit 100,000 residents -- but that would seem to be a logical goal, being a big round number to be proud of, the standard for being a first-class city, and a modest level of density increase from the current population.

That said, there are places where mergers still seem to make sense. Many of the Lake Minnetonka suburbs seem smaller than a truly viable size. The Brooklyns seem to have a unique cohesiveness that lends itself well. BC is super well-located and close to downtown. BP is much larger, has more jobs etc. They are often confused by others in the region, and they have a lot of demographic and built form similarity -- especially BP south of 85th compared to BC.
Last edited by sdho on February 4th, 2019, 5:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby sdho » February 4th, 2019, 5:58 pm

Also, major lol at twincitizen's idea of Edina and SLP together. I can scarcely imagine more of an odd couple of cities.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby Korh » February 4th, 2019, 7:50 pm

I remember one of my teaches jokingly said Hopkins way so small and irregularly shaped it might as well be split between Edina and SLP. It was all in good humor but still did take a little offence to it (not by much mind you) since I grew up in Hopkins and for the most part still like it and would be kinda said if it lost its status as a city.
Though I don't think this well happen anytime soon since this ins't the 1800s where one city can annex parts of others just to brag about having a bigger population (cough* Minneapolis cough*). Plus what exactly wrong with having small sized suburbs since I've don't know if this is a exact trend or even true for the matter but from my limited experience around other cities, the more land a surburb has in its borders the more urban sprawl they tend to have.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby sdho » February 5th, 2019, 12:57 pm

There are many costs to running a city, and at least some are more efficient at scale. One thing we all share (that is awesome about the Twin Cities!) is wastewater management. Some cities contract with each other to buy fresh water, but there is not a cohesive system.

Some issues with small cities:

1. Many small cities can't manage police or fire. Many "legacy towns" continued to rely on volunteer fire departments even as they grew into good-sized suburbs: https://www.startribune.com/stretched-t ... 497641161/. Things like the murder of Philando Castile showed one of the issues of contracted police: the political authority for the city is not directly responsible for the police that serve their city.

2. Others are so small they can't even keep planners and other critical employees on-staff, and have to do everything through consultants that do not have as long-term and complete a connection to the city they serve.

3. when we do want to make important changes, the scope of those changes is difficult because of the small nature of the cities. Not the most important, but an easy example: Minneapolis can decide to add triplexes everywhere, and it only affects 10% of the region. You'd need over a hundred cities to all independently agree to make that happen on a regional scale.

For me, I think the cost vs. benefit balance is better for suburbs that have a large enough population to at least support police and fire (20,000?).

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby Korh » February 5th, 2019, 2:44 pm

Maybe a should of clarified but I mainly meant small in terms of area not population. So I do agree that suburbs should be large enough to support services like police and fire departments I would argue that the exact population depends on how large of area they have to cover.

Also since you mentioned waste management, I'm reminded that the met council exists which if I remember MN history right was founded to try and get some organization between the various cities in the form of water/waste management, transportation, and mosquito control.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby twincitizen » February 6th, 2019, 3:44 pm

Population isn't the only factor in determining the minimum scale for an independent city to be fiscally stable. Commercial-industrial tax base is arguably equally important to population. A city of 15,000 with a large commercial-industrial tax base could be more fiscally sound than one with 40,000 people but is almost entirely residential (especially if mostly lower-valued postwar ramblers).

These issues are more apparent in other metro areas that don't have LGA and Fiscal Disparities. The latter program especially really masks the weakness of many smaller (<20,000) non-wealthy Twin Cities suburbs. Without Fiscal Disparities, I'm sure some of our smaller/older burbs would have merged by now. It's a very good program, but we shouldn't let it blind us to the fact that like Falcon Heights and Lauderdale should not be independent cities...they should very clearly be part of either Roseville or St. Paul. We are basically subsidizing the continued existence of cities like Lauderdale, Gem Lake, etc.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby sdho » February 7th, 2019, 7:49 pm

twincitizen wrote:
February 6th, 2019, 3:44 pm
Population isn't the only factor in determining the minimum scale for an independent city to be fiscally stable. Commercial-industrial tax base is arguably equally important to population. A city of 15,000 with a large commercial-industrial tax base could be more fiscally sound than one with 40,000 people but is almost entirely residential (especially if mostly lower-valued postwar ramblers).
I don't actually know how well this plays out in a lot of suburban cases. Sure, modest single-family homes on big lots generate very little property tax. But even modest/"blighted" multi-family often beats out suburban office/industrial in tax generation per acre.

I was struck by how incredibly bad Bloomington's new Toro headquarters is in terms of property tax -- not because there's anything wrong with the building, but because it's the building, plus acres of parking, plus acres of green space that offers little value other than showing off Toro's specialty. Per acre, it pays less property tax than low-rent 2.5-story 1960s apartment buildings. Commercial office is potentially pretty impactful on city services, with rush hour flows of cars and uneven use on utilities.

There are other kind of random winners/losers in property taxes: self storage facilities seem to pay a ton, and car dealerships pay quite a bit. (But are also probably much more demanding on city services.) No idea how these are calculated -- particularly for self-storage, which are often pretty minimally improved buildings.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby sdho » February 7th, 2019, 7:51 pm

sdho wrote:
February 7th, 2019, 7:49 pm
twincitizen wrote:
February 6th, 2019, 3:44 pm
Population isn't the only factor in determining the minimum scale for an independent city to be fiscally stable. Commercial-industrial tax base is arguably equally important to population. A city of 15,000 with a large commercial-industrial tax base could be more fiscally sound than one with 40,000 people but is almost entirely residential (especially if mostly lower-valued postwar ramblers).
I don't actually know how well this plays out in a lot of suburban cases. Sure, modest single-family homes on big lots generate very little property tax. But even modest/"blighted" multi-family often beats out suburban office/industrial in tax generation per acre.

I was struck by how incredibly bad Bloomington's new Toro headquarters is in terms of property tax -- not because there's anything wrong with the building, but because it's the building, plus acres of parking, plus acres of green space that offers little value other than showing off Toro's specialty. Per acre, it pays less property tax than low-rent 2.5-story 1960s apartment buildings. Commercial office is potentially pretty impactful on city services, with rush hour flows of cars and uneven use on utilities.

There are other kind of random winners/losers in property taxes: self storage facilities seem to pay a ton, and car dealerships pay quite a bit. (But are also probably much more demanding on city services.) No idea how these are calculated -- particularly for self-storage, which are often pretty minimally improved buildings.

Edit: obviously diversity of tax base is also important for stability in different economic conditions. But "more commercial" alone doesn't lead to more tax base if the sites are poorly used.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby sdho » February 7th, 2019, 7:52 pm

twincitizen wrote:
February 6th, 2019, 3:44 pm
Population isn't the only factor in determining the minimum scale for an independent city to be fiscally stable. Commercial-industrial tax base is arguably equally important to population. A city of 15,000 with a large commercial-industrial tax base could be more fiscally sound than one with 40,000 people but is almost entirely residential (especially if mostly lower-valued postwar ramblers).
I don't actually know how well this plays out in a lot of suburban cases. Sure, modest single-family homes on big lots generate very little property tax. But even modest/"blighted" multi-family often beats out suburban office/industrial in tax generation per acre.

I was struck by how incredibly bad Bloomington's new Toro headquarters is in terms of property tax -- not because there's anything wrong with the building, but because it's the building, plus acres of parking, plus acres of green space that offers little value other than showing off Toro's specialty. Per acre, it pays less property tax than low-rent 2.5-story 1960s apartment buildings. Commercial office is potentially pretty impactful on city services, with rush hour flows of cars and uneven use on utilities.

There are other kind of random winners/losers in property taxes: self storage facilities seem to pay a ton, and car dealerships pay quite a bit. (But are also probably much more demanding on city services.) No idea how these are calculated -- particularly for self-storage, which are often pretty minimally improved buildings.

Edit: obviously diversity of tax base is also important for stability in different economic conditions. But "more commercial" alone doesn't lead to more tax base if the sites are poorly used.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby Ubermoose » February 8th, 2019, 9:34 am

sdho wrote:
February 7th, 2019, 7:52 pm
twincitizen wrote:
February 6th, 2019, 3:44 pm

I was struck by how incredibly bad Bloomington's new Toro headquarters is in terms of property tax -- not because there's anything wrong with the building, but because it's the building, plus acres of parking, plus acres of green space that offers little value other than showing off Toro's specialty.
A large portion of that green space is used for testing equipment. As to the parking, if there is another expansion, a building would take up part of that parking space and a ramp would likely go up on the remainder.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby sdho » February 8th, 2019, 11:36 am

Ubermoose wrote:
February 8th, 2019, 9:34 am
A large portion of that green space is used for testing equipment. As to the parking, if there is another expansion, a building would take up part of that parking space and a ramp would likely go up on the remainder.
I'm glad there's some design to it, but that doesn't change the underlying point of my mentioning it here -- whether for a functional purpose or just suburban aesthetic, it generates very little tax base for the land it takes up. They took out a street and 15+ houses just to build a surface parking lot and reserve land for potential, future use.

Build a ramp now and buy neighboring land when you actually require space for expansion.

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby Multimodal » February 8th, 2019, 11:46 am

Good point about low taxes per acre; that’s pretty much Strong Towns’ founding principle.

I can see why a business would want to buy property now rather than later—cost of property and not having to deal with future owners or neighbors. But I hope Bloomington is getting significantly higher taxes now for the entire site than they did for the smaller Toro property plus the houses before. Any idea if that’s true?

Also, were there any bike, ped, or transit improvements, or reduction in parking spots per employee?

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Re: Suburbs - General Topics

Postby Multimodal » February 8th, 2019, 11:48 am

As an aside, I’m surprised storage facilities are taxed at a high rate. I just assumed they had rock bottom tax rates. Interesting. I guess they’re more profitable than I thought. Outside of industrial areas, though, they’re a terrible land use.


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