Lake Elmo Adopts Moratorium on New Plats due to Water Supply Issues Created by District Court Ruling
At its April 5, 2022 meeting, the Lake Elmo City Council unanimously approved a moratorium on new plats in the city’s low pressure water zone due to water supply concerns. The moratorium, which goes into effect April 8th and lasts for up to one year, will prevent developers from submitting applications for both residential and commercial development in roughly a quarter of the city.
Last year the City of Lake Elmo, applied for an amendment to its water appropriations permit to increase the allowed water usage due to rapid growth over the last few years. Citing the 2017 Ramsey County District Court Order 62-CV-13-2414 regarding water levels of White Bear Lake, the DNR denied the city’s request.
“We are trying to abide by the Met Council’s growth requirements and provide for the public health and safety of our community,” said Lake Elmo Mayor Charles Cadenhead. “But our efforts are being hampered by a court ruling that is endangering the livelihood of our community. It should be noted that the trigger elevation in the court ruling is based on the recreational use of White Bear Lake and was not made for environmental reasons.”
At the hearing Tuesday evening, the council heard from a number of landowners and developers who have been working on projects for a year or more. The moratorium will halt progress on nearly 800 residential units and 100s of thousands of square feet of new commercial, business and warehouse space. Residents also expressed concern about limiting the moratorium to just a portion of the city. While the council has not ruled out expanding the moratorium in the future, they are taking this initial step to protect the most vulnerable area of the water system.
The City, along with a number of other east metro communities affected by the Ramsey County District Court ruling, are seeking a legislative solution. SF 3055 (Housley) was heard in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee in February but the House companion (HF3880, Lillie) was later returned to the author. The bill would require the DNR to approve permit amendment requests for appropriations and new wells from communities within 5 miles of White Bear Lake provided that request is consistent with a DNR approved water supply plan prior to 2021. Most communities updated their water supply plans in conjunction with the 2040 comprehensive plans in 2020 to ensure proper infrastructure planning that aligns with the community’s growth plan through 2040.
“Given the PFAS contamination and lack of access to a surface water source, a legislative solution is needed to solve the water supply issues in Lake Elmo,” said Cadenhead. “Without action by our state elected officials, the city’s hands are tied and we have no option but to look for ways to limit demand to this vital resource for communities”
Contact: Kristina Handt