As students return to campus, you may notice that the town of “cows, colleges, and contentment” is also a town of contention. One current issue is a proposed residential development on a 12-acre parcel of land about a mile east of the St. Olaf campus. A group of entitled neighbors to the property are waging a campaign to stop or significantly reduce the development, and they want you students to take up their cause.
The issue is not, as some claim, about saving an endangered bee or preserving a stand of trees. Those objections are easily refuted. It is about much-needed affordable housing being built immediately across the street from a new elementary school and a dynamic, multilingual Community Education Center in which the citizens of Northfield have just invested tens of millions of dollars.
The proposed residential project is an infill development on a truly unique piece of land. Infill development is one of the city’s top land development priorities. Increasing density in the core city is much more climate-friendly than encouraging suburban-style sprawl on the periphery of town.
Many of the opponents of the project will agree that Northfield has a desperate need for more affordable housing. Some don’t want as many units as the developers are proposing. Others want affordable housing to be built in a different part of the city, not in their neighborhood.
Before you lend your signature to a petition or your voice to an appeal to the city council, please explore these issues in depth. Even though most of you will only be part of the Northfield community for four short years, your involvement in civic affairs can have a lasting impact. Please use your influence wisely.
Randolph Jennings is from