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Alternative Urban Areawide Reviews

The Minnesota Environmental Policy Act of 1973 established a formal process for investigating the environmental impacts of major development projects. The purpose of the review is to provide information about a project's environmental impacts before approvals or necessary permits are issued. Environmental review creates the opportunity to anticipate and manage impacts before projects are built. The review process operates according to rules adopted by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB), but it is carried out by local governments or state agencies.

Environmental review applies to public and private development projects such as government building projects, shopping centers and residential developments. There are three types of analysis documents prepared through environmental review: Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAWs), Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and Alternative Urban Areawide Reviews (AUARs).

An AUAR is a planning tool for local governments to assess the cumulative impacts of anticipated development scenarios within a given geographic area and how different development scenarios will affect the environment. It is a way of performing an environmental analysis in advance, before major development occurs in an area, and to use the information to guide local planning and zoning decisions. Future projects in the area will not require individual environmental review as long as they are consistent with the development scenarios discussed in the AUAR and the mitigation measures required by the AUAR Mitigation Plan are implemented.

The Northeast Area of Woodbury (location map) is approximately 580 acres of contiguous, mostly undeveloped land and is located along a major transportation corridor, I-94. The area will be a signature gateway for the City of Woodbury. An AUAR was determined to be the appropriate tool for evaluating the cumulative environmental impacts of potential land use scenarios in this area.

Minnesota Rules state that the city may review more than one scenario of anticipated development in an AUAR provided that at least one scenario is consistent with the adopted Comprehensive Plan and one scenario is consistent with any known development plans of property owners within the area. Three scenarios were analyzed.

Through the AUAR process, several areas of environmental impact were identified and are addressed through the AUAR mitigation plan. The major environmental concerns identified that required mitigation strategies are traffic, surface water impacts, karst topography and open space preservation. Information on these topics can be found in the final AUAR Executive Summary and Mitigation Plan of the final AUAR document.

  • Traffic is discussed under Item 21, Transportation.
  • Surface water impacts are discussed under Item 12, Water Resources - Wetlands; Item 14, Water-Related Land Use Management Districts; and Item 17, Water Quality: Surface Water Runoff.
  • Karst topography is discussed under Item 17, Water Quality: Surface Water Runoff and Item 19, Geological Hazards and Soil Conditions.
  • Open space preservation is discussed under Items 10 and 11, Fish, Wildlife and Ecologically Sensitive Resources and Item 25, Parks and Recreation.

The Northeast Area AUAR was ordered by the City Council through resolution on Aug. 27, 2008.

Woodbury City Council approved the distribution of the draft AUAR for agency and public review and comment on Nov. 12, 2008.

The review and comment period for the draft AUAR was held from Dec. 1 through Dec. 31, 2008. A community input meeting on the draft took place on Dec. 8. Comments were submitted by three state agencies, three local agencies, one adjacent city, the Metropolitan Council, three residents and the major landowner within the northeast area. These comments and the response to the comments are included as part of the final northeast area AUAR.

The final document can be reviewed through the links below.

Final adoption of the document and mitigation plan occurred at the April 8, 2009, City Council meeting.

Visit the Minnesota EQB website.