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The Stillwater Area School District’s bus terminal is part of a larger plan for development in the northwest corner of I-94 and Manning Ave in Lake Elmo. Other planned development includes a park-and-ride and retail space. (Map from meeting material)

After spending $2 million in improvements, the Stillwater Area School District may be kicked out of its new bus terminal by the city of Lake Elmo. The Lake Elmo city council voted Jan. 21 to deny a request by the district for an amendment to its conditional use permit, which could end with the district being unable to occupy the property.

After a lengthy search for a suitable location for its bus terminal, the district purchased the former Kenworth Diesel Trucks location at 11530 Hudson Blvd. N. in Lake Elmo. As part of the conditional use permit (CUP), the district was required to convert its existing well and septic system to city sewer and water.

While the district may be ready to connect to the city’s utility systems, access to hookups are dependent on a nearby development. The city grows its sewer and water lines by developing one property near a main water and sewer line and requires the developer to continue the lines through its property to provide access to the neighboring property.

The bus terminal is part of the Four Corners 1st Addition plat that was approved by the city council in 2018. A condition of the plat approval was that the developer — who is not the school district — was to construct sanitary sewer and water facilities which would have brought sanitary sewer and water service to the district’s property. The developer was to complete these improvements no later than Oct. 31, 2019. As of the Jan. 21 meeting, construction has not yet commenced. The district has made all of the improvements on the property that were required by the CUP conditions with the exception of connecting the property to sanitary sewer and water services.

To remedy the issue, the school district requested an amendment to Condition #9 in the CUP to “operate its bus terminal at the property using the well and septic system (septic tank and temporary toilets) either until the school district connects to City sewer and water or until Dec. 31, 2020, whichever comes first. The school district agrees to connect to city sewer and water within 30 days after it becomes available.”

For sewage disposal, the school district has installed a temporary septic tank that is supplemented by temporary toilets — this has been approved by the county. For water, the district has been using the existing well on the property — the well was approved by the Minnesota Department of Health for use.

Currently, the district is in violation of the CUP because Condition #9 states that city sewer and water shall be connected to the building/site prior to the commencement of formal operations.

There are also some safety concerns. The district has finished the construction of a fire sprinkler system, yet not connected to city water. While a well could operate a sprinkler system for a very short time, it would not be enough water to provide the required amount to safely put out the fire.

On Dec. 9, 2019, the planning commission held a public hearing and after discussion voted 6-0 to recommend approval of the amendment request with a change to their request. The Commission suggests striking “...within 30 days after it becomes available.” And replace it with “...as soon as practical.”

There was expressed sympathy by the commissioners for the district because they were at the mercy of the overall Four Corners developer falling through on their responsibilities, which caused the need for an amendment.

The council voted unanimously to not approve the district’s amendment.

Because the request was denied by the city council, it would mean that the school district would be in violation of Condition #9 of its CUP. The city council could then take separate action to revoke the CUP by holding a public hearing on the revocation. If the city council revokes the CUP following the public hearing, the school district would no longer be able to operate its bus terminal on the property.

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