What is an Alternative Urban Areawide Review ("AUAR")?
An AUAR is a type of environmental assessment used to assess potential cumulative environmental impacts from future urban development over a broad geographic area. The more traditional Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) method focuses on smaller-scale, project-specific assessments. The AUAR process includes the preparation of a “Mitigation Plan” that identifies methods to avoid, minimize, or mitigate identified environmental impacts as future development takes place.
Why is the City of Rochester doing an AUAR?
The City of Rochester has initiated a Water Quality Protection Project to extend sanitary sewer and water to homes with failing and substandard septic systems in areas with near-surface groundwater. In Marion Township, the area that can be served by the trunk sewer extensions is part of Sewer Service Area 16. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has included the completion of an AUAR as a special condition of the City’s permit to construct and operate the new collection system.
What area is included in the AUAR?
The final size and shape of the Project Area will be based on development density and subsequent sewer system capacity. The City used an environmentally and fiscally responsible approach to select a trunk sewer size that would be adequate to serve anticipated sewer service needs for the next 50 to 75 years. The Project Area has been divided into two service connection phases. The Phase I portion includes the neighborhoods that have petitioned for sewer service and annexation along with undeveloped portions of the 25-year Urban Service Area. The Phase II area represents the remaining sewer system capacity that would be available in those portions of the 25-year Urban Service Area, the 50-year Urban Reserve Area, and the Suburban Development Area that could be served by gravity-flow lines.
The Project Area boundary identified to date is shown in the attached map. The final Project Area boundary will be determined after an AUAR “development scenario” is defined. The Area includes approximately 5,600 acres of which 41% is already platted. The developed portions of the platted acres contain a mix of residential and commercial development. Of the remaining 59% that is not platted, only 41% appears to be developable.
What are the steps in the AUAR process?
- The Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU, i.e., the City of Rochester) must identify the boundaries of the area to be reviewed and must describe the “development scenario” allowed under the adopted Land Use Plans in effect for the area.
- A draft AUAR document will be prepared that outlines the potential environmental impacts related to fish, wildlife and ecologically sensitive resources, surface and ground water resources, geologic resources, air quality, among others.
- A draft mitigation plan will be written to describe ways to avoid, minimize, and/or alleviate the potential environmental impacts.
- The draft documents will undergo a 30-day public notice period during which comments will be received. The draft document will then be revised to address the comments received.
- The finalized AUAR and mitigation plan will be distributed for final review.
- If no objections are filed by any state agency within 10 days, the documents will be adopted by the RGU. If objections are filed, resolution will be attempted or the Minnesota Environment Quality Board (EQB) will make a determination of adequacy.
- Once adopted, the RGU will work with cooperating agencies to insure that future development conforms to the AUAR and mitigation plan to minimize the environmental impacts. Development projects that are in full conformance with the AUAR and mitigation plan should not need to conduct their own environmental assessments (such as EAWs), unless specifically mandated by EQB rules. If they are not in conformance with the AUAR, a separate environmental review must be conducted, or in some cases, the AUAR revised.
- At a minimum, the AUAR must be updated by the RGU every five years.
When will the public have input?
The AUAR is a public process whereby interested stakeholders will have opportunities to express their concerns about the environmental impacts of future development activities. An AUAR is independent of annexation or utility connection issues. The City anticipates that interested parties will include, at a minimum, residents, landowners and developers; Township, City and County elected and appointed officials; and local and state agency staff.
A “Technical Advisory Committee” (TAC) will be created to help provide input into the preparation of the draft AUAR document and draft mitigation plan. Interested organizations will be invited to send a representative to participate on the TAC. Some individuals may also be interested in participating on the TAC. Additionally, public “open houses” will be scheduled to provide an opportunity for input from those who do not participate in the TAC process. Refining the public involvement and participation process and schedule is forthcoming.
What is the timeline for the AUAR?
The City hired a team of consultants to assist with this process in mid-June. Initial agency coordination is currently underway along with the preliminary review of existing plans and documents. The first TAC meeting will be held in mid-August and will be followed by a public open house shortly thereafter. The entire process should be concluded by early 2002.
Who is assisting the City in the AUAR process?
The multi-disciplinary, multi-firm consultant team hired by the City is led by Earth Tech, Inc. of Minneapolis, MN. The team was selected based upon their expertise in a variety of issue areas that will be part of the AUAR process. Earth Tech will evaluate the environmental and natural resource issues, the Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc. will address land use, the Howard R. Green Company will assess the civil engineering and transportation issues, Richardson & Richter Associates, Inc. will provide public involvement and communication support, and The 106 Group LTD. will evaluate cultural resources.