Top 500 Design Firms

Chemical Plant Fire Impacts on Community Water Treatment

January 24, 2023
By Greg Johnson, Director of Water/Wastewater, WSB

A major chemical plant fire occurred at the Carus Chemical Company plant in LaSalle, IL during the morning of Wednesday, January 11. This facility is a leading producer of chemicals that are commonly used for water and wastewater treatment including potassium permanganate, sodium permanganate, and phosphate-based corrosion control chemicals (see EPA link for additional information). 

Chemical Plant Fire and Potential Impact on Supply Chain Disruptions | US EPA

What does this mean?

This event will affect the global supply chain for these chemicals and may impact water utilities across the United States. Sodium and potassium permanganate are commonly used in municipal water treatment to address manganese in the groundwater through conventional gravity and pressure filtration methods. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has implemented the following health advisory limits for consuming manganese: 100 parts per billion (ppb) for infants and 300 ppb for adults and children.  Studies have indicated that consuming manganese above these levels for a lifetime can affect memory, concentration, and motor skills.

What are the alternatives?

A very cost effective and natural method for treating manganese, iron, and ammonia in drinking water without the use of sodium permanganate, potassium permanganate, and chlorine is a process called biological filtration. This process uses microorganisms, rather than chemicals, to remove compounds biologically and has been commonly used in the wastewater industry since the early 1900’s.

In the last 20 to 30 years this treatment method has gained popularity in the United States. Minnesota water suppliers are showing an increasing interest in this water treatment method in order to combat rising costs of chemicals, address an increased desire for green technology and to meet federal regulations that limit the formation of disinfection by-products (DBP’s).

Most Minnesota groundwaters already have the balanced nutrient conditions necessary to grow microorganisms that remove compounds biologically. Therefore, modifications of existing conventional filtration plants to operate biologically are often straightforward and very cost-effective.

The ultimate benefit of implementing biological filtration for water treatment is the reduction or elimination of treatment chemicals, which results in significant operational savings over time.  

Where to start?

A biological filtration pilot study is the first step required by MDH to verify its effectiveness to treat contaminants in a community’s water source.  These studies typically require 3 to 4 months to complete before an engineering report is submitted to MDH for review and approval.

WSB has completed successful biological filtration studies for the cities of St. Martin, Baxter, Worthington, Hastings, Plymouth, and Andover using our own biological filtration pilot plant and trailer. This set up allows us to perform the necessary pilot study without disrupting the existing infrastructure and to identify the ideal treatment solution based on the area’s water conditions. If it is determined that biological filtration is a good alternative, the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) can provide funding to implement treatment of emerging contaminants such as manganese in drinking water through the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund. WSB has worked with many clients to secure this funding.

Learn more about how WSB’s water treatment pilot study program works.


Greg is the Director of Water/Wastewater at WSB with over 26 years of water and wastewater engineering experience in project planning, design, and construction administration of water treatment facilities as well as with groundwater and surface water supplies, water storage structures, water distribution systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and lift stations.

gjohnson@wsbeng.com | 651.286.8466

Greh Johnson

MN Department of Natural Resource Grants for Emerald Ash Borer

January 12, 2023
By Emily Ball, Forestry Program Manager, WSB

What is new in 2023?

The MN Department of Natural Resources recently released a new grant application to help local governments fund emerald ash borer management in 2023. Each grant cycle is funded a bit differently, may include different eligible activities, and extra priority points on different factors. Occasionally match requirements are waived and the match amount required varies.  If you represent a unit of local government OUTSIDE the Twin Cities, this is an excellent opportunity for you since this is the first grant cycle that is awarding priority points for those applicants outside the 7-County metropolitan area.

Who is Eligible?

  • All units of local government (cities, counties, regional authorities, joint powers boards, towns, tribal
  • Parks and recreation boards in cities of the first class (those with 100,000 residents or more)

What Activities Are Eligible?

  • Public tree inventories
  • Developing a management plan that includes Emerald Ash Borer as a component
  • Tree and stump removal and replanting
  • Tree Planting

What is the Timeline?

  • February 13, 2023 – Application questions due 
  • February 27, 2023 – Applications due
  • March 20, 2023, Project Selection, Grant Agreement Negotiation begins
  • July 1, 2023, Work Plans Approved, Contracts Executed, Grant Funded Work begins

How will they Prioritize Funding?

In this grant cycle, priority points will be awarded to:

  • Applicants outside the 7-County Twin Cities metropolitan area
  • Communities who have staff, plan to certify their staff during the grant period, or who will contract with companies with staff with professional tree care credentials (MN Tree Inspector, International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist, WSB, etc.)
  • Projects removing and replacing ash trees that pose significant public safety concerns
  • Projects that benefit underserved populations and areas of concern for environmental justice (communities with higher populations of low-income residents, or people of color including tribal communities or both)


Funding Details

The DNR has a total of $315,000 available in general fund dollars to fund projects managing forest pest and disease with a priority given to EAB on public lands. There is no minimum to the dollar amount applicants can request. The maximum award that will be funded per site is $50,000.

Applicants must include a 25% match of total project funds. The match can be in-kind (such as staff time, to administer the grant, time spent doing removals by in-house crews, technology, equipment used), cash match (such as money spent on ash tree injections by a contractor, re-planting projects by a contractor, or a mix of both. For grantees who are awarded the full $50,000 the match would be approximately $16, 600.

Looking for more information?

For more information on how WSB can help you formulate a project plan and prepare a strong grant application, contact Emily Ball, Forestry Program Manager at 651-318-9945 or eball@wsbeng.com. 

Emily is a ISA Certified Arborist, MN Tree Inspector that brings 20 years of experience, primarily in community forestry. She has extensive experience in contract administration, management of staff, AmeriCorps members and contractors, budget and grant management, plan review, tree health and condition inspections, outreach and education. She works closely with partner organizations, staff, and the community to educate, manage natural resources and provide excellent customer service.

eball@wsbeng.com | 651.318.9945

An Update on Minnesota’s Environmental Review Program and Climate Change

January 12, 2023
By Alison Harwood, Director of Natural Resources, WSB

The Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the authority on Minnesota’s Environmental Review program, has released a new required form and process to incorporate climate-related information into the environmental review process. Environmental reviews are required on projects of certain densities, sizes, and/or types and can include Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAWs), Alternative Urban Areawide Reviews (AUARs), or Environmental Impact Statements.

Prior to 2021, information related to climate change was not part of the environmental review process. A project’s potential to impact the environment focused on resources such as water resources, wildlife, habitat, soils, and noise as well as public infrastructure and transportation. In 2021, several public agencies participated in a pilot program to test the effectiveness of proposed changes to the EAW form that incorporated information related to climate change. Based on the outcome of that pilot project, the EQB voted to replace the previous EAW form with a new one that includes several additions related to climate change assessment and estimating a carbon footprint.

Any projects that required and began an environmental review document after December 14, 2022 are required to use the new form. The new form includes several additions related to climate, including:

  • Assessment of climate trends related to the proposed project
  • Evaluation of climate adaptation potential and resiliency of the proposed project design
  • Evaluation of existing or proposed green infrastructure
  • Estimation of greenhouse gas emissions/carbon footprint of the proposed project

The EQB has a guidance document available for developing a carbon footprint and incorporating the climate change information into the environmental review process. WSB is available to help navigate this new process and keep your projects on track. Reach out to Alison Harwood with questions.

Alison leads the Natural Resources group. Her experience includes work in the natural resources field, including wetland and avian surveys, permitting, alternatives analysis, and environmental documentation for projects in both the public and private sector.

aharwood@wsbeng.com | 612.360.1320

Smart City

Smart City – Building the Communities of Tomorrow

January 11, 2023
By John Bradford, Sr Project Manager, WSB

From electronically monitoring water pumps to installing GPS trackers on city snowplows, many cities are embracing technologies and tools to become a smart city. Communities across the country are advancing initiatives that make their cities more efficient, while protecting resources and public dollars. 

What opportunities are out there, and what does being a smart city mean? Let’s break it down. 

What Does It Mean to Be a Smart City? 

There is no one definition of smart city, but there are a few ways to approach the concept and adopt smart city initiatives that meet the needs of your community. 

The first is to consider policies and tools that benefit the public. How can smart cities improve health metrics, the way that residents interact with one another, or best utilize community resources? There are numerous technologies and innovative ideas that can improve the lives of citizens and benefit overall public wellbeing. 

The next area to think about is data systems, and how you can track information to improve the efficiency and life of equipment. Thorough asset management means understanding that infrastructure and equipment not only require preventative maintenance, but predictive management as well. New technologies can help cities understand when certain equipment needs to be repaired or adjusted, extending its life, and helping communities more effectively plan for capital improvements. Furthermore, for communities with sustainability plans, it’s important to understand how sustainability, asset management, and smart cities all connect. 

Next, when thinking about smart cities, it is critical to map how using technology can more effectively utilize resources. For example, many northern cities are installing GPS tracking devices on city snowplows and making traffic light modifications that allow the plows to make it through green lights instead of having to stop. This improves the efficiency of snow removal, better utilizes community resources, and positively benefits public safety by clearing roads more quickly and effectively. Another example is having occupancy sensors installed at community parks and playgrounds to track usage and the best allocation of resources. 

What it means to be a smart city can mean something different to each community, so it’s important to think about what works best for your community. 

What are the Biggest Opportunities and Challenges?

Smart cities are the future, and can help communities save money, direct resources more efficiently, and better connect and communicate with residents. The opportunities are endless, so communities need to look at places where they can find the greatest value and potential. 

But because there is no one definition of what a smart city means, many communities can feel pressure to do too much, or fail to see how the small technological investments and changes they are making fit into the big picture of a smart city. 

Furthermore, as every community faces limited budgets and funding priorities, understanding where smart city investments make the most sense and will have the biggest impact is key. Also looking at opportunities to expand funding resources is critical. WSB helps many communities with identifying and applying for grants. 

Where to Start?

Where do you start on the road to becoming a smart city? It’s important to think both big picture and in detail. 

Start by defining your goals. Is it improving the efficiency of public works? Is it better communication with residents and the public? And how do these goals tie into your city’s larger strategic plan? 

At WSB, we help communities navigate big ideas and in-depth planning. If you’re not sure where to start or have ideas, I encourage you to reach out for an exploration conversation. There are so many amazing new tools, technologies, and opportunities out there – and smart cities can help build a better future for all of us. Look to us this year to continue to share articles on the ways that technology can help improve your community.

John has worked in the private and public sectors for 29 years and has worked with the cities of Hopkins, Woodbury and Bloomington. His experience includes policy development, capital improvement planning, infrastructure planning, comprehensive planning, site master planning, facility expansion projects, and interagency partnership agreements, labor contract negotiations, and culture change management.

jbradford@wsbeng.com | 952.210.8280

The American Public Works Association – Minnesota Chapter Announces Monica Heil as Chapter President

The American Public Works Association – Minnesota Chapter (APWA-MN) recently announced that Monica Heil, WSB’s Vice President of Municipal Services, will serve as chapter President beginning in January 2023.

For the past 12+ years, Monica has been actively involved with the APWA-MN Chapter serving as the Director-Consultant (2018-2019), Chair of the Education & Training Committee (2014-2020), Chair of the Chapter’s Underground Utilities Construction Inspector School (UUCIS) Subcommittee (2012-2019), and a member of the 2016 PWX Technical Tour Planning Committee (2015-2016).  Monica served as the Secretary/Treasurer of APWA-MN in 2021 and served as the Vice President and Co-Chair of the APWA-MN Conference Planning Committee in 2022. 

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve as the 2023 President of APWA-MN.  It’s an honor to be part of a profession that works tirelessly to maintain the quality of life for residents across the State of Minnesota,” said Heil. “I look forward to continued opportunities to support those who operate, improve and maintain public works and infrastructure.”

Heil brings nearly 20 years of experience serving Minnesota communities. In her role at WSB, she leads the delivery of Municipal Services in the Upper Midwest market, developing technical expertise, improving project management processes and creating efficiency among teams.

Formed in 1946, APWA-MN currently includes over 1,000 public works professionals throughout the state of Minnesota. Members represent both the public and private industry and all work together to advance the public works profession. The chapter’s mission is to advance the theory and practice of the design, construction, maintenance, administration, and operation of public works facilities and services. Learn more here: American Public Works Association – MN Chapter :: Who We Are (apwa-mn.org)

Electric vehicles

Electric Vehicles Infrastructure: Four Tips to Set Communities Up for Success

November 15, 2022
By Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager, WSB

Electric vehicles (EV) are here, and consumer demand is growing. That means more communities are exploring how to integrate EV chargers into their city planning. The bipartisan federal infrastructure law passed last year, which created programs like the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, opened the door for even more funding opportunities and grants for cities to install fast charging stations. 

The problem, however, is that many cities don’t have an EV policy or goals in place. If communities don’t begin preliminary planning and outline larger policy goals, going after funding opportunities can leave cities scrambling and unprepared.

Here are a few tips and ideas that can help cities prepare for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and advance a plan that best fits the needs of residents and businesses, providing for positive future growth. 

  • Start the conversation and ensure policies are up to date. Initiating conversations with city administrators and/or city council members is an important first step, especially if electric vehicles have not been on the radar of community leaders to date. Determine what actions need to be taken including updating zoning codes. Do your codes allow for charging infrastructure or do guidelines need to be updated? Should the city encourage or require charging infrastructure with new construction? Is certain signage required where chargers are placed? Guidelines must be in place so that the community can meet its EV goals and promote orderly development. 
  • Determine your city’s plan and budget. Different communities have different goals for EVs, and it’s important to adopt goals that reflect the needs of residents, businesses, visitors, and the community. Does it make sense to take on an ownership model where the community owns the EV charging stations and related infrastructure, including maintenance and upkeep? Will it make more sense to work with a third-party vendor to own and operate the equipment on city property? Is your city installing chargers for city owned EVs? Should the ownership model be the same as publicly available chargers or different for fleet vehicles? By clearly defining and establishing structured goals and budgets, cities can determine what works best for their city, staff capacity, and budgets. 
  • Work with your utilities and look at your infrastructure power capabilities. As more EV chargers are built and utilized, cities must also look if they have the infrastructure and power capacity to support it. Utilities will sometimes help cover the cost of upgrading power systems or help find ways to balance capacity by setting higher fees at peak demand times. By working to communicate costs and decisions with utility companies, cities can avoid undue stress and complications. It is important to consider upfront costs, monthly or annual fees, and possible profit both in the short and long term based on the ownership model you determined in #2. Additionally, working with your building maintenance and electrical teams can help you understand your building’s electrical capacity.  
  • Consider why these upgrades are important. Growing consumer demand and more funding for EV infrastructure are just two of the reasons why cities should have an EV plan in place. Some communities are using their fast-charging infrastructure to attract business and residents, advertising itself as an EV ready city. Still other communities find opportunities to partner with companies to place charging stations in popular areas to boost visits to local restaurants and businesses. EV infrastructure can also help communities reach their sustainability goals as transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

There is no one-size-fits-all EV plan for cities, and WSB is ready to assist with determining a strategy and workplan, policy writing, grant applications, reviewing zoning guidelines, and whatever else communities need to advance an electric vehicles infrastructure plan that’s right for your community.

Bridget serves as the Sustainability Program Manager at WSB, helping propel sustainability projects and opportunities forward for our clients to reduce costs while meeting their community and stakeholder needs. She has led the Sustainability Growth Coalition at Environmental Initiative and served as chair of the St. Louis Park, MN Environment and Sustainability Commission, moving forward progress on climate and energy, while engaging community members and business leaders.

brathsack@wsbeng.com | 920.202.0234

Leaves

When the Leaves Fall: Proactive Leaf Management Tips for Communities

November 15, 2022
By Jake Newhall, Project Manager, WSB

Autumn is in full swing. While the arrangements of red, orange, and yellow are stunning, the mass collection of leaves that enter a city’s sewer system after a rainfall can cause serious damage – from clogs to flooding to pollutants in our waterways. 

When the Leaves Fall

When leaves fall, especially when followed by heavy rainfall, leaves on roads, sidewalks, and other impervious services can wash down into city sewers. When the leaves break down and decompose, the nutrients they contain can end up in water. This leads to harmful algal blooms and degraded water quality in rivers, streams, lakes, and other water bodies. 

Additionally, too many leaves washing down stormwater systems can also clog pipes and drains, cause localized flooding, and lead to expensive maintenance costs for cities. 

How can cities proactively address fall foliage and prevent these issues? Here are some tips and tricks. 

Targeted Street Sweeping

The first thing communities can do to avoid these problems is establish a targeted street sweeping plan which analyzes and maps impervious surfaces and high tree canopy coverage areas, as well as their proximity to high-value water resources. Street sweeping is one of the most cost-effective methods to reduce pollutant and nutrient loads to waterbodies and can be very helpful in achieving TMDL goals.

While leaf fall can happen at different times each year depending on several factors including weather, an efficient street sweeping plan prepares communities to manage and strategically target optimum leaf removal.  

Community Education 

Another thing communities can do to help prevent leaves from clogging drains and entering into waterways is to educate residents and private property owners about best practices in autumn. Raking leaves, bagging them, clearing the gutters near private properties, Adopt-a-Drain programs, and properly disposing of the leaves can go a long way in reducing the total amount of nutrients in our waterways and leaves in storm drains. 

How WSB Can Help 

Not sure where to start with creating a targeted street sweeping plan? WSB can help create a customized street sweeping plan that meets your community’s needs. WSB can also help communities reach their pollutant removal goals and execute on water quality management. 

Jake has more than 15 years of engineering experience designing and managing many types of water resources projects, including modeling, planning, design, maintenance programs, and construction. Jake has worked with various municipalities, counties and state agencies to solve challenging water quality and water quantity problems.

jnewhall@wsbeng.com | 763.231.4861

Construction Industry

Construction Industry Volatility and Rising Prices: Avoid Frustration & Achieve Success

October 14, 2022
By Christopher Kester, Sr Estimator, WSB

Economic instability, rising inflation, and labor and supply chain issues have created price fluctuations and instability in the construction industry. Simply put, costs and supply availability are harder to predict, adding undue complications to those planning and executing construction projects. 

Every project, every client, and every contractor is different, but many are facing similar challenges. While there are no quick and easy solutions to completely predict and overcome rising costs and swift market changes, there are some things to consider that can help mitigate risk and help you overcome obstacles. 

  1. Consider alternate materials. Material acquisition is more difficult than ever as our industry feels the squeeze of supply chain shortages. It can be difficult for suppliers to provide certain building materials to contractors at certain times, and short summer construction seasons in colder climates can squeeze supplies even more. This then causes problems for owners who don’t have a backup material they would like to use for their project. When preferred materials aren’t available, have a contingency plan and substitute building materials where possible. Clear communication between contractors and owners about which substitute materials should be used is an important part of the design process.
  1. Plan ahead. It is important to plan out projects ahead of time as much as possible and stick to your timeline. Right now, suppliers are having difficulty putting materials on hold for clients. Planning ahead and coordinating with suppliers on timing of materials can make a huge difference.
  1. Be flexible and work in stages. As the road construction season comes to an end in northern states, many suppliers are out of high-demand materials, meaning a good number of projects will have to be put on the waiting list as supplies come in. If you can delay certain parts of a project and work on others to keep a project on schedule, this can help overcome temporary roadblocks. Completing the project in increments also gives the construction team enough time to complete the tasks and gives the contractor and owner time to coordinate material acquisition.
  1. Understand risk and how developers predict cost. Trying to predict project costs has become more difficult, from the price of materials to the cost of labor, and everyone is working to keep their financial risk at a minimum. Often, there is a sizable imbalance between the price it takes a contractor to complete a project and the price the contractor bids for the work. Dramatic price fluctuations have caused a great deal of frustration for owners who are confused as to why a project might be so expensive compared to the price of the same project a few months earlier. Different types of projects like design-build and construction management/general contractor, for example, come with different amounts of risk, so it’s important to think through what works best for your project. 

While there’s no crystal ball in the construction industry, common sense planning and following these tips can help mitigate risk, provide confidence to all parties involved, and set your project up for success. 

Chris spent most of his career with a regional construction company where he prepared production-based estimates in excess of $300 million annually, many of those being DOT or State-Aid. He provides the ability to analyze from the perspective of a contractor and assemble a contractor-style estimate while identifying, analyzing, and mitigating risks.

ckester@wsbeng.com | 651.492.3853

Q&A with Bart Fischer | Know When the Time is Right for Staff Augmentation

October 14, 2022
By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator and Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning, WSB

Staff turnover, economic conditions and resources all impact the capacity and workload of city staff. Scalable staff augmentation has become another tool in the toolbox of cities who are hoping to backfill a role, complete a special project or increase available resources. Bart Fischer, Sr. Public Administrator, explores the benefits of staff augmentation with Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning & Economic Development.

BF: Why would a city consider staff augmentation?

KL: The number one reason to consider staff augmentation is to support staff turnover and coverage during a time of transition. If a staff member resigns, it often takes months to fill a vacancy. The great thing about staff augmentation is that cities can keep their projects and workload moving forward with limited interruption during that interim time. It also allows cities to evaluate a position to determine if it requires a full-time employee, or if tasks can be handled on an as needed or part-time basis.

BF: Is there a magic number of hours or roles for staff augmentation?

KL: No, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s scalable. A city may need support for a month, or for a long-term project. In my experience staff augmentation looks different for each community, which is great because WSB has the flexibility to fit the client need. We have situations where the augmentation is project based, like review of a specific planning project, and we have other clients where the augmentation is service based, for example conducting code enforcement for the community. We work with the client to arrive at a solution that works for their needs including providing in-office hours, dedicating two or three days a week or working within a specific time period until the project is completed.   It’s a flexible option for cities that can be scaled up or down at any time. It really depends on the community and their unique needs.

BF: How is the talent shortage impacting staffing resources?

KL: In many local governments, we’ve seen a wave of baby boomers retiring that held upper-level director positions. As they retire, finding leaders to replace them has been challenging as attracting and retaining talent is a struggle across industries.  Communities who are having a hard time finding candidates to fill roles are relying on augmentation to ensure they’re moving their projects and initiatives forward while they work to fill those positions.

BF: What do you think are the biggest benefits of staff augmentation.

KL: I think many communities don’t realize the financial savings that come with staff augmentation. It alleviates the need to hire an FTE and allows staff to have additional bandwidth to focus on higher level tasks and council policies rather than routine tasks. When the economy is strong, people don’t think about the pluses and minuses of hiring someone, but at the same time, no one wants to lay anybody off.  The true benefits lie in the scalability and flexibility of staff augmentation. 

When WSB supports communities, we stress the full resources behind us. I work in planning, but have quick access to expertise in many areas including economic development, code enforcement, public works, city engineering, sustainability, etc. We bring a wealth of expertise to the table to help support a community’s comprehensive needs.

Bart Fischer has over two decades of experience in public administration. Throughout his tenure, he’s worked in five Minnesota communities as the city or assistant city administrator. Bart joined our firm in 2019 as a senior public administrator and focuses on lending his public service expertise to our clients.

bfisher@wsbeng.com | 651.485.1839

Kim Lindquist

Kim is a planning professional with over 30 years of experience overseeing a variety of complex planning projects. Kim worked in high growth communities working with developers and the public on entitlements for residential development and business attraction to the city.

klindquist@wsbeng.com | 612.670.2790

Housing-DT-Ramsey

Housing Trends: Multi-Family Housing & What It Means for Communities

October 14, 2022
By Lori Johnson, Sr Professional Community Planner, WSB

Housing prices are expected to jump nearly 10 percent by the end of 2022. Interest rates are on the rise and inflation is pushing the price of labor and materials up and up. The result, tied with an already exacerbated shortage of starter homes and affordable housing, is a growing demand for multi-family housing. Market rate apartments are a big trend in communities across the country right now as the demand for rentals grows.

What does this trend mean for communities, for developers, and for long-term strategic planning? Here are some things to consider around multi-family housing.

Developer and Consumer Demand

With more people searching for apartments, developers are on the hunt for land zoned and guided appropriately for multi-family uses. There are, of course, a limited number of parcels that have the proper land use and zoning for apartment buildings and townhomes. If developers cannot identify parcels of land currently designated for apartments but see an opportunity, they are encouraging community leaders to rezone or reguide land where possible.

And what makes a parcel of land ideal for market rate apartments? Developers look at several factors including uncomplicated access to major roads, proximity to restaurants, bars, shopping and commercial property, and good visibility.  Moreover, many local businesses like to have apartments nearby, as they provide customers concentrated in a centralized location and may encourage multi-family and mix used development builds in certain areas.

Considering the Pros and Cons of Multi-Family Housing

For communities, comprehensive and strategic planning means developing land in ways that meet both short and long-term goals and benefits residents, small businesses and overall growth. Not every project a developer proposes will be approved or should be approved, but communities are also looking at the market which is driving apartment growth right now.

Whether a community is rural, exurban, suburban, or metropolitan can also impact decision making between single family and multi-family housing. Are you a suburb or city where promoting concentrated apartments that are walkable, accessible, and attracts nearby commercial businesses make sense for land development? Or are you an exurban or rural community where the greater attraction in the long-term will be single-family dwellings? They also must weigh going with current market demand or waiting to see if and when the market may shift.

Rezoning land for apartments can also bring concern and protest from local property owners. Many people worry that apartments bring more cars, more noise, more lights, and can change the character of neighborhoods. City councils can also explore opportunities to mitigate neighborhood concerns, looking at things like berms and landscaping, fencing, traffic studies, building height ordinances, and more.

On the positive side, apartments provide the type of housing that is wanted and needed right now as rising prices make home ownership out of reach for many. Apartments also provide amenities many people want like gyms, pools, no maintenance costs, greater social connections, etc.

All cities have different types of constituents, so the question is how to balance the needs of renters and non-renters.

How WSB Can Help

For communities navigating rezoning, developer engagement, and a growing demand for multi-family housing, WSB can help. We can help city leaders navigate ordinance compliance, planning augmentation and staff review of site applications, and can provide market guidance to elected officials to know what is happening right now. We can also help local governments review and update their comprehensive plans.

The market for multi-family housing is moving quickly, and our expert staff can help guide you through it all and ensure you make the decisions that best meet the needs of your residents and community.

Lori has more than 25 years of experience working in a municipal planning department, having worked her way up through the planning department at the City of Blaine to become their city planner. She has worked in all aspects of city planning activities including project management, site plan and application review, public participation and long range planning.

ljohnson@wsbeng.com | 612.364.3029