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Wayzata Puts Plans for New Lakefront Enhancement in Motion

City embarks on possible 10-year plan to maximize lake assets.

The City of Wayzata has roped off $100,000 to launch a 10-year lakefront improvement plan that could eventually transform Lake Minnetonka.

Setting aside of the already-scheduled Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue comes at the recommendation of a 10-member Lakefront Improvement Task Force that for the last year has examined how to maximize use of Lake Minnetonka’s shoreline areas.

The task force’s 11-page final report was presented to the city council this week and is attached to this posting. It outlines Phase I of a broad-stroked plan centering around Wayzata but closely integrating all 14 of Lake Minnetonka’s communities.

City Councilmen Andrew Mullin and Tom Tanner co-chaired the city’s task force and began exploring a long-range enhancement plan for Lake Minnetonka more than 18 months ago.

Councilman Mullin said he’s met with dozens of Lake Minnetonka stakeholders in recent months—from the DNR and the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District to the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce and Metropolitan Council. All, he said, have been willing to talk and provide feedback about how to best capitalize on Lake Minnetonka’s commercial potential while preserving and protecting its environmental quality.

“We have a clear and concise framework of three pillars—economic, historical and environmental,” Mullin said. “Then we want to add access and safety for the community and allow visitors to enjoy the lake.”

Possible elements of any lake enhancement plan are in the gathering process, and Mullins said no projects are being planned or supported at present time. Still, visions of trail expansion, updated road and boat access, a boardwalk in Wayzata and regional business opportunities are already being discussed.

The $100,000 authorized unanimously by the city council this week will pay for recruitment of an outside consultant and a preliminary report on project prioritization, cost estimates and possible funding formulas.

Unless changed by the State Legislature, Wayzata has $300,000 in TIF revenue already allocated in 2013 for lakefront improvement projects. All agree the $100,000 to retain an outside firm specializing in lakeshore management would be a TIF-eligible expense. The city also plans to immediately begin pursuing county, state and federal grant money for extra momentum. Hennepin County, for example, has $30,000 available right now that Wayzata officials feel they have a shot at.

“It’s not our intent to move forward with debt to fund any of this,” Councilman Mullin said.

Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox stressed proceeding with a regional approach, a priority of the Lakefront Improvement Task Force, will not only improve Lake Minnetonka’s overall quality but also enhance chances of securing outside funding sources—including Legacy Amendment money and surface transportation grants.

“We do it by connectivity and outside funding, which is music to my ears,” Willcox said.

So what’s next?

Wayzata will immediately begin preparing a request for proposals from private firms specializing in regional lakeshore enhancement.

City staff will also begin exploring grant and other funding possibilities.

What about the railroad?

An average of six BNSF freight trains pass through the heart of downtown Wayzata each day on a rail laid long ago. For Wayzata, most lakefront improvement projects require a green light from BNSF.

“Honestly, they are probably the biggest hurdle, but I don’ think they can deny that people are coming and the railway is there,” Councilman Mullins said.

After a small derailment last year, safety has come into renewed focus for the railroad. While careful not to “oversell” BNSF’s enthusiasm for a large-scale lakefront enhancement project, Councilman Tom Tanner said preliminary discussions with BNSF representatives about have yielded a decidedly positive response.

“The railroad is excited about what we want to do,” he said.

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