Lake Elmo takes a stand for the past

Lake Elmo, a city famous for its insistence to remain a pre-sprawl town, has taken a big club to sprawl with its refusal to allow bus rapid-transit stations in its community.

That’s primarily a shot at Woodbury, the public transportation backwater that’s been trying to build support for the “Gold Line”, essentially a bus-only route from the far reaches of the East Metro into St. Paul, where it will connect with public transit civilization.

The Pioneer Press reports that Lake Elmo, however, has said “no” to having two of the transit stations located in the community. It fears becoming North Woodbury.

The city voted 3-to-2 this week against the project.

Lake Elmo’s timing couldn’t be worse. Planners have been working on the project for years and its supporters bristled at the city’s action.

“This was the route that everyone agreed on, including the representative from Lake Elmo,” said Will Schroeer, director of the mass-transit advocacy group East Metro Strong. “Now, we are back to the drawing board.”

This is the classic regional vs. local fight for which Lake Elmo has been famous.

Woodbury exists and there’s nothing Lake Elmo can do about it other than shop in its stores, drive its streets, and take its transit. But now it threatens to sink — at least for now — a project that benefited other communities. It’ll add years and money to a bus route that already wasn’t going to open until the next decade.

At the same time, though, Lake Elmo wants to control what Lake Elmo is. If you build transit stations in the city, the opponents theorize, the next thing you know you’ll have development.

You’d be, basically, Woodbury, a city that weirdly prides itself in looking pretty much like every other suburb.

“Unfortunately, three people decided that this does not make sense for their vision of Lake Elmo,” Lyssa Leitner, manager of the Gateway Corridor project, told the Pioneer Press’ Bob Shaw. “But one city’s decision on this matter does not stop the project.”

It doesn’t start it either.

Background: Lake Elmo and the Misconceptions of “Growth” (