The Lindstrom City Council met September 25 for yet another Northland Properties proposal for a large-scale apartment building. The proposed site of the now reduced to 92 apartments is where the Dinnerbel Restaurant stands. The proposal was initially for 105 units and since has been brought down at the urging of the council to 92. City Hall was filled with residents all hoping to get a chance to voice their opinion.
Lindstrom City Planner Rita Trapp explained to the council they were there to vote on a comp plan amendment, a preliminary plat, a conditional use permit for a shoreland development and a few variances for a shoreland PUD. Trapp told the council the new mix ratio of apartments was six studio, 45 one bedroom, 20 one bedroom plus dens, and 21 two bedroom apartments. Trapp noted the biggest change from the last meeting was the entrance for the apartments is now moved to the Highway 8 entrance instead of off Vine Street on the south end of the building. Trapp also noted the requirement for green or open space in Lindstrom is 50 percent and this project comes in at 34.6 percent.
City engineer Jon Herdegen gave a synopsis of the most recent traffic study. Herdegen noted the project would add 320 trips per day for the restaurant and 394 trips per day for the apartment complex. Herdegen said Highway 8 would receive the most traffic with Newell avenue seeing an uptick in traffic as well.
Mayor Keith Carlson then read a letter written by the Chisago Lakes Housing Task Force in support of the project. The letter stated the need for rental housing in the area from a study the group had completed recently.
The public then was allowed four minutes each to voice their concerns. Wayne Johnson who owns a home on Newell that will abut the proposed property told the council the survey was off by 20 feet. Johnson told the council he has asked them about it repeatedly and has gotten no answer or correction. Johnson said if it is off by 20 feet that would decrease the project by close to 2,000 square feet. Johnson said if it passes his attorneys will fight it in court.
Rick Moore of Newell Avenue then voiced his concerns about safety and the increase of traffic on Newell and Highway 8. Landform representative Darren Lazan explained the increase in traffic would be between one and two percent on Highway 8.
Terry Pahl of Park Street voiced his concerns about the pricing of the units. "I make a decent wage and there is no possible way I can afford to live there" Pahl said. Lazan responded by referencing the housing study saying "Our numbers show the need is here for something like this". Lazan pointed out the project did not have a pinpoint decision on pricing for the units but offered a guess of $1.85 per square foot meaning an efficiency unit would rent for mid 900's and a two bedroom would be in the $1,500 to $2,000 range.
Mark Columbe of Newell Avenue asked the council and the developers what their reaction would be if they discovered a development like this was going in right next to their home. Lazan said he used to live in an urban area and he loved the activity. He did note that he now lives in a rural area.
Dana Turman of Maple Street said there are cheaper bigger units for rent in forest Lake so why would someone want to drive farther and pay more? Lazan said the Lindstrom property was unique with the lake in a downtown district.
Jenny Runte of Irene Avenue asked for the cost to the city and the financial benefits the project would provide. City Administrator John Olinger said there would be no costs to the city for the developer would incur any costs. Mayor Carlson added that if and when the city reaches a population of 5,000 it would qualify for tax funding of around and extra $200,000 per year. Runte added that it sounded like Trapp was representing the developers instead of the city which the statement got a loud round of applause.
When asked about west bound traffic trying to access the property, Lazan admitted the traffic will have to go to the lights at Highway 8 and County Road 14 and make a u-turn.
David Todd of Stinson avenue asked how many jobs will be generated by the project. Lazan answered around 200 for construction and around 20 for the restaurant and building maintenance.
Developer Brian Farell of Northland Development told the council and audience "I have paid for housing studies. I don't make this stuff up. This has been a dialogue wit the city and was felt what was needed. We have no interest in building a project that's not feasible."
Jeff Fink who live on Moonlight Court asked what the property taxes would be for the city. Olinger told Fink they would be close to $85,000 per year. Fink then asked the council if they could show compassion and give the Dinnerbel owner Dianne John a break on her taxes because this has drawn out so long.
Dianne John spoke last to the audience "I appreciate what all of you are saying. This whole thing was started 16 months ago and I have been paying taxes and mortgage and utilities since then. I am concerned for myself. I do not want this project to tear the community apart."
With that the council made steps to progress against the audience's wishes and moved forward with the project. The project is not a full-go, but it is now one step closer to becoming a reality. The council voted in favor of all four motions by a vote of 4-1 with council member AnneMarie Brink voting against each and every motion.