3/28/2019 12:53:00 PM Water & Light's role in North Branch growth discussed
For North Branch Water & Light Commission to take action; only two of the three members need to vote yes, and that’s exactly what happened last week when the commissioners accepted a request to waive trunk and water access fees for “Cherokee Place.”
This is a multi-family housing project being built in partnership with the state MN Housing Finance Agency, allowing affordable rental rates to be charged to working families. There will be five of 48 units dedicated to homeless families.
Water & Light Commission members Chair Peter Schaps and Kathy Blomquist want to see the land sold and some development action implemented in the area of the new neighborhood. The site is south of 400th, on vacant property west of Cty. Road 30. If this project (and a similar Phase One that’s been awaiting the state’s green light) can get in the ground, it will also open up extending utilities and city services for unbuilt land nearby.
Chris Bibeau, the third Water & Light commissioner, disagreed and said, “...they should honor the fees just like everyone else.”
Blomquist felt waiving the fees will show the city utility supports this project.
She added that a recent survey showed a large number of renters in North Branch are “stressed” paying too much of their income in rent. When people can save a little money, they buy homes next, she added.
Schaps said the city shouldn’t lose this. He favors getting this project going and hopefully more will happen in this long-stagnant area.
Speaking for the North Branch EDA, member Bob Streeter said the Economic Development Authority supports this. He added, the city invited this affordable housing project-- after hearing from some major employers that employees can’t afford housing in North Branch.
Water & Light Manager Mark Petsche commented the commission’s role is not economic development. He agreed the utility has come a long way from its financial difficulties about five years ago, “But we have a long ways to go,” he cautioned.
Blomquist noted that the residents will be paying for water use, just not the trunk fee and hook-up-- and they will get on the electric grid and this income won’t be coming in if the units aren’t built.