May 26, 2023 at 12:55 p.m.
Lindstrom doesn’t act on a few major items
Nobody could accuse the elected leaders in Lindstrom of not earning their pay. The Lindstrom City Council has met in four special sessions between the final week of April and now, as well as the regular meeting taking three hours last week. And still many well-discussed agenda actions were tabled to gather more information.
One item laid over was the hot button Meredee’s Dinnerbel site. The vacant South Lindstrom lakeshore properties were slated to be considered for lifting a special Planned Unit Development (PUD) designation.
Staff requested the rezoning, as the planner explained, to send a message the council wants “to start fresh.” The highly visible and deteriorating parcels on the bay fomented a community uproar starting around 2018, opposing plans that festered under contested extensions granted by the city council, with zero progress.
The rezoning is possible as the developer has missed deadlines to check specific boxes to officially keep the failed project alive. Action last week would have brought the parcels back under the standards of the Commercial Business District boundary. However, loss of the PUD would likely erase all unique considerations the site has been awarded, city Planner Rita Trapp told council (minus member Brian Norelius and Linda Merkel participated via Zoom)
New Mayor Judy Chartrand stated she was ready to lift the PUD unless she saw “significant” changes coming forward from the developer.
Council member Greg Krueger, also new this year, said he is hesitant about giving this developer any more grace, noting he “...started with one thing and ended up with another.”
Council member David Waldoch thought it may be a good idea to see if anything acceptable can be shown to the city before all the previous work gets scrapped.
City Attorney James Monge suggested council delay action to enable the city planner to connect with Christian Lawrence on the rezoning, and give a couple more months to create a concept of something potentially acceptable.
The motion to set the zoning action aside until July at the earliest passed 4-0.
Due to the late hour, when the Albrecht property on North Lindstrom Lake came up for review, the council spoke with Mark Albrecht but advised him to return after talking more with staff.
He proposes to develop the site very differently from what council has been presented before, which earlier consisted of twin homes with direct lakeshore. His current concept would front single family homes on 316th with a shared easement on the lake for all access. City Engineer Jon Herdegen recommended avoiding the driveways onto 316th by looping the two stub roads in the housing development to the south. Marvin and Maria streets halt at the boundary but could loop through whatever is built on Albrecht’s site and provide access from the next door Bruggeman development.
Herdegen noted 316th is a collector that starts and ends on county roads and it is generally bad planning to have multiple driveways on a collector, if it can be avoided.
Albrecht’s land is in the township so it falls within the extra-territorial land use restrictions that are meant to ease growth outward from the city. The lots he proposed are over-sized and non-compliant with these standards.
He was asked to return at a later date.
The request for expanding the amount of money the Olinda Trail Apartments can be reimbursed—was also tabled.
Tax Increment Financing calls for certain project costs to be reimbursed —at $1.6 million— which is generated off increment. The increment is the difference between the old property tax on the empty land and the apartment complex taxes. The county redirects the property remittance and administrators see to it the developer gets 90 percent back. This makes the expense of eligible projects possible and keeps rents low for “affordable housing.”
Lindstrom keeps 10 percent, but also covers the TIF as calculated into the city’s market valuation.
Olinda Trail Apartments are being valued by the county assessor much higher than original projections calculated for the TIF agreement. County tax records show a property tax annually of $124,328 and the valuation at $10.2 million. So council was told the additional aid of $593,000 being sought is supportable. Analysis also justifies the claimed expenditures submitted for reimbursement.
Council member Greg Krueger didn’t like the fact the apartments have been open for two years and this request is just now coming to council.
TIF Advisor Kirstin Chatfield said there have been “talks” ongoing and Ehlers public finance consultants have been involved as original writers of the agreement. Apartment project costs must be verified and finalized. This is not uncommon in administering public special financing, she advised.
Mayor Chartrand was not enthusiastic, saying “We did what we said we’d do” under the agreement and this seems like an extra.
The property tax revenue is well in excess of what the agreement anticipated, and council heard the “pay-off” (when 100 percent of property tax is retained) will come sooner than the 14.5 years in the TIF agreement.
Council asked for more specific data on the fiscal side and on apartment rental rates and this TIF request was delayed.
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