Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Harbor town home deal finally gets the green light

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 1/10/19

TOWER— After months of twists and turns, the city council here quietly gave its unanimous blessing to a new development agreement that should clear the way for construction of town homes at the …

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Harbor town home deal finally gets the green light

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TOWER— After months of twists and turns, the city council here quietly gave its unanimous blessing to a new development agreement that should clear the way for construction of town homes at the city’s harbor later this year. Under the deal, the city agrees to transfer land to the developers for $1 and also agrees to provide an unspecified level of funding for the installation of public infrastructure for the project.

The agreement sets an April 1, 2019, deadline for the developers to provide a notice of intent to proceed with the project, with construction set to get underway by July 1.

The latest council action reflects a surprising turnaround from council discussions in late November and December, when it appeared that some city officials were intent on terminating the town home project and pursuing a new development proposal. A large turnout of city residents at the council’s Dec. 19 special meeting, who urged the council to give the town home project a chance, seemed to temper those efforts.

A tax abatement plan that had been the subject of dispute between the city and the developers has become less contentious, given increased optimism that additional public funding might be available for the public infrastructure. The city had originally agreed to provide full funding for streets and related utilities, but later reneged on that commitment and pressed the developers to find the resources to install the infrastructure, with repayment through tax abatement.

According to Jeremy Schoenfelder, the town home project’s general manager, he will be working with the city to identify other funding sources for the public infrastructure. He said the timeline in the development agreement is “certainly the goal,” although he said Monday that he has yet to receive the development agreement signed by city officials and still needs to verify that the recently-approved plat has been filed with St. Louis County. “So, there will be multiple efforts going on to achieve the goal,” he said.

After two years of delays on the project, the next potential roadblock could be a weakening economy. Schoenfelder acknowledges that it’s a risk, but said he believes the uniqueness of the project will continue to make it attractive to potential buyers. “Our development allows for a true “lock and leave” option with direct lake access as well as access to the city’s restaurants, shops and services.This gives us some insulation from the overall economy.”

In other business, the council approved amendments to an ambulance purchase agreement to include items that Ambulance Director Steve Altenburg said he had overlooked in generating the original specifications. The overlooked items included an inverter, to convert the engine’s 12-volt DC power to standard 120 AC power, a drawer for a work station and dividers between compartments. Altenburg also asked to include several safety features, including a 360-degree camera and a “howler” siren that is a lower frequency, to be more easily “felt” by drivers than a traditional siren.

The additions will increase the price of the new ambulance from the original bid of $243,994 to $249,788.

In other action, the council extended a listing agreement for city lands with Janisch Realty for one more year.

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