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St. Michael Council Split on Proposed Town Center Development

The St. Michael City Council voted 3-2 to support a possible project pitched by Medici Homes, who is eyeing the Town Center North development. The catch? The city would have to front about $300,000 in improvements, and then wait for assessments.

In a vote that split the St. Michael City Council 3-2 for the “first time I can remember,” according to Mayor Jerry Zachmann, the city will move ahead with a possible proposal for development in the Town Center North division.

The development, pitched by Medici (Meh-dee-chee) Homes, would consists mainly of single-floor, detached townhomes, one of the most desired forms of living for Baby Boomers, according to housing inventory surveys done throughout the state, including the northwest Metro area.

Medici is finishing up such a development in what was Hassan Township, now Rogers, near the location of Hassan Sand and Gravel. That development, according to Marc Weigle, the city’s community development director, is nearly full.

“And it doesn’t have nearly the proximity to things like shopping, banking and even schools that this one would,” he said last January, when the idea was first brought to the council’s attention.

The catch? The city would be asked to do something it hasn’t done in years. St. Michael would front about $300,000 in costs, putting in a new road, sewer system and lights for the first stage of the development, which is about 14 lots.

That was enough to draw concern from Kevin Kassle, the council’s second-ranking member.

“Looking at this, I don’t think I can be in favor. There are 74 homes for sale, last I checked, in t his city. And more on the verge of foreclosure. I don’t think we should be subsidizing builders with what, essentially, is a short term loan,” he said.

The $300,000 would be paid back through assessments, or taxes levied in addition to normal property taxes, on the homebuyers.

Communities as close as Maple Grove and as far away as Fargo, N.D. have used this kind of system to maintain growth even during lean years like 2008 to 2011, said City Administrator Bob Derus.

“This is the only way Maple Grove develops,” he said. “In 1996, when I was doing research for my thesis, Maple Grove took in $110 million in revenue through this method of development. Commerce has to happen around the town center. You bring that in with more housing. Then that continues the cycle.”

Assistant City Administrator Steve Bot said he, too, was willing to take the risk.

“It has to be financed [the project] before anything happens. And then, if for some reason, it goes belly up, banks are typically paying cities first, because they don’t want to pay penalties in addition to that outstanding debt.”

Still, council member Joe Marx said he was hesitant.

“Would this be considered a pilot project?  There aren’t other builders asking us to do this,” he said.

said the city would not be bound to anything by moving ahead with a vote to support the project. The development would still start at square one, with the planning commission.

“This, essentially, just starts work between myself and staff,” he added.

Mayor Zachman, Nadine Schoen and Chris Schumm voted in favor of moving ahead with the development. Marx and Kasel voted agaist the proposal.

“If this is the way we have to compete, we have to wait. It looks like we’re running after stuff. We need to be patient,” he said.

Bex March 07, 2012 at 06:54 PM
wow! great more housing! YEAH, that's what we need around here. NOT! The city better check their dictionaries for the definition of commerce. commerce is NOT housing developments. commerce is businesses providing goods and services for consumers to purchase on a continual basis. VERY DISAPPOINTED in this.
Jason Volby March 07, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Commerce is fueled by consumers. more consumers would be positive, but at the same time we could still use more oppertunity for commerce first.
STMA Parent March 07, 2012 at 07:11 PM
We already have plenty of homes, pizza takeouts, subways and banks. Let's try something a little different this time.
Jason Volby March 07, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Im thinking of something different. im aware of the seemingly hundreds of pizza places, and other food options in town. i would like to see something like a reboot of the theater or something like a dinner theater which i believe would do very well in this area. just a slight change of pace would be great.
Lisa March 07, 2012 at 08:07 PM
STMA Parent has it right! (As do the other individuals who have commented.) Spend the money on something that can benefit those of us who are already here! The STMA community needs a community center! We are larger than Monticello who has a great community center, movie theater and a family-friendly bowling alley. Not to mention Cub, Target and Home Depot. Look around the area and I see a few pizza chains, a few fast food joints and a LOT of empty commercial property.
STMA Reader March 07, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Community center that includes a rock wall, splash park, skate park, indoor/outdoor pool, ice rink, ROLLER rink, etc...these are things that would bring families to St. Michael. I know when I was trying to decide if I should move here, I looked at the plans and was excited to see plans for a Gold's Gym. We also need better quality food choices. Bruegger's, Panera, Chili's?
librfun March 07, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Ditto
librfun March 07, 2012 at 09:36 PM
I like the dinner theater idea...right now you have to go to Chanhassan or uptown. It would be unique.
Becky March 07, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I find this quote amusing... “In 1996, when I was doing research for my thesis, Maple Grove took in $110 million in revenue through this method of development. Commerce has to happen around the town center. You bring that in with more housing. Then that continues the cycle.” Doesn't there have to be a "TOWN CENTER" first to build around it. While the land is there, there is NOTHING. And the other quote I find amusing...Medici is finishing up such a development in what was Hassan Township, now Rogers, near the location of Hassan Sand and Gravel. That development, according to Marc Weigle, the city’s community development director, is nearly full. “And it doesn’t have nearly the proximity to things like shopping, banking and even schools that this one would,” Please tell me where the shopping, restaurants, etc are in our so-called Town Center? The only shopping is a grocery store that in my mind is convenient but over priced. This is rediculous. I have said it once and will say it again...we need something for the community...a family community center with gyms, pools, etc for our community to use. While or "baby boomers" need places to live our children and families would like things to do as well. There are already plenty of places for people to live. And plenty for sale and foreclosed. City of St. Michael needs to seriously get a clue and start listening to their tax payers!!!!
librfun March 07, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I agree...it will probably take people showing up at the council meetings!
missyme March 08, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Why is it that Monticello, with a smaller population, has so much more than St. Michael? Why is it?
KLS March 08, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I also agree...regarding showing up for council meetings, this community has always been lax about that.
Bex March 08, 2012 at 03:57 AM
What Monticello has going for it is Hwy 25 and Interstate 94. St. Michael has 241 and Cty. Rd. 19. 'nough said.
librfun March 08, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Spot on!
Bex March 08, 2012 at 02:12 PM
You know, I've been living here since 1975 (I was 9). That's 37 years. Now, other than sports, do you know how much more there is for kids and their families to do here since my family moved here? ZERO, zip, nada, nuthin'.
STMA Resident March 08, 2012 at 02:58 PM
This community is in need of growth (revenue and not from just taxes), but we cannot bring new families into town if there's nothing to offer them. When I think of 'Town Center' I think of retail & businesses- not more housing. How can the city market itself if all we have to offer are baby boomer housing, banks and pizza? As a young family I would go elsewhere. St. Michael must draw others in with attractive businesses and opportunities (jobs) in hopes that the families will follow and buy the existing housing first. Once we see an increase in home sales then the city can explore new housing developments. I agree we are is need of a COMMUNITY center, referencing what the STMA Reader mentioned above (includes a rock wall, splash park, skate park, indoor/outdoor pool, ice rink, ROLLER rink, etc...), reopening the theater as well as nicer restaurants & retail. These businesses will bring in customers and revenue and help market our town to bring in these new families. Most of us are going to Monticello, Rogers & Maple Grove and spending our money, if we had the same options as the surrounding cities we would be keeping this revenue in St. Michael. I hope the council will step back and take a look at what is needed to bring new families and keep the ones that are already here.
Lisa March 08, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Well said, STMA Resident. STMA is a commuter community, both in terms of work and where we spend our dollars. If you ask the question, "What brought you to St. Michael or Albertville?" the answer usually is, "We could get more house for our money." Why not work to build a community that attracts people for reasons other than affordable housing?
Trish March 08, 2012 at 04:17 PM
We built a home in Albertville 14 years ago. Almost every weekend, we head to Monti or Rogers for family entertainment & shopping. In 14 years our community has done nothing to attract and keep people in town. Great, we have the outlet mall, but come on, I think most locals avoid that place -- too crowded. We have a family membership at the Comm Ctr in Monti, we go bowling in Monti, we see movies in Monit or Rogers, and we buy groceries at the Super Centers (ie: Target or Walmart) in Monit. Obviously, Monticello is doing something right! If you want growth in the community, you must be willing to do something positive about it otherwise people will spend their money someplace else.
JL March 08, 2012 at 04:24 PM
The council needs to get going on bring in name brand restaurants, and chains. To get revenue flowing instead of relying totally on the citizens. Like others have said we have enough housing, and homes that are sitting empty. Who wants to go to the town center to see a bunch of apartments or town homes. That is not what you think of when someone says Town Center. How about getting a community center (pool, rock walls, etc. ) going first, then worry about bringing more people in. The council really needs to wake up and listen to what the people are saying, and starting moving a lot more quickly on things, instead of worrying about their own personal agenda.
Al Anderson March 08, 2012 at 06:31 PM
As long as the community center is funded by private investment and property taxes aren't part of the equation - then fine. You do already have an Olympic size pool at the Middle School West and fitness centers in St Michael and Albertville by the way. Last I checked - property taxes (on average) went up 2.5% for 2012 - and some homes went up by more than double digit. In addition, the TH 241 one pair road fix costs will increase your property taxes more over the foreseeable future. Funding $300k (your property taxes, by the way) for additional possible tax revenue is a gamble at best. Especially in a market where housing values have gone down by 30% or more. WE DON'T NEED MORE HOUSING STOCK IN THIS COMMUNITY (for now).
MNParent78 March 08, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I have lived in St. Michael for 7 years. Everything our family does for activities is outside of St. Michael which is sad. We shop for groceries (grocery stores in St. Michael/Albertville are overpriced), go to movies in other cities, we go to community centers in other cities and pay higher non-resident fees to use community centers in other cities and it gets expensive. We need a community center with a gym, a pool, with activies for families. We are a family of 4 and are tired of driving somewhere else just to shop or go to someone else's community center. The last thing we need is more housing.
Brian Leonard March 08, 2012 at 08:40 PM
NEWS FLASH! We are currently in a housing shortage in our area and many areas around the metro. Some price points here in STMA area are selling with multiple offers in a matter of a day or two. I know we have been hearing for 5-6 years the doom and gloom, but the bottom line is the is the best time I have seen as a full-time professional to sell since 2005. The absorption rate is 2-3.5 months supply (months supply of inventory) in the $225,000 and under. A balanced market is 5 months. The retail market will come if there is demand. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some) we don't have the high traffic volume as a 94, 55, 101 or 169 have. Traffic drives retail. I would prefer to see the YMCA or a Community Center over anything else right now.
Mike Schoemer (Editor) March 08, 2012 at 10:17 PM
It should be noted that Brian is a local Realtor, so he would have some expertise in this area.
Cindy Weston March 09, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I find it interesting to read people's ideas of what the council should bring into the city for the residents without a resolve to it. If I were a business looking to settle in a town, I look for rooftops or roads that bring in the people to support my business. Without volume, I can't be competitive on prices; so people will shop in other towns that can be more competitive. When you shop in other towns, you aren't supporting the local businesses struggling to bring services in town nor do you display to potential businesses that they would be successful in St. Michael. The council can and does try to promote the city to try to bring in businesses and services but it is up to the business to determine their viability. Pizza parlors with low overhead can make it-they have little competition. A dinner theatre? While a nice idea, the citizens of St. Michael can barely support the current businesses without putting a dinner theater in that would be as viable as the theater that was once in town. Bring in the people that support the local economy and you will see businesses consider setting up shop in town.
Bex March 10, 2012 at 02:54 PM
This is just a discussion on the article that was posted. This isn't the place to bring "a resolve". The people need to bring their suggested solutions to a city council meeting. As far as bringing people, according to Wikipedia the 2010 census numbers say that the population between St. Michael is just over 16, 000 Albertville is about 7,000. Monticello has a population of almost 13,000. So, the populations of St. Michael and Albertville combined is almost twice that of Monticello. This suggests to me that the population or number of consumers in our area for a business doesn't seem to be the issue. My family DOES shop and eat out locally, much to the chagrin of my bank balance. However, we are willing to pay more to support the STMA area. As far as "rooftops and roads", there seem to be plenty of rooftops, but other than 241, 19 and 35 (and Territorial between Berning's Mill and Rogers), there aren't any other options that I can see for more roads leading into the city. Those are the "main drags" so to speak . Also, it seems that the article infers that the targeted demographic for the development is babyboomers. Those people are getting ready to retire, if not already retired, right? Retired people, unless they've invested VERY well, are on a fixed income, are they not? That suggests that they would have less disposable income than people who are working? Cindy-you're a former City Councillor living in Arizona, now, right?
Bex March 10, 2012 at 02:56 PM
"Pizza parlors with low overhead can make it-they have little competition". Little competition? Hardly. A pizza parlor owner that we know personally told us that at last count there are 17 pizza places between St. Michael, Albertville, Otsego. I don't remember if that included places in Monticello or Elk River that also delivery to the STMA area.
Bex March 10, 2012 at 02:57 PM
We also did some Christmas shopping in St. Michael on Small Business Saturday - the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Just a Thought March 12, 2012 at 07:57 PM
The math . . . We're spending $300,000 to create utilities 14 units (rooftops)? or $21,429 each unit in additional taxes and assessments? What is the developer bringing to the table? This is their burden, not our burden. They need to have a plan to make their development financially feasible without our support. We are not desperate for additional homes here. In fact, if the average family size was 3.13 (2010 Census), and they build 14 units, that's a whopping additional 44 people in the city of St Michael!! Now, really, an increase of 44 people will not drive any additional commerce! Make the developer pay the price if they really want to be here and not take advantage of the taxpayers! If the city is going to financially support anything, it should be business or industry that creates jobs!
Genuinely Curious March 12, 2012 at 08:09 PM
For as conservative as this community is, you'd think y'all would be more in favor of letting the market decide what businesses should/shouldn't be in town...you want a community center, yet I doubt our community could support one without heavy subsidies from tax payers. You want a movie theater, yet the last one went out of business. You lament the plethora of pizza joints (there are a lot!), yet you continue to give them your business and they continue to turn a profit. The fact is, without bodies in the community these places you want won't survive.

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