City Council reviews plat for Twiford redevelopment property

Kristi Clarke and Chris Giesen present information to the city council regarding the platting of the Twiford redevelopment property. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
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Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Chatfield News

Bits, parcels and little yellow triangles were the trouble of the evening during the Jan. 28 Chatfield City Council meeting. The Council heard an update on the Twiford redevelopment property the city owns and on which a Wisconsin company would like to build a Dollar General store this summer.

City Zoning Administrator Kristi Clarke came before the Council, along with Economic Development Authority (EDA) Director Chris Giesen, to explain how the little yellow triangles that outlined chunks of land that do not have specific owners designated had the potential to come between the EDA and the dollar store project.

Clarke pointed out that part of the land in question had belonged to the railroad companies at some time in history. Other parts had long lists of unanswered title questions and still others had no notable record of ownership. The city had to decide whether to proceed with approving the plat of the lot and block without the triangles of land, exclude part of the property along Twiford or to wait and establish titles and ownership for all of the parcels plunked here and there along the EDA-owned property.

Clarke observed that the city could move forward with the platting to keep the project in motion, as the deadline for the construction is approaching.

“The Twiford redevelopment…this is the second time we’re trying to plat the exact same piece of property…into Lot 1, Block 1 on Division, Main, Twiford and Grove streets. In effect, we’re trying to get the project completed…we’ve had some legal issues,” Clarke said. “I tried eliminating Twiford, hoping that it would be cutting off all of the problems, and I submitted it to a host of public review agencies, but Olmsted County Surveying still found four exceptions — different ownership, no ownership — so we can’t record it as a legal plat. It is owned by the EDA for public use, and we can approve as shown or eliminate the odd triangles of land…and go forward.”

Mayor Russ Smith opened a public hearing for the matter, calling for comments and concerns, but nobody spoke up.

Councilor Mike Urban registered that he had some concerns regarding the yellow-triangled land and approving the plat.

City Attorney Fred Suhler, Jr., countered that the council could leave out the parts that have ownership issues and continue discussions about how to make them legal. “I am one of the people who have to sign off on this, and I’m certainly not going to do it if it’s (not legal).”

Smith inquired, “What happens if we leave out the parts in the little yellow triangles?”

Suhler related that they will be re-platted at a later date.

Clarke interjected, “I assume we’ll leave them as outlots, and both options are completely legal…but if we can’t get to it within the time the developer wants to get at it….”

Suhler stated it could take two to three months to obtain quiet title on the bits of property and that some of the parts might be tax-forfeited, making them governmental property.

“We have to go through the procedure…in the absence of the small pieces…it doesn’t really affect the utility of the property,” he said.

Councilor Paul Novotny questioned whether there might be islands left within the boundaries of the plat, acknowledging that the railroad and the FerrellGas station to the west have some bearing on the matter.

Suhler said the object of the moment was to create a block from the various parcels acquired by the EDA, and Clarke suggested the land needs to be platted within the next three months and that work to amend the plat could be ongoing.

Giesen cited that the option that would allow the dollar store construction to happen on time was the most favorable.

Clarke said, “In a way, I don’t want to have to come back for another final plat.”

Smith called for other questions or comments, and Novotny wanted to know if the council could approve available options and leave room for possibilities.

Councilor Josh Broadwater asked whether the city has to set a timeframe for the platting work to be finished, and Novotny answered, “Right now, any slowdown in schedule will derail the project.”

A vote was taken to approve the plat — excluding only what is necessary, but leaving time to deal with those parcels — and the motion passed 4-1, with Councilor Mike Urban opposed.

Conditional Use Permits

Clarke went on to review the conditional use permits (CUP) the city has issued, remarking that all 18 are in compliance.

She went on to ask for amendments to be made to one of the policies that requires neighbors to be notified of the potential construction of a pole shed, as the kind of pole shed that was being discussed had only a slight difference in its construction than that of a regular residential garage.

“It’s really just about the use and materials,” she said. “I don’t think we should have to worry about notifying the neighbors…who would then think that their neighbor is getting a pole shed. I think this would be something we should review often because it would be nice not to have to scare the neighbors with a pole shed.”

Other EDA business

Next, Giesen took a turn updating the Council on the EDA’s activities and recommendations, stating the EDA had approved the development agreement with the company that plans to build the dollar store.

He recounted that the cost of the special assessments included in the project are to be covered by Rochester sales tax funds that have been given to the city in acknowledgement that Rochester is a shopping hub that gains revenue from residents of surrounding small towns such as Chatfield.

“The developer is paying $210,000 for the site, and there’s supposed to be a store there by October 2019,” Giesen said. “Establishing a tax increment financing (TIF) district on the site…it’s estimated that the total that will be collected on the project is $428,000.”

Urban registered that the subject had been brought up during the EDA meeting held earlier in the evening and he wasn’t in favor of a TIF district being created for the Twiford redevelopment because he felt the city wouldn’t have the funds available for other projects that might arise.

Novotny countered, “It’s more ‘Let’s get this project rolling, and over time, we’ll get our money back.’ We’ve got $400,000 and some worth of work, we got $233,000 from the state that if we don’t get a project going, there’s going to be a little pressure for us to pay it back, and while I’m not totally in favor of this, it’s the way it’s worked out. If you take the sales tax money that we’ve gotten back, plus the $233,000, that’s $330,000 that came in that didn’t come out of the taxpayers’ pockets.”

The Council voted 4-1 to approve the development agreement, with Urban opposed.

Other business

Councilors paid the bills on the new swimming pool project, submitting payment to Ricchio for $91,902 and Benike for $296,878.82.

The Council went on to discuss the candidates for the ambulance director’s position, as longtime ambulance director Sue Kester is retiring in April. The city wishes to have a replacement working alongside her before she officially departs. City Clerk Joel Young stated the start date for the new director would be Feb. 9 and there had been two candidates for the job, with a recommendation to hire Rocky Burnett as the new director. Urban contributed that both candidates had been “well-qualified” for the position, and the council unanimously welcomed Burnett to his new post.

City Maintenance Supervisor Brian Burkholder advised residents that the frost level is now three feet deep and there is some concern about frozen pipes. Residents are to use an indoor-outdoor thermometer to check their water temperature, and if it has fallen to 38 degrees, they are to turn their faucets on and let a stream the size of a pencil run. The city has a policy of forgiving residential water usage if residents report that they are running their faucets to prevent frozen pipes.

In public services news, Councilor Pam Bluhm reported that there may be an increase in the cost of major appliance and electronics disposal sticker prices, that a shade tree pest control ordinance has come up for review — taking into account the arrival of the emerald ash borer, that the fire department is planning to purchase a UTV and skid loaders in 2019. She also noted that the ambulance department is going to offer emergency medical technician classes in mid-March.

Park and recreation news came from Broadwater — namely, the design of the pool’s amenities and the details of the concession stand.

As the meeting came to a close, Smith reminded drivers that staying behind snowplows is the best course of action — instead of attempting to pass them on the roadway — during snowstorms and everyday plowing. “Just give yourself a couple extra minutes to get to work. If they’re out on the road plowing, there’s a reason they’re out there. Don’t try to pass them,” he said.

Broadwater commended the city’s public works crew for their diligence in clearing sidewalks and keeping the streets clean for motorists. “I think we don’t remember how good we have it with our public works,” he said. “They’ve logged quite a few hours and I want to say ‘thank you’ to them.”