EDA meets in special session to consider Twiford project issues

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chatfield's Economic Development Authority spent quite some time working to assemble the parcels for the Twiford redevelopment, where a new Dollar General store is quickly rising from the ground. Surveying of Grove Street parcels will soon take place to clear titles and the way for future projects.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chatfield’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) held a special meeting last Monday evening to handle a few items of business, mainly questions that surfaced about the Twiford redevelopment project.

The EDA does not normally hold a November meeting because it hosts an annual gala in November to honor local businesses’ accomplishments and contributions to the community.

Economic development director Chris Giesen wrote a memo to the EDA addressing the assemblage of parcels that comprise the Twiford redevelopment project – now, in part, the site of the Dollar General store under construction – and the potential to survey those parcels to ascertain what the boundaries of Twiford Street are in relation to neighboring parcels. 

“As part of the Twiford redevelopment project, we learned that within the general project area, several privately-owned parcels overlap what we would call Twiford Street.  The street physically exists over minor corners of parcels – at least as those parcels are legally described.  These issues date back 100-plus years, and the practical uses of those parcels all have accommodated Twiford Street as it now exists and has existed for generations,” the memo read.

“With the Dollar General project, we were able to correct two of these overlaps. Three overlaps remain,” the memo continued. “In order to correct them, we’ll need to survey the issue areas, create legal descriptions and get the property owners to sign a deed over to the city for these portions.  WSB has estimated the cost of the survey and legal description work at $800 to $1,000 for each parcel.  We would then need the city attorney to draft the appropriate documents based on the surveyor’s work.  I would then work with the individual property owners directly. 

“Since we are now aware of these issues and it’s fresh in our minds from the other issues we dealt with on our recent project, we should consider moving forward to correct everything.  Also, as a part of the development agreement for the Dollar General project, we did agree that we would attempt to correct these outstanding items.”    

The affected parcels include one bordering Grove Street and two on Twiford Street proper. 

EDA member Michael Tuohy remarked that taking care of the matter now will save the EDA and city trouble in the future.

Following Giesen’s comment that “this isn’t a new issue we’re solving, but this is the first step,” the EDA voted to approve the surveying. 

Giesen also spoke about the EDA’s efforts to follow through with the projects that it has undertaken in the past years, noting that there have been comments from the community regarding some of the things that the panel has done that apparently came as a surprise to some residents despite the EDA’s meetings being open to the public and there being information about the projects included in The Chatfield News. 

“There are comments that we’ll acknowledge – not that we’ll necessarily go back and explain why we did a project – but as an EDA, you sit here once a month and work on these projects, make decisions based on the information you have at the time,” he said. “The meetings are open, so people can come in and listen, but they generally don’t.  We’ve used quite a few tools in the last couple of years…we’ve got projects that we go through and review each project, and we’ve seen some good results.  We’ve given 27 loans to businesses since the mid-‘90s – about $1.7 million — to fund things that the public can enjoy or people around town will get to take advantage of.  There are 140 houses around town that wouldn’t be here without tax increment financing (TIF).” 

He gave the example of homes on Hillside Drive that were made possible through TIF districts being created, as well as others recently part of a TIF district’s creation, adding that Main Street has been spiffed up through loans and other funding mechanisms made available to business owners. 

“Main Street has all the people who are fixing up their storefronts. They wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t feel good about their town. Businesses are growing and people are getting hired – there’s actually not enough people to hire,” Giesen said. “If a project comes along that didn’t fit our goals, we’d probably let it go by.  The City Council is working on its own goals, and maybe we should be working with them.” 

EDA member Randy Paulson added, “The EDA and the city – I think there needs to be some coordination there.  I don’t think we want to do multiple projects, and I think we want to coordinate with the city as much as we can.” 

He made a motion to “start working with the City Council” on joint strategic planning for the future, and the motion was seconded and passed by the EDA. 

Just before adjournment, Giesen pointed out that the December EDA meeting would this year fall on Monday, Dec. 23, leaving some question as to whether the board will choose to hold it as scheduled, decide to move it up, postpone or not hold a December meeting.  More information will be forthcoming as to the EDA’s decision.