Next week, Northfield City Council will consider approving the tax increase financing agreement for the 106-unit apartment building this is a key component of Kraewood development. Discussion during Tuesday night’s working session revealed concerns from council members and Mayor Rhonda Pownell, as well as concerns from the building’s developer, that could complicate the project and possibly even derail it.
Nick Anhut of the Ehlers Group, which acts as financial advisor to the City of Northfield, gave the council an overview of the agreement, and Community Development Director Mitzi Baker gave an update on the home’s design. Council member Suzie Nakasian, however, questioned how the council could approve the TIF agreement without already having approved the development and planning agreements, which will be presented to the council in late March or early April.
Nakasian was reminded that the TIF only applies to the apartment building. The plat agreement will cover all development, which will also include single and multi-family homes, so the order of voting on the agreements doesn’t make much of a difference.
She was also surprised to learn that the council would not be asked to approve the building’s design, having been informed by Director Baker that approval of the site plan would be given at staff level.
Both Nakasian and Mayor Rhonda Pownell have criticized the process. Nakasian was very concerned that as an elected officer she would be asked to vote for a large contribution to funding a development that she could not be sure would meet all the terms of the Land Development Act. While she said she tends to vote for the TIF, she told city officials that she would need confirmation that all her concerns had been addressed before Tuesday’s vote.
Mayor Pownell was also very clearly concerned with the order in which the council would be asked to vote. And she mentioned several times that the TIF agreement is more than 70 pages long but was received by the Council on Tuesday, giving it a week to read and understand the complexity of the agreement before voting on it.
The mayor even went so far as to suggest postponing the vote on the TIF until the plat deal is also finalized. Both City Manager Ben Martig and Principal Baker strongly cautioned against the idea. The condo complex has seen cost increases of more than $2 million since it was first proposed last spring. A delay in the contract would mean that Stencil Group, which is developing the building, could not complete its main financing, prepare the construction documents or order the building materials until the construction season has started.
The Kraewood project was controversial from the start. The 100-unit apartment building and two dozen residential units are being built on the former Paulsen Tree Farm and have met with fierce opposition from residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. The developers, a collaboration between Stencil Group, Rebound Partners and Schmidt Homes, had hoped to break ground last fall, but delays have forced them to revise the blueprint several times.
Nate Stencil, the owner of Stencil Group, chimed in to express his deep concern that further delays could force his company to abandon the project.
“This is the craziest thing I’ve seen in the 23 years I’ve been doing this. I really don’t know what our costs are going to be week to week let alone month to month. Every day there are new price increases to old price increases. We really want to push that one way or another next week. And if that doesn’t work for the city for whatever reason, then I can probably live with it. But I can’t live with being here in March and April and talking about it.”
Despite Nakasian and Pownell’s concerns, the TIF agreement is expected to remain on the agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting. Mayor Pownell said she hopes staff will be ready to answer any questions about the project, the agreement, and the permitting process.
Tuesday evening’s city council meeting will be held in the council chambers at City Hall. It starts at 18 o’clock.
Healthy community initiative seeks board and committee
The Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) is currently accepting nominations for positions on the HCI Board of Directors as well as for various HCI committees. HCI Board members serve three-year terms beginning in September. The members of the HCI Committee serve for one year.
Founded in 1992, the Healthy Community Initiative is a coalition led by a board of community leaders, youth, parents and school officials. Its stated mission is to “cultivate a collaborative community that supports, values and empowers youth”. To accomplish this, the organization works with community partners to foster collaboration and support community-based efforts that benefit the youth and families of the Northfield area
The HCI Board of Directors meets every third Wednesday of the month from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The HCI committees currently meet monthly in a virtual format. A statement released by HCI says the schedule is set to accommodate member availability.
To nominate someone, or even yourself, for the Board of Directors and for more information, please contact HCI at 507-664-3524 or [email protected].