December 12, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 450

City, school discuss land development

Selling 23 acres of school district-owned land to a developer was discussed by the Land Committee, Superintendent Robert Indihar and City Administrator Pat Oman at a meeting of the Moose Lake School District Land Committee on Monday, December 9.

Brian Weidendorf of Land and Lease has made an offer to buy the land, located along Highway 73 in the southern portion of Moose Lake, for future development. The school district would sell the land to the city, and the city would sell the land to Weidendorf.

Oman explained that Weidendorf plans to invest $500,000 to $600,000 in infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, and build a road into the property.

“He also found out when he did the initial survey that the Little Store had encroached on the property with some kind of a station, like an electrical station,” said Oman. “He feels that he can work it out with the Little Store.”

Oman went on to explain that Weidendorf has already spent funds on further investigation of the property, and that he would pay the $100,000 asking price.

Weidendorf would have to secure an easement for a power line and would have to purchase wetland credits in exchange for wetlands on the property that would have to be mitigated.

“He has a very consistent record with his developments; he follows through,” said Oman. “He’s investing a significant amount of money. The water and light commission has already approved running a power line across the highway at a significant investment. The city has applied for a TED grant for funds to build a turn lane to the property. The city also wants him to purchase the unused sewer piping that the city owns, if that will work for the development.”

A concern was expressed that the property would be purchased and not be developed.

“We will not allow any developer to sell the property on speculation,” said Oman. “If he does sell to someone, it will be a requirement that it be developed within the year.”

The school board had asked for a performance contingency to ensure that the property is developed within a certain period of time, but Weidendorf has declined that request.

“There is always an element of risk,” said Oman. “The city has done it this way before. The development agreement can be written in such a way that there will be financial pain for the developer if he does not do the work to develop the property.”

Supt. Indihar explained that the big concern is that if the city gets the land back, what recourse would the school district have that the development of the property would meet its requirements.

“What would happen if he buys it and doesn’t develop it?” asked Supt. Indihar. “If he buys it and invests the $600,000 in the property, I would be fine with that. But if the property is not developed, then what?”

Oman assured the committee that if the city got the land back, it could develop the land itself through a Tax Increment Financing District, where the tax on the lots sold would be used to pay off the investment in infrastructure over a period of 25 years.

Oman said that he would come back to the Land Committee with a revised development agreement, with the requirements and timeline listed.

Committee Member Julie Peterson asked that the agreement state that the city develop the land if the developer doesn’t.

No date was set for a future Land Committee meeting.

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