EDA continues to address challenges on Twiford redevelopment plot

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The Chatfield Economic Development Authority (EDA) heard news of continuing hiccups that have delayed progress on the construction of a new Dollar General store on the Twiford redevelopment plot just south of Sunshine Foods.

EDA Director Chris Giesen issued a memo with the May EDA agenda that read, “As you know, we have been working to correct several title issues with the Twiford redevelopment property slated for redevelopment to build a Dollar General store. As of today, we have three outstanding issues – one, waiting on Ferrell Gas to sign a quitclaim deed for remnants of their parcel across the street that overlaps our property; two, waiting on Union Pacific Railroad to sign a quitclaim deed for a small 150 square foot parcel they own within our property; and three, waiting for the Minnesota Department of Revenue to issue new title on the tax-forfeited property to Olmsted County. This is the parcel that the city re-conveyed and recently repurchased. Olmsted County estimates this will take two to three weeks from today (May 28). Our current development agreement states that we must have the property’s plat recorded by June 1, 2019, so that construction can start on time and the building can be turned over to Dollar General by Dec. 31, 2019. However, the developer does not believe that Dollar General will grant an extension of the final completion date and estimates a five-month construction window, which necessitates the June 1, 2019, plat date. In order to facilitate resolution of these issues and keep construction schedules, the developers have proposed an amendment to our development agreement…in general, it is expected that it will allow site prep – demo, fill, retention wall, et cetera – to begin prior to closing on the property.”

Essentially, the developer, Golden Warriors, was asking the EDA to take on some the risk that is associated with the project, but the EDA’s membership was not as eager to allow the changes to the agreement because of the implications of doing so.

Giesen cited that the project is still a possibility, but that it is “in limbo” due to the platting difficulties, but there have also been other developers expressing interest in the parcel once the city has fully assembled it as a plot.

EDA member Mike Urban said, “My other concerns are . . . we need to know what they are willing to do.”

Giesen replied, “They are willing to do the dirt work, but we don’t have cash sitting around for this. I’m looking for direction – are we on the right path? The goal of redeveloping that land is to make sure we get something there that the city can be proud of.”

EDA member Randy Paulson agreed, “There’s been a lot of work put into this thing. We’re kind of at a point where we have to say, ‘This is where we’re at, and we can’t help any more by taking away risk.’ We’re at where we’re at.”

Giesen related that the project might still have a chance if the plat is in progress. “As long as they can get the dirt work before August to meet TIF laws…the big hang-up is they want to have this built by the end of the year,” he added.

EDA member Sue Keefe observed, “There’s not many other places to put this.”

Giesen said, “They’re the third party to Dollar General. This land belonged to the city, and we stepped in approximately ten years ago when the city bought the property from a private owner. It’s just a matter of finding the right buyer.”

He sought a reading from the EDA’s members. “So the consensus is that we’re not really willing to take that risk – if we have to cover their potential losses, it’s not something we’re willing to do, or ‘Let the chips fall where they may?’ I have some other serious inquiries for that property.”

Paulson acknowledged the Twiford plot’s prime highway frontage, noting it is unavoidably noticeable if someone were to build something there.

Giesen concurred, saying he’d heard from persons again curious about the prospect of developing a hotel in town. “I have people kicking tires on a hotel again, once we get the Twiford project put together, we can see if they can come forward with financiers and finding somebody to operate it. People are worried that the Rochester market might overshadow the market here, but the local people interested are not worried.”

Urban requested that the EDA be supplied with drawings of intended developments if the Dollar General project falls through. “If there’s any way we can have some type of drawing – what’s going in there – that would be nice,” he said.

Giesen verified, “So if we do get a request for special assistance, we have an idea what the aesthetics are?”

Urban answered, “Yep.”

Giesen went on to discuss work to sell lots on Enterprise Drive on Chatfield’s southeast end, pleased to report that there had been a serious offer for full asking price for the commercial property, and that if the EDA felt it was appropriate, he would recommend the sale to the city council for approval. The EDA members were glad to hear the first lot would be sold.

Also, the Chatfield Center for the Arts (CCA) was another topic of discussion as Giesen relayed to the EDA that the state’s legislative session ended without a bonding bill, meaning no monies were disbursed to entities for projects around the state.

He shared there are opportunities for the EDA to apply for grants through the Minnesota House of Representatives, and EDA member Molly Baum stated the CCA was chosen for a few other grants that would aid in maintaining operating costs.

Lastly, Baum raised the subject of whether there could be lots found for the construction of single-level housing without basements, as senior citizens have expressed to him their need for such. Giesen agreed that the few grade-level housing options that have been brought up for permits in recent months have garnered plenty of attention from snowbirds and people looking for lower-maintenance homes. He added that the number of available lots is not as large as those individuals would like, and the need for single-level housing is real as the population ages.