Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 28, 2000

New housing developments closer to reality for LP

By Jane Otto

Census 2010 might report a significant population jump for Lester Prairie if events go the way Laurie Karnes would like.

Karnes, a broker for Land for Sale, Inc., gave a presentation on potential development strategies for both the Krienke property and the Wroge property at last Monday's joint meeting of the Lester Prairie City Council and the Lester Prairie School Board at city hall.

Karnes contracted with the city in July to sell the remaining lots in Prairie Meadows and to find developers for areas in and around Lester Prairie. She has done just that.

Ads for Prairie Meadows have generated the most interest from potential buyers living in Minneapolis. Karnes said that she is also working on selling the lots to builders who are interested in building on the Wroge property.

Enterprise Development Company of Minnetonka has a purchase agreement in place for 95 acres of the Wroge property. The land sits on McLeod County Road 9 directly south of Lesters.

Karnes said that surveying and engineering work is in progress. David Segal, owner of Enterprise, still needs to submit a subdivision plan to the planning commission. If the approval process goes quickly, Segal hopes to break ground this fall, said Karnes.

The Wroge property would be developed in phases, with the first phase being townhomes, and the bulk of the land for single family homes.

"Houses will be aimed at young families; families who will be involved with the school district. As their income grows, then so does their need for 'move-up' housing," said Karnes. "A move-up housing market comes later."

Karnes pointed out that Lester Prairie's comprehensive plan states a need for affordable housing.

Affordable housing is also what she has in mind for the Krienke property, which sits on the northeast side of County Road 9 and 185th Street. Mike Schraeder, a developer of manufactured home communities, is very interested in the Krienke property.

"He has a completely different product," said Karnes. "It's manufactured housing on 7,500 square-foot lots with a lot of green space."

She provided the council and board with pictures and information on his latest development, Woodhaven in St. Francis. Karnes said it had sold out in a year.

Schraeder, she said, requires home owners to sign a covenant, which is basically designed to keep the riff-raff out and the properties up to snuff.

When speaking of manufactured homes, people often think of trailer parks. Karnes said that the notion of manufactured homes needs to change.

She estimated that about 250 homes would sit on 53 acres, which is where the soybean field is now.

Resident Ed Mylnar, who was instrumental in acquiring Karnes, expressed concern about that large a number of houses on such small acreage. He said that the ideal was three houses per acre. Karnes replied that these are 7,500 square-foot lots and averages to be about 4.6 homes per acre.

Karnes also estimated that the 250 homes "adds up to about 86 school kids." That could be good news to a school district that is struggling to keep its enrollment up.

Before any development can happen, Karnes said that there are a few hurdles to overcome. One is that the land needs to be annexed to the city. A second, and biggest hurdle, is getting water and sewer lines to the property. The city would be faced with that issue regardless of who develops the property.

The Krienke property is listed as commercial in the comprehensive plan and would need to be zoned residential, said Karnes.

Council member Larry Hoof assured Karnes that the comprehensive plan "is not etched in stone." He also reminded Karnes that the land doesn't belong to the city and that the zoning issue could be addressed if annexed.

Another issue would be 250 homes with access onto a county road, said council member Rose Halloran. That would require county involvement as to whether or not the road would have to be upgraded to handle the traffic, she said.

Mayor Eric Angvall asked, "Once over these hurdles, what is the time-frame?"

"Next spring," was Karnes reply.

"Schraeder wants to know how you feel before he enters into an agreement with Krienke. He's looking for direction from the council before he opens his checkbook," Karnes said.

The council, possibly stunned, didn't respond immediately. After all, it was only in May, at the last joint meeting, that Angvall told the school board that it could take three to five years before development comes the way of Lester Prairie.

Karnes said, "He (Schraeder) came highly recommended and is very well respected by his peers in the development community."

Council member Ron Foust asked if a second developer was contacted.

"I start with the best," Karnes said. "My strategy isn't to get 10 developers beating themselves over the head. The tendency is, then, to walk away."

School board member Fred Blaser asked if they could get a list of developments Schraeder has completed.

Following up on that, Mylnar suggested that a committee be formed to visit three different Schraeder locations that were built at different times.

Mylnar said, "Another thought is - do you get manufactured homes now, or do you wait and get more expensive homes later?"

"I see this (Schraeder's development) as a way to serve the comprehensive plan," replied Karnes.

Karnes added that she was aware that the city had applied for grants for the acreage Krienke has set aside for a nature park. She said that she would suggest to the developer purchasing the park area and then, possibly donating it to the city.

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