Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, July 29, 2002

Bank, clinic project moves forward in HL

By Lynda Jensen

A stately new colonnade-style bank complex will grace the center of Howard Lake along Highway 12 following site plans approved by the Howard Lake City Council last Monday.

The plans tentatively include a new Ridgeview Clinic housed with a new Security State Bank project, as well as a coffee shop inside of the foyer area.

Ridgeview officials expressed enthusiasm for it, saying that a final agreement with all the details between the bank and the clinic will be made concrete in 30 days.

"We're very excited about it," commented Ridgeview President Bob Stevens said. "The discussions are going very well."

"We have an agreement in principle on a number of terms," commented Security State Bank President John Forstrom.

The bank and clinic architects have been working together to come up with a suitable arrangement, which includes a 10-year lease, with two successive five-year renewals, Forstrom said.

Ridgeview is very specific about what its needs are for the look and platform of the new clinic, Forstrom commented. "We meet and exceed those needs," he said.

In turn, the city is waiting for the project to go through, since it stands to collect more tax increment financing revenue if the clinic joins the project.

Construction crews should start Sept.

Construction of the complex is planned to begin late September. There is a great deal of grading work to be done in the parking lot area because of the slope of the land, Forstrom said.

Most of the construction will be done during winter, pending the weather. This is possible because there will be no basement at the site, because the water table is too high and the soil was determined to be poor.

To solve this, it was decided to make the bank itself a two-story structure, he said.

The bank hopes to be completed as early as August 2003, pending good weather and other factors Forstrom said.

In addition to the soil issues, about four tanks were found from a gas station that used to be located at the site formerly occupied by Milo's, along with other soil contamination that is usually associated with former gas station sites. The gas station existed in the 1950s and 60s.

Ninety percent of the clean up from the old gas station comes from the state Super Fund, which is designed to clean up former gas station sites, since so many of them left behind contamination such as that at the bank site, according to Howard Lake City Administrator Kelly Bahn.

A long wait

Construction of the complex will end a long, complicated project which sustained delays on many levels, Forstrom said.

Even though the bank's lot has stood empty for several months, there has been a great deal of behind-the-scenes work, Forstrom said.

Construction of banks are generally highly regulated on both state and federal levels; therefore many inspections and loads of paper work was required, he said.

Since the bank and city both hoped to incorporate the clinic into its arrangement, the bank naturally had to accommodate Ridgeview's schedule, Forstrom said.

Ridgeview did not expect to expand in Howard Lake, and have other projects in the works for construction of two new clinics closer to the Twin Cities.

Another delay was clean up of the contamination of the building site, he said.

Xcel Energy is also being contacted to remove its utility poles from the site, which may be another delay, he said.

Council carefully OKs bank site plans

The council carefully reviewed the site plans last Monday, gingerly moving the project forward.

The council approved and denied variances for the bank's site plan, contingent upon additional changes made by the city.

The plans detail a structure with 20,700 square feet on 1.82 acres. There will be about 75 parking spaces, with 40 designated for the bank, and 35 for the clinic.

The bank building itself will be two stories high and encompass 15,900 square feet, with the clinic taking up 3,000 square feet, and an entry of 1,800 square feet.

The entry way is expected to have a coffee shop or deli with a sitting area.

The bank went to great lengths to secure a local operator for the coffee shop business, but the numbers did not work out, even if the bank waived its rent for the foyer space, Forstrom said.

This was a disappointment, but the bank wished to keep the coffee shop idea, and therefore decided to go along with a franchised coffee shop that could make it a profitable venture, he said.

During the meeting, the council discussed the site plans in detail.

The council denied a variance request to waive the screening requirement for commercial use adjoining a residential area by allowing landscaping in lieu of a fence, but allowed a retaining wall to be part of the six-foot dimension. This was spurred by the objection of a resident from the south, Bahn said.

Also, Bahn objected to the design, saying that it paid little to no attention to pedestrian movement and hindered downtown by putting parking in the front of the building.

To address this, the bank offered to install an additional sidewalk.

The council approved the following variances:

· to reduce the minimum front yard setback for the parking lot from 10 to five feet.

· to reduce the minimum setback requirement for a commercial property adjacent to a residential district from 30 to 10 feet.

· to vary the parking requirement from 200 to 300 feet of gross floor space of the bank portion of the development.

· approved the request to vary the parking stall length from 20 to 18 feet for the stalls directly adjacent to the building.

In addition, the bank must satisfy several points brought up by Bahn regarding its site plan:

· the freestanding signs located at each entrance need to be set back five feet.

· the three-foot required buffer on the north property line needs a two foot setback.

· The request to replace the required six-foot high screening fence with landscaping is not shown on this plan as well as the six-foot high screening fence along the properly line to the south. A two foot setback is also required for this fence.

· If the 10-foot variance is granted, the six-foot setback on the south lot line must be increased to a 10 foot setback.

· A 20-foot setback for the clinic parking must be shown instead of 19 foot and 9 inches.

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