Feb. 26, 2007

Forecast: clear sailing for Trophy Lake Estates

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

What a difference a couple of weeks can make.

The last time Trophy Lake Estates developer Grant Hustad met with representatives from New Germany and Hollywood Township, the future of the project appeared to be shrouded in a cloud of controversy.

At issue were compensation requested by the township for loss of tax revenue, and differences between Hustad’s proposal for private utility systems within the project and recommendations from the city engineer.

Those issues appear to have been resolved in a series of negotiations since that time, and the mood at Tuesday’s New Germany City Council meeting was one of constructive optimism.

Hustad said he met with the Hollywood Township boaard and worked out a compensation agreement that both parties can live with.

Hollywood Township supervisors Kent Kassulker and Ron Kassulker confirmed that after a meeting that lasted until nearly midnight, they reached an agreement.

Hustad said that in addition to the annexation fees, he had sought the township’s support for his request to get the 160-acre parcel north of New Germany removed from agriculture preserve prior to 2009.

The township board did not object to this.

Hustad said that it had been agreed to move the annexation process further back in the process, and the township had agreed to turn over planning and zoning for the parcel to the city prior to annexation.

The second major issue was between Hustad and the City of New Germany.

Hustad stated at the Feb. 6 council meeting that his plans for the project included privately-owned sewer and water systems, including a pressurized sewer system with a grinder pump in each residence.

City Engineer Sheila DeWolf strongly objected to this proposal, on the grounds that it would mean that the city would be giving up control of a portion of city services.

DeWolf said the city would still be responsible for fixing the system if there were a problem, and added that whatever system is installed will have to be compatible with the rest of the city sewer system.

DeWolf has been working on a regional sewer plan that would make sense for the city.

DeWolf and City Planner Ann Perry met with Hustad prior to Tuesday’s meeting, and after they explained the city’s position, Hustad agreed with their recommendations.

“They made their point clear about why they wanted the systems done that way. That was a big hurdle for us, but we can make it work,” Hustad commented.

DeWolf will design the sewer and water system for the project, and the systems will be owned by the city.

Hustad will be responsible for the cost of extending sewer and water to the site, and the city will pay for any over-sizing that is needed to accommodate future development.

DeWolf said the city could issue a 20-year Chapter 429 bond for the sewer and water expansion, and for upgrading 62nd Street, which borders the Trophy Lake property, to a rural section road.

DeWolf estimated the cost of the improvements to be about $2.6 million.

The bond would be assessed to the Trophy Lake Estates development and the Black Forest Estates development, which are the benefiting properties.

This would mean that Hustad would not need to pay for the improvements in advance, and it would allow the city to maintain control of city services.

The process would also require a feasibility study, and DeWolf said that Hustad would be responsible for the $5,000 cost of the study.

One element that has not been resolved is Hustad’s request to get the project removed from agriculture preserve prior to 2009.

All parties agreed that this would be a long shot.

Black Forest Estates developer Sam Montgomery said he didn’t believe that there has ever been a property in Minnesota that has come out of agriculture preserve early.

Hustad said he understands this, and he is planning for the worst case scenario.

He added that he thinks the Trophy Lake project is unique, because it will include aquaculture in the form of harvesting fish eggs, and this will continue even after the project comes out of agriculture preserve.

He said he has sent a formal letter to a state senator and representative requesting that the property be removed from the program early.

Mayor Pete Pederson reminded Hustad that the city’s new treatment plant is not expected to be operational until the end of 2008.

Hustad said it would help him if he could get approval for a few sewer hookups the first year (assuming that he is able to proceed prior to 2009).

DeWolf said that will be up to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Council Member Steve VanLith cautioned that there is no guarantee that any new hookups would be approved prior to the new plant opening.

Hustad said he is proceeding based on the assumption that he will not be able to get the property out of agricultural preserve early.

Utility project update

Moving on to other matters, DeWolf said that work on the new well has been started.

She stated that the contractor had hoped that the foundation for the new water tower would be started in February, but due to recent cold weather, this will not happen until March.

This will not affect the overall schedule for the project, since other parts of the project were not scheduled to start until May, DeWolf said.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• heard from VanLith that the fire department used a DNR grant to purchase a new rescue saw for $1,491.

• heard from Sewer and Water Superintendent Bob Roepke that he spoke to the city engineer who is working on plans for the new sewer plant, and she hopes that the city will be able to request bids for the project by the end of March.

• directed staff to get a quote for the repair of floor drains in the city hall basement.

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