By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN A number of people with an interest in a proposed utility sharing agreement between the City of Delano and the City of Independence spoke at a public hearing Thursday night conducted by the City of Delano at the Delano City Hall.
In September, the City of Independence received a request for a land use change to have the area northeast of the County Line Road/Highway 12 intersection rezoned from residential agriculture to urban commercial.
“A guide change is being requested to accommodate a retail development,” Delano City Administrator Phil Kern said. Plans are in the works for a commercial development on the 23 acres of land, which would include 160,000 square feet of retail space, anchored by a 120,000-square-foot “big box” store, most likely Target. Along with this land use change comes a potential utility sharing agreement between the two cities to provide necessary utilities to the site.
Kern said over the past seven years, the City of Delano has been working with the developer, Twin Cities-based Ryan Companies, to look at sites in Delano for a possible retail development. In 2002-03, sites in the area of Delano Crossings were looked at, specifically between Ridgeview Delano Clinic and State Bank of Delano along Highway 12 (where True Value Hardware is presently being built). Kern said that site was not large enough for the big box store, and nothing came of it.
In 2003-04, Kern said the city again began talks with Ryan Companies about the area south of Highway 12 where Cemstone is located. This site would have required the relocation of Cemstone.
In 2005-06, discussions took place about development on the west side of Delano. However, a major housing development proposed in that area did not happen, and the big box store was not interested in that site.
In 2007, Tony Barranco of Ryan Companies approached the city again looking for a site for the development, and looked at land in the area of Wright County Roads 16 and 30 (south of the Country Mall). This site proved problematic for the user due to floodplain issues and surrounding residential homes. Since that area didn’t appear to be a viable option, Ryan Companies proceeded with the site in neighboring Independence.
‘It truly is a Delano store for a lot of reasons,’ developer says
Barranco, who works with Ryan Companies’ retail department, was present at the meeting, and discussed some details of the proposed project.
“It’s a very neat project because, despite the fact this is a project that will service the western metro cities including Maple Plain and Independence, it truly is a Delano store for a lot of reasons,” Barranco said, adding that Ryan Companies is looking to Delano to provide assistance with utilities and design.
“We would be held to the same or better design standards of any building that would be built in your town,” Barranco said.
Barranco echoed Kern’s statements that Ryan Companies has been looking at different options in Delano for some time, “knowing there are a number of needs on a retail side in your community.”
“Looking at sites west of town was just not well-received by the retail marketplace,” Barranco added, leading into the proposed plan on 23 acres in Independence. He touched on the stormwater drainage issue that had been a concern for some in attendance, saying there will a stormwater retention pond on the northern part of the site, which will sit north of where the anchor store is positioned.
“For most of the site, water flow will flow from south to north to be handled in that pond,” he said.
Barranco said this is the first of many public meetings that will take place in both communities, and said, at best, construction would begin on the site in spring or summer of 2010.
“At best, based on the best guess we have today, we would be opening the doors on the anchor center in the spring or summer of 2011,” Barranco said. “Being the end of 2008, we’ve got a lot of time to plan and get things organized to get things right as we go . . . there will be times for public input throughout the process.”
Barranco said Ryan Companies has worked with Target on a number of other stores in the metro area, including Medina, Monticello, Maple Grove, Apple Valley, and Richfield.
Seven key issues facing Delano city officials
After Barranco’s presentation, Kern said there are seven key issues city staff has been talking about over the past months to see what this project will mean for Delano.
Part of this is determining what impact it will have, trying to analyze whether this is a good decision for the City of Delano or not, and what protections are needed in order to protect the city to make it stronger as a community and business climate if Delano goes ahead to provide utilities for the project, Kern said.
The first of the seven issues is providing water and sewer service to the site, and making sure the city can do it without strain on the existing utilities. In doing this, the developer would have to grant appropriate easements for maintenance and upkeep. The city also wants to be able to continue independent operation of its utilities without interference or regulation by the Metropolitan Council.
“Delano, being in Wright County, currently is outside of the Metropolitan Council,” Kern said. “We can operate our utilities, we can make land use changes independent of them, and the key part of any agreement would be the continuation of that that we would remain independent, and our involvement in this project would not subject us to additional regulation from the Met Council.”
In addition to providing sewer and water, Kern said a second issue would be impacts on other public infrastructure, including transportation and stormwater.
“There’s going to be impacts on us simply beyond water and sewer,” Kern said. “That’s something we recognize and need to account for.”
Kern said the developer would be responsible for all public infrastructure construction/upgrades related to the project. A significant amount of traffic for the retail site would use an entrance at County Line Road and St. Peter Avenue, so any upgrades needed to that intersection would be at the developer’s expense.
The third issue, which Barranco addressed in his presentation, is the quality of design/construction. The city also wants to be able to approve any additions or expansions to the site.
“Obviously, the location of the site is within the City of Independence,” Kern said. “However, realistically, it’s on the Delano border, and to most folks passing to or from the Cities, it’s an extension of the City of Delano.”
The fourth issue is future development beyond the proposed area. As of right now, there has not been commercial development on the city’s eastern border. If Delano extends its sewer and water into the west side of Independence for this development, the city wants to have control over any further development in that area.
“Ultimately, if the community feels this project would hurt the business community as a whole, it likely wouldn’t make sense to do it,” Kern said, noting the additional traffic a development like this could provide for existing retail.
“We want to be careful and make sure that the future development beyond this in Independence, however, isn’t done at the expense of Delano’s existing land supply and our existing commercial shopping areas,” Kern continued.
Kern also noted the fifth issue is the potential for unsewered development expansion.
“We want to make sure there is no unsewered development in the immediate area surrounding this and further down Highway 12,” Kern said.
The sixth issue is the concern that Delano is “made whole” for the provision of services, as well as making sure Delano is not putting its own utility system under unnecessary stress.
“Our residents, our businessowners have made significant investments in our infrastructure in town,” Kern said, noting the water tower and water treatment plant, as well as the utilities that were recently done in conjunction with the Highway 12 construction project.
The final issue is the compensation to Delano for other impacts associated with the project.
“With this project, we do recognize and understand there are going to be some municipal services Delano provides as part of this development,” Kern said. “Therefore, we have asked Independence to provide a portion of the tax revenues from the project to help compensate Delano for the services it’s providing to assist with the development project.”
Kern said this is something that remains under discussion at this time. It is expected a draft agreement will be presented to the Delano City Council at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 16.
As for the next steps the City of Delano needs to take, Kern said comments on the land use request are due back to Independence by Dec. 28.
At a meeting in October, the Independence City Council approved the land use request, and adjacent cities are allowed 60 days to review the request before it is sent on to the Metropolitan Council for consideration.
The public speaks about the issue
Delano City Council Member Brad Hotchkiss, filling in for Mayor Joe McDonald and Mayor pro-tem Holly Schrupp, who were absent from the meeting, opened the public hearing and asked people wishing to speak to keep opinions to three minutes.
“We don’t want to turn this into a full-scale debate on whether yes or no, but we do want to hear your opinions,” Hotchkiss said.
Delano resident Harlan Lewis asked a question about the timeline, and talked about this land use amendment being made to Independence’s existing comprehensive plan versus its new one not yet approved by the Metropolitan Council.
Kern said the City of Delano is simply responding to the request from Independence, and said it has 60 days to do so.
Ed Briesemeister of Delano said he felt the plan hasn’t been studied carefully enough.
“I don’t see where it does anything for the people that live in Delano now currently, or will live in Delano in the coming years,” he said. “I don’t see where it does anything for the businesses of Delano.”
Dale Vander Linden of Delano made a comment about the existing comprehensive plan, and also talked about the new 30-year comprehensive plan that showed for 30 additional acres of development south of Highway 12 and east of County Line Road, and wanted to make sure the council puts enough consideration into that area, as well.
George Johnson of Delano said the solution to the issue as a whole is that Ryan Companies needs to ask to have the property annexed into the City of Delano.
“If Ryan Companies has not asked to be annexed by Delano, this is the direction it needs to go,” Johnson said. “No one’s even discussed this.”
Delano City Council Member Larry Bartels said this concept had been discussed internally, and said it doesn’t appear to be a realistic possibility. Johnson asked Bartels, “Why?” To which Bartels responded, “state law.”
Johnson said he knows annexation has taken place within the Metropolitan Council area, and wondered if it had something to do with crossing county lines. Bartels asked Johnson to present case law that showed him where this had been done in the past.
Kern said state statute does not allow a city to annex from another city without a resolution from both cities approving it.
“The city attorney has advised us, unless there is a concurring resolution from the City of Independence and a request from the landowner, we cannot annex the land,” Kern said.
Johnson asked if Ryan Companies had asked for that, and Kern said it had not.
Mike Day, who lives south of Delano, came to the podium and expressed concern that there were already a number of Target stores in the area, and asked why another one would be wanted here.
Steve Godbold, representing Coborn’s, said the city needs to look at the ultimate impacts to the City of Delano’s business community, and said, in this situation, Independence reaps long-term benefits of the project. He also asked for more specifics on what the big box store was going to house. Barranco said there will be some groceries in the store, but it will not be a full-service grocery store.
Barranco also touched on the job market, and said this development will bring in close to 200 jobs to the area.
“There will be additional growth around this business that will bring in more jobs, more property tax revenue, and other benefits mainly coming to the Delano side,” Barranco said. “I think the benefits both are short and long term to Delano. I feel good about bringing the project forward.”
Tim Bury of Delano said he hopes the city takes its time to look into this and think the issue through. He said the Target store will compete with some goods and services that Delano already provides.
“Think it through,” Bury said.
Independence resident Tom Nelson said he appreciated Delano hosting the public forum and taking comments from residents. He said he is opposed to the project, and does not see Independence on the winning end of the spectrum.
“If Delano wants a Target, I would think there’s other places within Delano you could put it,” Nelson said. “As far as the jobs are concerned, I don’t know what they pay, but I’m sure there aren’t too many six-figure jobs that would allow people to live in Independence and work at Target.”
Chris Coborn, the president and CEO of Coborn’s, spoke about the restrictions of a liquor operation, and said while the city is essentially limiting competition for its municipal Delano Wine and Spirits, located in Delano Crossings, it doesn’t seem willing to ask for other limitations such as grocery items.
Other comments were made about whether or not a competing big box business could develop that same area with a well and septic system, essentially not utilizing Delano for any services.
Kern said there is another big box store that has no problem going well and septic in the rural areas, but said that the City of Delano and the Metropolitan Council would likely oppose that.
Barranco noted the City of Independence has asked Ryan Companies to explore the well and septic option, as well as explore the possibility of getting utilities from Greenfield.
“Certainly there are ways both public and private it would work,” he said, noting there are about 20 stores within the Target system that have private well and septic systems, but said this isn’t the best situation, and that they would rather work with a city like Delano that has available infrastructure to provide utilities.
Another resident asked if it was yet known the identities of any additional tenants in the development complex if it’s approved. It was noted at this time, no specific identities were known, but that some could include a sit-down family restaurant, bank, or office supply store.
Tom Screeden of Delano strongly encouraged the council to make sure drainage issues and water flow are studied carefully for the project if it moves forward.
More comments about competition, fire/police protection, public opinion, restrictions, and development to the west were heard by the council members in attendance before the meeting adjourned.
Delano’s Planning Commission will review the request from the City of Independence for the land use change at its meeting Monday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Delano City Hall.
The topic is also expected to be reviewed for consideration at the next regular Delano City Council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Delano City Hall.