Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Good news, bad news on harbor town home project

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 7/19/17

TOWER— It was a good news, bad news harbor committee meeting here on Monday, as officials from the city of Tower and representatives of Tower Vision 2025 worked to iron out final details of a …

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Good news, bad news on harbor town home project

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TOWER— It was a good news, bad news harbor committee meeting here on Monday, as officials from the city of Tower and representatives of Tower Vision 2025 worked to iron out final details of a planned town home development.

The good news is the project is moving forward, although it likely won’t meet the developers’ original goal to begin construction by October, and that could push the project start-up to spring of 2018. Meanwhile, real estate broker Mark Ludlow told the committee that he’s gotten “overwhelming” response in the two weeks since erecting a billboard advertising the project near Tower’s west entrance. “We’ve gotten a lot of inquiries. Serious inquiries,” he said. Ludlow said most prospective buyers are looking for more details, such as the monthly fees of the homeowners association and the cost of slip rental at the harbor. The Tower City Council approved the slip rental fees last week, setting the rate at $875 per season. Jeremy Schoenfelder, Tower Vision’s master developer, said that was the last detail for the homeowners association agreement, which he expected to have complete as of mid-week.

That was supposed to have been the last remaining hurdle before Tower Vision could legally begin signing purchase agreements with buyers of the townhomes. Under real estate rules, they’ve only been able to sign letters of intent up to this point.

But City Engineer Matt Bolf raised a new potential delay on Monday— the time it will take for St. Louis County to process a new plat for the project. The plat will identify the 20 lots where the townhomes will be built, along with easements for the road and possibly for utilities. Until the plat is completed and approved, which Bolf said could take up to eight weeks, Tower Vision won’t have legally-described access to the site or legal descriptions for the individual lots. Schoenfelder said those items will be needed to finalize purchase agreements and obtain the bank financing contingent on the agreements.

“If you want purchase agreements, I have to have all this in place,” said Schoenfelder.

And the city has indicated it won’t approve final site design and the preparation of permit applications and bidding documents for the infrastructure until at least five purchase agreements are approved. That means the city likely won’t be submitting permit applications before late summer or fall, and Bolf said the turnaround for permit approval could take several more weeks, possibly longer for the wetlands impact permit.

Schoenfelder discussed the possibility of phasing the project, to allow Tower Vision to start construction of the first two sets of town homes, which don’t entail wetlands impact. Bolf said that could be possible, but would likely increase the risks and costs for both the city and the developer. Bolf also noted that such an approach would require the city to handle its end of the project with the $350,000 of IRRRB funds currently dedicated for the project infrastructure. The city plans to bond or possibly TIF for the remaining infrastructure costs, but city officials indicate they’ll only bond one time for the project, rather than in phases, which would otherwise increase their bonding costs.

Mayor Josh Carlson said the city won’t bond until they know the entire project is a go, not just a portion of it. Bolf said there is still a risk that a wetlands permit could be denied, which could force the developers to modify the project and possibly reduce the number of town homes to 18. Bolf noted that the city has to demonstrate the need for the wetlands impact although he said he feels the city has done a good job of that, which improves the odds of obtaining the wetlands permit.

At the same time, Bolf noted that both the developers and the city will need to undertake additional soil borings in the area to determine whether the wetlands slated for filling will actually support the planned development. Both parties suggested they coordinate that activity to save money.

Kringstad said he’s anxious to get actual construction underway and that the contractors who will build the town homes had anticipated getting a shell up before the snow flies to allow them to work through the winter. Ludlow agreed that getting underway is important to help complete potential sales. “If we can get these things started,” said Ludlow, “the interest is there.”

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