While Owatonna City Council members came prepared to discuss a proposal to use property tax dollars to demolish a dilapidated building and help develop the site for a 36-unit apartment building, a pair of residents had other ideas.
Julie Moe, who’s owned a home two doors down from the former Cashman’s Nursery since 1984, questioned the council and city staff Tuesday about how the city planned to handle the additional runoff and traffic on the residential street and why she and her neighbors weren’t told of the project.
“How can you do that with a neighborhood that is well established? she asked, adding that a single-story complex was preferable to the two-story structure that’s planned.
Community Development Director Troy Klecker explained that property owners are generally permitted use their properties as they desire so long as they follow city ordinances. In this case, the 1.4-acre Mound Street property is zoned commercial. City ordinances allow commercial properties to be used for multi-family housing like apartment buildings, so a notification wasn’t required.
The project still has a ways to go before demolition of the concrete structure can begin. According to Klecker, a development agreement which needs to be filed and approved will detail the developer, Schrom Construction’s, plans, including one for stormwater. That plan, he noted, needs to be followed.
But that didn’t satisfy Ryan Noble, whose property backs up to Moe’s. He, too, didn’t like the idea of a two-story structure, fearing apartment dwellers’ “prying eyes (would be) in my backyard.”
He questioned how the city’s infrastructure wouldn’t support the multi-family building, and worried that the site would contain hazardous waste and that the structure set for demolition would contain asbestos. How, he asked, would the city ensure residents’ safety if those concerns materialized?
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regulates contaminated sites and asbestos removal. If either were found, MPCA guidelines would need to be followed, said Klecker.
The council, over residents’ concerns, unanimously approved the use of tax increment financing to help pay for demolition of the existing building and site development costs.
During a May council meeting, Klecker said that despite this apartment project and another underway, the demand for housing in the city continues.
“The last housing study we did was three years ago and currently indicates a higher need than what we’ve put up,” he said, adding that a new housing study is begin done. “We will have the first draft of the new study in the next couple of weeks, but our need for apartment housing is going to be much more than the previous study we are using, but we still haven’t hit those demand numbers in the previous one.”