In order to ensure a new housing project can move forward, the city of St. Peter is making something of a map correction.
At a Feb. 16 special meeting, the St. Peter City Council voted to annex properties currently not part of city limits, bringing them into the city’s purview. This action was necessary to allow a sewer line extension to run through the properties; the sewer line will service a proposed new housing complex at Traverse Green.
At Traverse Green, a city-developed subdivision in northwest St. Peter, outside developer Community Asset Development Group, LLC, intends to put up a mixture of multi-family and twin townhomes.
Traverse Green, up to this point, has been a city-led development for single-family homes. Similar to the Washington Terrace and Nicollet Meadows neighborhoods, the city built up the infrastructure and partnered with developers (nonprofit or for profit) to build and sell homes. As homes popped up in those first two neighborhoods, they sold quickly, but it’s been slower going at Traverse Green recently.
“There has been no action on the single-family development,” Wille said. “We have 20 of 59 lots that have been developed (at Traverse Green). Our speculative homes, we sold all three at a loss (in 2020).”
One or two Habitat for Humanity homes will be built in the neighborhood each year, but it’s not enough to fill up the neighborhood at the rate the city would like. With the spec homes not selling at value, rather than moving forward with more spec homes, the city’s Economic Development Authority and City Council are hoping outside developers can take the reins.
The council locked into a development agreement with Community Asset Development Group in 2020. The developer purchased 12.8 acres in the undeveloped part of the neighborhood, and it intends to build 66 multi-family units — a mix of multi-family and twin home townhomes — as part of an apartment structure. A potential second 66-unit structure may also be constructed after the first one is complete.
One hiccup for the city and developer in this project is the building of public services into the project area, specifically sewer lines. The city is obligated to extend the sewer line system to reach the new development area, but along the way, the sewer line would run into property that has not been annexed into city limits.
This is because, in the past, the city has utilized leapfrog development, meaning land has been “jumped” over as city limits have expanded with new development. This has left some holes in the map, where pieces of land, completely surrounded by city limits, are not actually part of city limits.
This meant the city must either come to an agreement with the property owners, or take action to annex the land, take ownership of any needed easement areas and then install the lines. An agreement was unable to be reached with one of the property owners, and so the City Council voted Feb. 16 to begin the annexation and condemnation process.
In all, seven properties will be annexed into city limits. The city only requires easements from two of them, but it makes the most sense, Wille said, to annex them all at once. As part of the annexation agreement, the city will reimburse Traverse Township, where the annexed properties were previously located, about $800 annually over the next three years for lost property tax revenue.
The next step, after the annexation ordinance is officially posted, is to secure the easements from the two properties needed. The city has an agreement in place with one of the property owners at 140% of the appraised value. The other property owner, Wille said, did not agree to similar terms, and if they still do not agree, the city will need to condemn the land and take it over; that’s a court action that can take about 90 days, but the city will be allowed to move forward before the action is complete.
When the easements are secured, the city can build the sewer line, ensuring the Traverse Green project can go forward and be properly serviced. The land will then be returned to its original state, with the sewer line buried in the ground.