Council approves Field Street assessments, building-plan changes

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by Dave DeMars

With the minimum quorum of three, the St. Joseph City Council approved changes Oct. 24 in the Southview Heights Concept Plan, approved changes in the Bayou Alley Flats building plans and held a special hearing on the final assessments for Field Street.

Field Street 

The council held a public hearing on the final assessments for the Field Street project. The project is complex in that it abuts several properties that are located in the township. Because of that, assessment costs for work done on the street must be deferred until that property is annexed into the city. Added to that complexity is the fact some property owners object to amounts and the way in which the city is going about the task of assessing the properties.

In his slide show presentation to the council, City Engineer Randy Sabart took the council through the cost projections, which initially were $2.9 million but final projected costs have been cut substantially to $2.1 million.

The city also receives some compensation from the state, about $1.6 million, but the compensation needs to be used for several street projects throughout the city. As it is, about 59 percent of the $1.6 million will be used for Field Street. The rest of the costs are covered by bonds issued by the city.

Included in the final assessment costs are blacktopping of streets, storm sewer, trunk-and-lateral water mains and sanitary sewer, and various soft costs such as consultant fees, and engineering and legal fees.

The city, as required by law, is meeting with property owners in the township to lay the groundwork for a time when the annexation into the city occurs. At that time the city will be able to be compensated for the work performed. Until that time, the assessments are deferred. The aim of meeting with the property owners is to have written agreements with regard to the assessments before the process gets too far removed from the present.

The council passed the Field Street Final Assessment resolution unanimously.

Southview Heights

The St. Joseph Planning Commission had recommended the council approve changes in the Planned-Unit Development of the Southview Heights building project located at 20th Avenue SE on the site of the old Del-Win Ballroom. The area is zoned R-3. Originally the plan called for the development of a 56-unit apartment complex, but KJ Development, after consulting with project designers, opted to develop the site in a different way. Units on site would be primarily rental in nature.

The changes will allow for 14 duplexes and four six-plex buildings on the six-acre site. It would be a mixture of two- and three-bedroom homes with two-car garages, as well as 25-foot driveways, some additional parking and rain gardens. Internal driveways and utilities for the units would be private and maintained separately by the owners.

The changes will decrease the overall unit density. The plans would necessitate some modification to existing zoning requirements. For example, rear setbacks for units would be reduced from 50 feet to 30 feet. Side-yard setbacks would be reduced from 50 to 30 feet and high-water level setbacks would be reduced from 70 to 50 feet.

Council member Troy Goracke expressed his concerns about safety issues related to access by emergency vehicles. Ted Schmidt from Lumber One represented the owners of the development and explained it would be a series of duplexes and six-plexes that would be private and maintained by the owners of the property to include the streets and internal roadways.

The council approved the requested changes in plans.

Bayou Alley Flats 

John Petters, a developer involved with the Bayou Alley Flats project, requested a change to the proposed PUD to allow for three residential units (a total of 2,300-square feet) to be built on the street level of the building. The original PUD for the project called for a three-story mixed-use building with 100-percent commercial development at the street level. Residential and office suites would occupy the second floor and the third floor would be all residential. Parking and garages would be in the rear of the building.

Petters is requesting the change because there has been an increased interest in residential rental and only moderate interest in development of more commercial space. The council received two emails commenting on the proposed changes. Neither objected to the changes proposed, but both warned because La Playette bar was in close proximity, there would be a good deal of noise and loud music, so it would not be ideal for some types of residents.

“I state this because in the past there have been some occupants and a letter from him (Petters) in regards to noise coming from the bar in the past,” wrote Peg Zimmer, the owner. “My late husband, myself, and the new owners (Shawn and Ann Reisner) experience unneeded frustrations from residential occupants and (Petters) from his Millstreams Shops and Lofts development.”

Petters addressed the council and further clarified the changes in the project. The council approved the amendment to the original PUD, then went on to approve changes to the tax-increment-financing resolution originally approved in 2014.

Other business

● The council received a short briefing from City Administrator Judy Weyrens on the proposed new zoning ordinance Stearns County is looking to enact. The new zoning would allow for the building of industrial projects and commercial projects to be built in townships without the infrastructure the city is required to provide. Weyrens urged the council to take a stance on the proposal. The proposal would allow townships to establish industrial parks in the middle of what is a rural area. The concern was especially related to how such a zoning proposal would impact small cities such as St. Joseph that are required to provide infrastructure. Townships would be exempt from that requirement giving them a price advantage in development. A request has already been received to establish a site at CR 6 near Jeff’s Auto Body.

The county will hold a public hearing Nov. 14 to gather input from the public.

photo by Dave DeMars
Ted Schmidt of Lumber One in Avon represented KJ Construction, the company doing the work on the Southview Heights Project. Schmidt explained to the council how the initial Planned-Unit Development for the area where the Del-Win ballroom once stood is changing from a 56-unit apartment complex to one of duplexes and six-plexes.

photo by Dave DeMars Resident Kevin Kluesner studies figures related to the Field Street Assessment before posing a question to the council at the Field Street Final Assessment public hearing Oct. 24.

Author: Dave DeMars

Born and raised in Wisconsin – a “Happy Days” high school experience. Attended UW-River Falls and followed their motto – “Where the free spirit prevails.” Four years in the Army Security Agency (Spies), 31 years teaching English and directing plays. Other jobs – gandy dancer, counselor at mental institution, snowmaker, apple picker, concrete finishing, janitor, furniture mover, appliance sales, insurance sales, media sales, real estate, and writer. I am skeptical to a fault and like all human being I am more oxymoron than I am anything else. I blog at

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