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Two projects totaling $19 million get green light from city

Financial plans for two huge projects - one for housing and another for recreation - received approval from the Alexandria City Council Monday night.

The Legacy of Alexandria, a 116-unit multi-family apartment complex proposed along 34th Avenue just south of the Bridgewater Estates, will get tax increment financing (TIF) to help pay for the $10.3 million project.

The council also cleared the way for the Alexandria Area YMCA to receive a $6 million industrial development bond for its $8.9 million project. The YMCA plans to use the bonds to bridge the gap between pledge collection and pledge commitment.

Here's a closer look at both projects:

The Legacy

Developers of The Legacy are planning to build the complex in two phases - 61 units with groundbreaking this fall, followed by a 55-unit phase in the summer or fall of 2009.

The project is expected to increase the market value of the property from $181,300 to roughly $8.8 million.

With TIF, property taxes are frozen at the current amount for a specified period of time, in this case, 13 years, while the property is improved. The difference between the old and new tax, the increment, is used to help pay for certain parts of the project.

For The Legacy project (formerly known as INH), the increment is estimated at $97,424 per year. The city would receive 10 percent of that for administrative fees.

Because it is a housing TIF, 20 percent of the apartment units must be rented to households whose incomes are 50 percent or less of the Douglas County median gross income. This means that 24 units per year must be rented by low-income families.

The apartments are described as high-quality one, two and three-bedroom units starting at $750 a month rent. Twenty percent of the units are earmarked for lower income renters.

The property was also rezoned from Residential-2 to Residential-3.

The council held a public hearing to get input on the TIF request but no one spoke. It voted 4-0 to approve the TIF.

Alexandria Area YMCA

The YMCA plans to use the city's bonding authority to receive $6 million in industrial development bonds (IDB) to build a recreation facility, health and wellness center and child care center.

The property is located on County Road 82 and will include 56,000 square-feet to house a warm-water pool, gym, cardiovascular workout and free-weights area, and child care facilities (Young People's Place).

The YMCA plans to break ground on October 1 and open the facility in September of 2009.

The city won't incur any costs by serving as the bonding authority. In fact, it will receive $20,000 in bond fees.

The council amended the city's IDB policy to allow recreational projects to receive the bonds.

The council also approved YMCA's preliminary bond application and set a public hearing for Monday, September 8 at 7:15 p.m. at City Hall.

In other action Monday night, the council:

--Was informed by City Attorney John Lervick that the city is being sued by Helgeson Brothers Partnership.

The company owns agricultural land off the northwest runway of the Alexandria Airport in a clear zone that is deemed unbuildable.

The company wants the city to allow them to develop the land or to purchase it through condemnation proceedings.

The city has hired a Twin Cities law firm that specializes in airport zoning law to defend the lawsuit. The cost is being picked up through the League of Minnesota Cities. Alexandria is a member of the league.

--Approved a final reading to annex 11 acres of property owned by Cardinal Lane near the fairgrounds.

Located in LaGrand Township, the land is owned by Douglas County and it had planned to build a new Public Works building on that site and build a new jail/law enforcement center at the current Public Works site on 3rd Avenue West.

Last week, however, the county board re-opened the possibility of building a jail on a green site off County Road 82 to save the expense of building a new Public Works.

The council did not address the county's change in plans and approved the annexation request as it was originally requested weeks ago.

The jail issue is on the county board's agenda Tuesday morning.

--Approved parking restrictions near the Alexandria Technical College to accommodate the construction that is happening with the ATC's new law enforcement wing and the Douglas County Hospital's expansion.

No parking will be allowed on 17th Avenue from Hawthorne Street to Jefferson Street, and on Jefferson Street from 12th Avenue to 22nd Avenue during the construction, which is expected to last a year.

--Authorized the Alexandria Fire Department to get quotes on replacing a 1991 Ford Explorer that is currently used by Fire Marshal Dennis Stark.

The department wants to replace it with a four-door pickup that could be used for inspections, hauling equipment and pulling the Fire Safety House and the Fire Hopper trailer.

Firefighters could also use it to travel to regional meetings and training sessions.

The vehicle would stay parked at the fire station.

The department will look into the possibility of buying a used vehicle in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

The money would come out of the department's equipment budget.

--Agreed to close a portion of 7th Avenue or 8th Avenue to accommodate the Glacial Ridge Model T Tour that will arrive in Alexandria on Saturday, September 6.

Between 50 and 100 Model T cars from all over the state are expected to roll into town to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Glacial Ridge Trail, the 100th anniversary of the Ford Model T and the 150th anniversary of the state of Minnesota.

Organizers requested to close off 7th Avenue between Broadway and Hawthorne (on the north side of U.S. Bank) to allow the Model Ts to park at an angle from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. that day.

City Street Commissioner Bryan Bjorgaard suggested that it may be easier to close 8th Avenue for the parking instead.

The council authorized Bjorgaard and the Alexandria Police Department to work out a parking agreement with the organizers.

--Agreed to allow the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum to use a portion of the city's park property directly behind the museum for the second annual "Boats, Blues and BBQ" fundraiser.

It will take place Friday, August 29 from 6 to 11 p.m. and include tours of the museum, live music, food and a small beer garden.

--Was informed that the filing period for city positions will open on August 26. The following positions are up for election - mayor, Ward 3 and Ward 5.

--Was informed by City Administrator Jim Taddei that the city's contribution to the Fire Relief Association in 2009 will be $2,241.

--Was reminded that a city council work session is set for Tuesday, August 19 at 5:30 p.m. in the large conference room at City Hall.

--Approved election judges for the September 9 state primary election.

--Agreed to hire a part-time maintenance person for the Alexandria Fire Department. This will replace a full-time employee who has retired.

Christopher Janke will start work on August 25 and will receive $17 per hour.

--Approved amendments to the city's building code, as recommended by Alexandria Building Official Bruce Jaspersen.

The updates, which Jaspersen described as minor housekeeping changes, will incorporate the Minnesota State Building Code of 2006 and adds grading.

--Received an update on the city's southwest storm sewer project from council member Sara Carlson.

Carlson, Mayor Dan Ness and Bjorgaard toured the project and met with city residents who are affected by the project.

Carlson said that residents have been very patient about the project, despite its inconvenience and disruption.

She said it was an example of "the community coming together" to make the best of a bad situation.

--Issued the follow licenses - massage license to Sara J. Hanson doing business as Certain Serenity Massage at 309 Fingal Drive; charitable gambling license to the Chain of Lakes Ducks Unlimited to allow raffles and pull tabs for a fundraising event at the Holiday Inn on September 18.