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Major housing projects move ahead

Two major housing projects forged ahead at Monday's Alexandria City Council meeting.

INH Property Management plans to build a 116-unit multi-family apartment complex on 34th Avenue, adjacent to its existing Bridgewater Estate, between Meadowland Mobile Park and Pheasant Run Apartments.

The project would be conducted in phases - 61 units in phase one, starting in August, and 55 units in phase two. It will consist of one, two and three bedroom units, ranging from 700 to 1,300 square feet.

Common spaces will include two elevators, community rooms, game rooms, fitness facility, business center, maintenance facility and staff offices.

The developers are requesting tax increment financing (TIF) to help cover some of the costs of the $1.8 million project, which it said can't be done without it.

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 INH's project, the increment is estimated at $97,889 per year. The city would receive 10 percent of that for administrative fees.

The property is valued at $140,200 right now and would increase to just under $8.8 million once both phases are completed.

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.

The council didn't take action on the TIF application. It set a public hearing for August 11 at 7:15 p.m.

The project must also receive planning and zoning approval in addition to TIF. The city's design review team is expected to review the project this Friday.

The council also agreed to give Gendell Partners Alexandria a one-year extension on its TIF plan to build 11 market-rate townhome units, facing Fillmore Street, near Walgreen's at 10th Avenue and Broadway.

The project initially received TIF approval with the understanding that the townhomes would be completed in 2008. The developer now plans to complete them by the end of 2009. The TIF will last 13 years.

Gendell also received approval to sell the property to Innovative Developers.

The townhomes will be owner occupied but could switch to rental properties if the housing market continues to struggle.

In other action, the council:

--Approved the Alexandria Lakes 38 Bike Race/Tour set for Saturday, July 12 from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A trail tour with participants choosing their own speed and distance will leave from Central Lakes Park at 8 a.m. with turn-around locations in Nelson and Osakis, according to coordinators Debra Peterson and Melissa Moore.

The 38-miles road race will begin an hour later. The finish line will be at or near a trail crossing on County Road 22.

The event will also feature kids' rides, music from a disc jockey and an awards ceremony.

This is the second year of the event. Peterson and Moore said they were pleased with last year's race, which drew 70 racers, 25 tour participants and 12 children. They hope for more participation this year. For more information, e-mail

--Accepted a bid of $209,371 from Central Specialties of Alexandria to rebuild Emerson Street, the frontage road by Kmart.

The project is expected to start after Labor Day and be completed this fall.

The road is in tough shape, noted City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven. He added that the city hopes to provide a temporary "Band-Aid" repair soon.

--Agreed to paint parking stall stripes near ORB Management on both sides of Hawthorne Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. The city's highway committee recommended the action.

--Authorized Street Commissioner Bryan Bjorgaard to put temporary "no parking" signs along a detour route that will be set up when a small portion of Broadway is closed for the southwest storm sewer project this summer.

The action was recommended by the city's highway committee.

The road will be closed for only a short time - a maximum of 36 hours - to allow crews to put in the storm-sewer pipe.

The detour is planned along 10th Avenue, Jefferson Street and 15th Avenue. Hawthorne Street may be used instead of Jefferson.

The city will receive a two-week notice of when the work will take place on Broadway and will notify the media about when the detour will take effect.

--Agreed to post 10-mile-per-hour speed limit signs in the alley between Irving and Jefferson Street between 14th and 15th Avenue (west of Jefferson High School).

The highway committee recommended the action after the city received complaints about high speeds through the alley.

--Re-appointed Gail Kulp to serve a five-year term on the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board.

--Approved a second and final reading to authorize the city to conduct criminal background checks on potential job candidates, employees and volunteers.

--Was informed that the West Central Minnesota Transportation Advisory Committee was seeking nominations.

The committee studies regional planning activities with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Council member Dave Benson expressed an interest. Other council members were also invited to volunteer.

--Approved the following licenses: heating contractor - Sam Hendrickson Plumbing and Heating (new); fireworks - Alexandria Tools and More at 1111 Highway 29 North (outside).

--Under "old and other business," council member Elroy Frank said that he's noticed several homeowners in Ward 5 who are not keeping their yards clean. He said some yards are eyesores with long dandelions and weeds growing out of control.

The abandoned trailer park along 3rd Avenue East is also a problem area, Frank noted. City staff said that the city has contacted the owner to clean it up.

Right now, once the city receives a complaint of a weedy or messy lawn, it sends a letter to the property owner who has 10 days to clean it before the city does it and assesses the owner for the expense.

Mayor Dan Ness noted that he has also noticed a problem with vehicles parking on the grass - another violation of city ordinance.

During the "public comment period" of the meeting, the topic of weeds sprouted again when resident Orrin Johnson asked if the city was spraying its parks for weeds this year.

He said that Fillmore Park looked bad this past weekend with thick dandelions and high weeds. A park in the Victoria Heights area was also in bad shape, he added. "Maybe we have more park than we can take care of," he said.

City council members said that the city does contract for weed-spraying services in the parks but added that frequent rain has delayed the process this year.