Council members warmly greet Rice Companies proposal
with grocery store, retail, commercial and apartment complex
by Beth Balmanno
The Otsego City Council voted unanimously July 22 to approve a development plan anchored by a Coborn’s grocery store and proposed by Rice Companies.
The Sauk Rapids development firm plans to develop a mix of retail, commercial and a 60-unit apartment complex on the 18-acre parcel on the corner of county roads 39 and 42.
There are six commercial lots anchored by a 40,000-60,000 square foot Coborn’s, with a car wash, fuel canopy, coffee shop and a pharmacy.
The apartment complex is proposed on the west side of Parkview Avenue and south of 88th Street.
City Planner Daniel Licht indicated the additional commercial lots in the development might include fast food or retail, but that the vote before the council was focused on the public right of way and issuance of the planned unit development and conditional use permit.
“Each one of these sites would come back through the Planning Commission and City Council for site development review and approval,” Licht said.
Council Member Tom Darkenwald expressed his enthusiasm for the development: “I can’t wait for this project to get started.”
He did, however, voice some concerns regarding the property located behind the grocery store site, echoing the homeowner’s question about screening.
Tom Bruce from Rice Companies indicated that they have a good track record of working with homeowners to address these types of issues.
“We are not unaccustomed to the position of a store like this near residential [properties],” he said. “We will be very open to working with the neighbors to make sure that we have screening.”
Rice Companies hopes to have Phase 1 of the development, which includes the grocery store, complete by fall of 2020. The grocery store is expected to create more than 100 jobs, including 35 full-time positions.
Apartment plan halted
A different development proposal for an apartment complex in Kittredge Crossings was voted down by the council. The concept plan from Otsego Unique Apartments LLC called for a 72-unit apartment complex at the northwest corner of Kalland Avenue and 71st Street on a parcel of land currently zoned commercial. During the July 15 Planning Commission meeting, several homeowners voiced concerns about the proximity of the apartment building to the townhomes in the development, as well as the change in land use from office/warehouse to high-density residential.
The Planning Commission ultimately determined that the proposal was not consistent with the master plan for Kittredge Crossings and that particular site and recommended the plan be denied.
In discussions during the council meeting with Benjamin Krsnak, the property owner, and Chet Funk, the developer, council members all expressed support of an apartment building within Kittredge Crossings but agreed with the Planning Commission’s assessment and recommendation.
The owner and developer brought new plans to the council meeting, including options for repositioning the building to address the concerns of homeowners. Krsnak indicated his intention to develop the property, whether as commercial or high-density residential, and said he was willing to work with all concerned parties as he moves forward in the process.
Council Member Darkenwald agreed that the owner of the property has a right to develop the land and that homeowners might want to work with him in his pursuit of changing the land use from commercial to high-density residential. All council members encouraged conversations with both the Planning Commission and homeowners to explore different options.
In other business, the council approved the awarding a contract to Kuechle Underground Inc. for the construction of lift station No. 7, which is required to provide sanitary sewer service for Magnolia Landing 1st and 2nd Additions. The bid amount of $223,115 was significantly higher than engineer estimates of $145,725.
City Engineer Ron Wagner cited weather as a potential factor in the higher cost, indicating that companies are behind schedule on current projects due to wet spring and summer months and are factoring in overtime costs when bidding new projects.
Mayor Jessica Stockamp expressed disappointment in the higher costs, but City Administrator Adam Flaherty indicated city funds were more than sufficient to cover the higher bid amount.
In staff reports, city staff noted that trail maintenance would be taking place at Prairie Park on Aug. 31 and that some sections would be temporarily closed.
The next council meeting will be Monday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m. at Prairie Center.