Wyoming City Council gave its support to a potential housing development on the Bingham Property as part of a busy virtual meeting held Tuesday, June 16.
Minnetonka-based Roers Company is proposing to purchase the land, which is located on First Avenue just to the west of Forest Boulevard, for $450,000. Tom Denaway of the accounting firm Baker Tilly laid out the case for supporting the project.
“The city would benefit because it would not have to pay a $31,429 annual mortgage payment, and it would receive a benefit from not having to pay the annual property tax – and currently it pays 50% of $8,690,” Denaway said. “And the proposed zoning and construction fees are approximately $890,000. Finally, the project would provide additional housing opportunities within the community at current market rates, which was indicated as a need in the 2018 Chisago County Housing Study.”
City Administrator Robb Linwood explained that the property originally was purchased in 2002 by the Wyoming EDA and the Chisago County HRA/EDA.
“The county has paid off their component of the mortgage, but the city still has an outstanding balance of about $227,000 as of the end of 2020,” he said. “We will continue to make payment on that mortgage until 2032.”
Last year Roers approached the city regarding a smaller project on the Bingham Property site, but the project did not move forward when it did not receive a 9% affordable housing tax credit grant from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. The company hopes that a larger project will help it secure the tax credit this year.
Council member Linda Nanko Yeager asked if Roers had any sense of their chance to receive that tax credit.
“The feedback that they received from MHFA last year in regards to their application is that they feel, with increasing the size of the project and other parameters that they did not share, that they are close [to earning the credits],” Linwood said. “They were close last year, and they feel that the changes make them a viable candidate this time around.”
Council adopted a resolution of support of Roers and also authorized the utilization of tax increment financing for the project.
Stoplight moves forward
Council approved a motion to begin the process of bringing a traffic control signal to the intersection of U.S. 61 and Fallbrook Avenue.
Minnesota Department of Transportation analyzed the intersection and proposed a traffic signal, and council approved an agreement to pay for the stoplight.
“One thing that is exciting about this project is that the city had budgeted $150,000 for its portion of this project, and bid for the project is under that – it is only $122,000,” Assistant City Administrator Kelly Dumais said.
Mayor Lisa Iverson asked if the potholes in that area would be fixed as well.
“I believe there is a component where it does fix some of the potholes between Viking Boulevard and Fallbrook,” Linwood said. “How far back it will go, I do not know. But it will fill that initial portion of Fallbrook.”
Construction on this project is expected to start in June 2021.
Bond sale goes well
At its meeting on Tuesday, June 2, council approved the sale of $3.75 million worth of general obligation improvement bonds to provide financing for various street and drainage improvement projects. That sale took place on the morning before the June 16 meeting, and Paul Steinman of Baker Tilly said the sale went well.
“The winning bid was 1.33% by a company called United Bankers Bank,” he said. “That bid is about 1% less than where the market was four weeks ago, so this was a really good bid – significantly better than where we thought the bids would come in at.”
He said the city’s bonds were rated at Aa2 on Moody’s Rating Scale, a rating two steps shy of the Aaa rating that is the best Moody’s offers.
“Moody’s rating report said your credit strengths [as a city] are your ‘robust reserves and liquidity,’ and your ‘above-average resident income levels,’” Steinman said. “Your credit challenges are that your tax base is relatively small compared to higher-rated peers, and your concentration of taxpayers [is a concern].”
Stagecoach Days canceled
Wyoming Police Chief Paul Hoppe told City Council that Stagecoach Days, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 13-15, would not be held this year.
“We really wanted to hold off as long as possible before we made the decision whether Stagecoach Days would happen or not,” he said. “We looked at Minnesota Department of Health recommendations, and we looked at other communities and the state fair.”
Hoppe said the decision to not hold the event this year went beyond concerns regarding social distancing.
“Part of the funding for Stagecoach Days is through community donations, and we want to set an example that we’re here to support local businesses,” he explained. “Coming off the COVID-19 restrictions, we wanted to be conscientious towards not asking them for donations this year. We would rather have our businesses focus on continuing to improve in this economy.”
Iverson asked if it would be possible to still have the fireworks attached to the event.
“Just about every fun part of summer has been canceled,” she said. “Is there some way we could consider having fireworks? I’d like to bring a little bit of normalcy to the city.”
Hoppe said the event’s annual parade may take place as families practice social distancing by watching from their front lawn, and the committee also is looking at the possibility of creating “pods” painted on the ground at Goodyear Park to potentially open the door for fireworks.
In March the city submitted a grant application to make improvements to Swenson Park, 26929 Flintwood Ave., between Forli and Flintwood Avenues and Railroad Boulevard. The Minnesota DNR Outdoor Recreation Grant Program awarded the city $165,000 – the full amount requested – to add a ramp to the warming house, enlarge door openings, and add a firewall between the public warming area and the storage area.
A 4-foot accessible gate will be added to the tennis court, and a 5-foot concrete walk will be added to the baseball field.
“The project is focused on making Swenson Park more accessible,” Dumais said. “We’re going to be updating equipment and adding accessibility components.”
Dumais noted that the project requires additional approval through the National Park Service and the State Historical Preservation Office, meaning the anticipated start date for the federal award is Sept. 21 of this year.
The city also has been working with Chisago County to install a bike spur off of the Sunrise Trail at Railroad Park. The Chisago County Regional Rail Authority granted a variance that allowed construction to begin on that trail spur on June 17.
Rental ordinance opposed
Council took a look at – and took issue with – an ordinance proposed by the Chisago County commissioners regarding local oversight of residential rental services such as AirBnB.
The purpose of the Short-Term Rental Licensing Ordinance is to establish a licensing program for private residential homes when used for short-term rentals. The concerns of the Wyoming City Council were two-fold: One was in dealing with the costs of implementing the program, and the other was the lack of input the city had in the county’s decision.
“They said this [ordinance] would supersede anything cities would put in place, and that concerns me,” Iverson said. “To send a letter to cities and townships just a day or two before they talk about this – and pass this – shows a lack of respect for cities and their elected officials to discuss this and make decisions about this.”
Yeager agreed and also raised concerns regarding the company that may be administering the ordinance.
Council unanimously agreed to send a letter of objection to the county regarding the proposal.