The City of Monticello is purchasing more than 35 acres of land that lies within the proposed Chelsea Commons development.

The $3.26 million purchase was approved by the Monticello City Council at its Monday, July 12 meeting. The sale is contingent on the Monticello Planning Commission finding the purchase consistent with the City’s comprehensive plan.

The City has been working to develop Chelsea Commons for about two years. The concept behind the project is to create a destination in Monticello for residential living, retail, and recreation. A proposed feature of the development is a series of three ponds, that will be surrounded by a trail system and park space.

The proposed Chelsea Commons is bound by Chelsea Road to the north, School Boulevard to the south, Cedar Street to the west and Edmonson Avenue to the east.

Mayor Lloyd Hilgart likened the development to Centennial Lakes, the famed mixed-use development in Edina.

If built, Hilgart projects that Chelsea Commons will someday be the center of Monticello.

To get to that point, the Monticello City Council saw it as important to acquire the 35.25 acres of the proposed 100-acre development from John and Mary Ellen Lundsten.

The land abuts two lots already owned by the City that were acquired 24 years ago, in 1997.

A major portion of the proposed development, 18 acres, is owned by Dale Buchholz Construction of Fargo, North Dakota. The company owns land enclosed by Chelsea Road to the north, Dundas Road to the south, Cedar Street to the west and Edmonson Avenue to the east. It is developing the 3-building Deephaven Apartments,offices, and potential retail shops.

“To bring a vision of this magnitude to life, both public and private entities need to be engaged and willing to participate. Throughout the progression from idea to draft concept, the City of Monticello has emphasized communication with private property owners within the project area to solicit their feedback and ideas,” according to a City staff report.

The opportunity for the City to increase its role as a public partner in the Chelsea Commons plan came before the City Council sooner than anticipated, said City Administrator Rachel Leonard. That’s in part, because the City Council has yet to formally approve the development. A plan is anticipated to come before the Planning Commission and City Council for approval in August, Leonard said.

The goal of the City, as planning for Chelsea Commons moved along, has been to keep area land owners informed of its developments, Leonard said. During that process, John and Mary Ellen Lundsten approached the City, asking if it would be interested in purchasing their 35 acres, she said.

And while the purchase of the Lundsten’s land is a major investment by the City, the purchase in no way obligates the City to move forward with development plans for Chelsea Commons, Leonard told members of the City Council.

Councilmember Chrlotte Gabler said she has no problem making the investment in the Lundsten property, as long as the City is clear that it is still committed to priority items such as the Downtown plan and development of Block 52, development of Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park, a public works building, and things that the residents of Monticello desire- such as a splash pad.

Councilmember Jim Davidson said before the vote on purchasing the property that he very much supports the proposal. He noted that by purchasing the Lundsten land, the City gains control over it and its use within the project.

Hilgart, in supporting the measure, estimated a future tax benefit of $200 million if Chelsea Commons is seen through to completion.

Davidson made the motion to purchase the Lundsten land for $3.26 million. Councilmember Brian Hudgins seconded the motion. The motion to purchase the property passed unanimously.

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Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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