By Derrick Knutson
After months of mulling over a proposal to build a 40-unit housing project south of 400th Street and west of Cherokee Pass, the North Branch City Council formally supported the proposal at its April 23 regular meeting.
The resolution of support passed by a 3-2 vote, with council members Theresa Furman and Ron Lindquist dissenting.
The vote allows MWF Properties, the developer of the proposed housing, dubbed “Northside Villas,” to move keep moving forward with the project and its effort to gain enough points from the Minnesota Housing and Finance Agency to obtain affordable housing tax credits, which would help offset some of the costs associated with building the five eight-unit buildings.
MWF has until June 12 to submit a final proposal to MHFA to obtain the tax credits.
The area where the project is being proposed is in a tax increment financing district set up by the city, and building in the TIF district would also bring down the construction cost.
Proposal to move the project
As part of the resolution approved by the council, city staff was directed to work with MHFA to try and get the project moved north of 400th Street. That was the area MWF was looking to construct the project last year, but the development didn’t come to fruition because it didn’t garner enough points to obtain the tax credits from MHFA.
One way defined by MHFA to obtain points is to have a project within 10 miles of a high growth area, either residentially or industrially. The city of Wyoming has been marked as one of those areas.
If the project were built south of 400th Street, it would fall within that 10-mile bubble.
If it’s built north of the thoroughfare, it would not.
The council gave MHFA the green light to pursue the project south of 400th Street if MHFA nixes the idea of moving it north of the road.
Chris Stokka, a development associate with MWF, said convincing MHFA to award points to a project outside of the 10-mile radius would likely be difficult, but he would work with the city to explore the possibility.
Public and council comments
Compared to previous meetings on the proposal by MWF, discussion was fairly light.
Resident Jackie Badger was the only member of the crowd on-hand for the meeting to speak to the council about the project.
She prompted council members to table discussion on the development and more thoroughly research the potential impact of building Northside Villas in the city.
“I think this issue deserves more attention than it’s gotten,” she said.
Council member Ron Lindquist, as he has in previous meetings, displayed ardent disapproval of the project.
“I don’t see how this will benefit the city,” he said.
Furman echoed that comment and said the project would bring in lower-income residents to the city and center then in one area, which was “asking for trouble.”
Furman continued to opine about the project, but Mayor Amy Oehlers ended the discussion after she asserted Furman was speaking inaccurate information about the proposal.
“You’re not giving the developer or anyone else the opportunity to correct the inaccuracies you’re stating,” she said right before calling for the vote.