Waconia seeing increase in permit activity

After reviewing the 2013 Land Use Activity & Development Report, it appears that Waconia was quite busy in terms of development in 2013, at least compared to recent years. Community Development Director Lane Braaten presented the report during the Waconia City Council meeting on Monday, April 21.

According to the report, a total of 2,248 building permits were reviewed, processed and issued with a construction value of $94.23 million in improvements to properties within the city of Waconia in 2013. This number of permits in 2013 exceeds the total from the past two years combined (595 in 2011 and 1,068 in 2012). Braaten anticipates that the number of permits will total more this year than it they did in 2013.

In terms of residential, Waconia had a total of 107 new home units built in 2013 (103 single family homes and four townhome units). In comparison, 2012 saw 88 new home unites (86 single family and two townhomes).

The Interlaken development had the most new homes, with 44, followed by the Legacy Village (27) and Pinehill (17) developments. According to the report, homes in these three developments have a construction value beginning in the mid to upper $200,000 range.

As of Dec. 31, 2013, the city has 169 units in its residential lot inventory, which is lower than in recent years, but 96 additional lots will be added to that inventory with the arrival of the “Crosswinds” development, which covers 35 acres immediately south of 10th Street E and the Pinehill neighborhood.

In Waconia, there are 4,453 total residential units (3,031 single family units, 1,422 multi-family units). Braaten noted that of the 3,031 single family units, 67 percent of them have been constructed in the past 20 years.

For commercial, Braaten reported that the city experienced an increase in commercial permit activity in 2013 but the majority of those permits concerned the remodeling of existing buildings.

The city currently has approximately 56 acres of commercial property available for development, most of it located in the Highway Business District (24.49 acres), in area such as Waconia Marketplace and Legacy Village, and Interlaken Village (18.17 acres), which is the area where Target is located.

In terms of industrial, the city received several inquiries about potential uses of industrial property last year but no building construction was considered. The city has approximately 18.95 acres of land zoned for industrial, split up in the Pinehill Industrial Park (7.27 acres) and Sudheimer Trust Property (11.68 acres).

In other matters:

• The council approved a resolution calling for the sale of $2,320,000 in general obligation bonds to fund the 2014 Infrastructure Improvement Project. The sale includes the use of 429 bonds, which allow for assessments on property owners that are deemed to receive a benefit from street reconstruction and infrastructure work.

A minor change from a previous financing review includes the use of bonds instead of cash reserves to fund the Storm Water Reuse portion of the project. The change has no affect on whether or not assessments are used as a funding source. The resolution passed 4-0 (Councilor Lynn Ayers was absent).

The council will learn the results of the bond sale during its meeting on May 19.

• Scott Beaty and Tanner Hasse were appointed to probationary status as firefighters (pending successful completion of a physical agility test) with the Waconia Fire Department. The department still has five vacancies and recruitment will continue until those five vacancies have been filled.

• A public hearing was held on the creation of TIF District No. 4 – Pine Business Park. No one from the public offered feedback on the TIF district, which was approved 3-0 (Ayers was absent; Mayor Jim Nash abstained).

The district concerns three undeveloped parcels in the Pine Business Park. City officials believe that the newly-created district will aid in the development of the business park. A related resolution concerning an interfund loan of $10,000 to pay for the creation of the district passed by the same vote. The loan will be repaid with interest to the general fund with increment received from the district in the coming years.

According to the State of Minnesota, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) uses the increased property taxes that a new real estate development generates to finance costs of the development.

• A discussion centered on a revolving loan default involving Electric Beach in Waconia.

According to the discussion, the borrowers, Earl and Diane Thaemert, defaulted on a revolving loan they had with the city earlier this year. The loan, totaling $40,000, was issued on June 1, 2003 and the current outstanding principal and interest due on the loan is $17,612.99.

City staff, who have tried unsuccessfully to connect with the Thaemerts regarding this issue, also noted that a court settlement recently deeded the ownership of the tanning and video business to Waconia Square LLC.

The loan was originally secured with a UCC filing and the promissory note outlined the Thaemert’s personal liability to repay the funds. At this point, the UCC filing is no longer valid and a mortgage is not available on the owners’ personal property due to liens already assessed. City staff presented the council with three options and asked for direction on how the city should try — or not — to collect the remaining balances due.

The first option has the city taking action in small claims court. In the second option, the city could work with a collection attorney to file a judgment against the Thaemerts to attempt to collect the full balance due. The third option had the city writing off the balance due  as bad debt and take no legal action.

The council dismissed the third option almost immediately. The consensus there was summed up by Nash, who said the city makes these loans in good faith and it expects to be repaid by borrowers.

Ultimately, the council directed staff to pursue action in small claims court, in part because it is the less expensive of the remaining two options and, if successful, might result in the city receiving funds sooner than the other process. If successful, the filing could allow the city to collect up to $10,000 of the remaining balance due.

However, due to a change in the law, that amount could increase to $15,000 if the city waits until Aug. 1, 2014 to file. The council directed city staff to wait to file until after Aug. 1 but in the meantime, continue to try to contact the Thaemerts to set up a payment plan.

• With the goal of reducing pollutant concentrations to surface waters, the city has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

One of the requirements for holding the permit is to annually prepare a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan and solicit citizen feedback / input regarding the plan before it is submitted to the MPCA. Therefore, the city invites citizens to submit written comments / concerns on the plan at city hall by May 7. Citizens are also welcome to offer their feedback on the plan during the city council meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 19.

• Nash read a proclamation declaring April 25, 2014 as Arbor Day and May 2014 as Arbor Month in Waconia in recognition of the importance of trees and forests to the community.

• The council’s next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 5.


Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]