Housing plan gets nod over business venturePublished 10:55am Tuesday, May 22, 2012
After the Fergus Falls City Council’s landmark decision May 7 to move toward demolition of most of the city’s Kirkbride building, the council focused on three smaller-scale Regional Treatment Center issues at its Monday night meeting.
After months of delays and deliberation, the council finally picked a local developer to move forward with on the sale of six houses on the RTC property near the Union/Fir avenue intersection. However, the decision only came after a rare divided council vote.
Ultimately, the council went with the residential-focused option from Cory Budke and Marc Sikkink over the business development plan proposed by affiliates of The Business Network Fergus Falls. Before the decision, many council members acknowledged that both proposals were very good.
“I don’t think either one would be a mistake to go with, and quite honestly I’m torn between the two,” said Eric Shelstad.
Ultimately, the council members (besides the abstaining Jay Cichosz, whose name is mentioned on The Business Network’s website) were forced to decide between the job-creating potential of the business proposal or the more “sure thing” status of the Budke-Sikkink plan, which included definite timelines and a promise to pay the city if its timelines aren’t met. Alderman Randy Synstelien moved for the first vote, which would have moved forward with The Business Network’s option.
“There’s potential for some job creation here and that’s an important part that we can’t overlook,” he said.
However, the vote failed, with Randy and Stan Synstelien and Pat Connelly voting in favor and Shelstad, Scott Rachels, Jim Fish and JoEllen Thacker voting against.
“I ended up giving higher marks to the Budke-Sikkink one because I like (definition),” said Thacker. “I know what I’m getting with that one.”
After the first vote failed, Stan Synstelien said the Budke-Sikkink plan was also acceptable to the city, and the council voted 7-0 in favor of it. City staff will begin working with the developers on a purchase agreement.
Special advisor on the RTC Kent Mattson updated the council on negotiations with the state Department of Administration to extend the city’s demolition grant deadline agreement to December 2014, rather than just under a year from now. While that language appears to be a sure bet, Mattson said other negotiations are delaying the process.
“Where we have been negotiating with the state and the reason why the agreement is not finalized relates to exploring the extent to which the bond funds can be used for renovation or stabilization,” he said.
If the state agrees to allowing some renovation funding, leftover funds could be used to renovate the part of the Kirkbride left standing should the city decide to tear some of it down. The city is hoping for an open-ended definition of “renovation,” while the state is looking for a more specific listing of what kinds of renovation could be made. Mattson will give an update at the June 4 council meeting.
Marketing task force
Finally, the city approved a task force committee recommended by the Historic Preservation Commission to explore options for successfully marketing the RTC to developers. The committee will look at a variety of options to determine the best party or firm to successfully reach interested developers, potentially preventing the demolition of the Kirkbride. The committee’s first meeting is today at 4:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
Members include Pat Connelly, Tim Hunt, Laurie Mullen, Anthony Hicks, Tim Litt, Steve Guttormson, Jake Krohn, Michelle Anderson, Wayne Hurley, and HPC members Walt Dunlap, Rob Rogholt, Jay Neumann, Jan Stenger, Jan Nelson, Mark Sundberg, Chris Schuelke, and Lance Albers.
The city council chamber was fuller than usual, but the Friends of the Kirkbride could not pull off a repeat performance of the May 7 council meeting, where more than 200 packed the council chambers and flowed out the back door.
On Monday, about 50 sat in on the meeting. Although several were at the meeting for reasons not pertaining to the Kirkbride’s preservation, many attendees were still festooned with the Friends’ buttons. The crowd was also silent on Monday, a far cry from the crowd that often murmured, muttered and occasionally shouted during the May 7 meeting.
The city was more prepared for the crowd this time around, setting up several chairs and a TV with a live feed of the meeting in the main foyer area of city hall. However, the area went unused, as all attendees could fit in the chambers.
“We expected less because of what happened last (meeting because) they were not very accommodating,” said Maxine Schmidt, one of the Friends organizers. She said several people told her they would not be attending again if it meant having to stand outside, as some Kirkbride supporters were forced to do May 7.
Schmidt said there were signs of positive movement on the RTC at Monday’s meeting, particularly the progress on extending the demolition grant agreement. However, she noted that the Friends group prefer that the city not sell Parcel D4 of the property, as some developers had previously expressed interest in the land along with the rest of the Kirkbride.Tags: Regional Treatment Center