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Wendy Reuer, Published September 16 2013

City, transportation officials reach deal on road access

MOORHEAD – City and district transportation officials here have found a compromise to road access that could have affected a housing developer’s plan to add more than 300 units in south Moorhead.

Earlier this year, Eagle Ridge Development brought forward a $30 million development proposal for Stonemill Estates that would feature townhomes, apartment complexes and a 6,500-square-foot commercial space to anchor the subdivision east of Highway 75, or Moorhead’s Eighth Street and 46th Avenue.

The original plan asked the city to help build a “full access” point at the 44th Avenue intersection that would have allowed for traffic to flow in and out of the development in all directions.

But, Minnesota Department of Transportation access rules prohibited that, said City Engineer Bob Zimmerman, so state engineers suggested a right-in, right-out access point instead.

Developers said right-in, right-out access was too limited.

To compromise, MnDOT officials at the Detroit Lakes District Office said they would consider planning a ¾ access point there and extend the four-lane highway design. Highway 75 compresses into a two-lane highway south of 40th Avenue.

Zimmerman said the intersection would allow right-in, right-out access, plus southbound Highway 75 traffic could turn left into the development. It would not allow vehicles to head south from the development.

Because the project includes a state road, the cost could be shared between the city and state. While Zimmerman and district-level transportation officials have discussed the plan, the state will have to sign off on it.

“I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that we’ll get approval, but we’ve taken the conversation to the highest level,” he said.

Zimmerman said the local cost could be between $500,000 and $1 million, but that was a preliminary estimate.

The city plans to ink the first of three formal financial agreements for the development by November.

“The timeline is fairly aggressive; we want to stay on point,” Deputy City Manager Scott Hutchins said at Monday’s non-voting meeting.

The city owns 39 tax-forfeited lots in Stonemill after the original developer abandoned the addition in the 2008 recession.

After initially proposing a $700,000 payment, Eagle Ridge has agreed to pay $1 million in cash on closing for the $4 million land costs, said City Manager Michael Redlinger.

The city will exempt about $400 per unit of property taxes, or about $250,000 if all 316 units are finished.

Initial plans asked the city to add $500,000 for park development, but it has agreed to fund $275,000.

Jonathan Youness, acquisitions and development manager for Eagle Ridge, who attended Monday’s meeting, said construction will still begin in 2014 but the project likely would need three years to finish instead of two, as first planned.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530