Goal is to utilize as much of 2013 construction season as possible.

    When the parameters of the fledgling Crookston Homestead Act (CHA) started to take shape a few weeks ago, the thinking was that the best case scenario might have the Crookston City Council approving the CHA at its first meeting in March.

    But, City Administrator Tony Chladek told the council's Ways & Means Committee Monday evening, City Attorney Chuck Fitzgerald and CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth have indicated that they might have all of the i's dotted and the t's crossed with developer Bob Herkenhoff in time for the council to consider the CHA when it meets on Feb. 25. That would provide the maximum amount of time for those interested in acquiring one of the 16 lots along the east side of Barrette Street involved in the initial agreement and building homes, Chladek explained, to get things rolling in time for the 2013 construction season.

   "We don't want to miss that window," council member Tom Jorgens said. "People need to be able to get moving on things."

    In order to keep the ball rolling, the council previously approved the CHA concept as it relates specifically to the initial deal with Herkenhoff, who is selling lots as part of his Nature's View Estates along Eickhof Boulevard, to the immediate southeast of the 16 lots involved in the CHA.

    In a nutshell, Herkenhoff will essentially give the city 16 90 x 200-foot lots in return for tax abatements. Hoiseth and Chladek, concerned that the "Great Recession" and burst housing bubble from 2008-09 is hindering potential home builders because it's tougher these days to get a mortgage, believe that if potential home builders don't have to pay up to $20,000 for a lot, they'll have a better chance to put more equity toward a down payment and, therefore, get the financing they need.

    The hope among city leaders is that the initial CHA agreement with Herkenhoff will successful enough to sprout spinoffs potentially involving other developers and other parcels in the community.

Wetland concerns?
    There are wetlands further east on the land Herkenhoff owns. Although Chladek insisted Monday that the wetlands' specific boundaries and their relation to the 16 lots has been specifically detailed in drawings and maps and aren't a hindrance to the construction of any homes, sheds or anything else, council member Keith Mykleseth, sitting in as vice mayor in Mayor Dave Genereux's absence, said he'd like to make absolutely certain there are no wetlands issues before officially signing off on the deal with Herkenhoff.

    Mykleseth said he's been in contact with representatives of the West Polk Soil and Water Conservation District as well as the Board of Water and Soil Resources, on which he sits, and both entities have said they're willing to go over all the wetlands details on the site with city officials. "I want to make sure what we're getting is clean, because if there are wetlands on the back edge (of any of the lots), people won't be able to build things like a shed," Mykleseth said. "They won't even be able to mow it."

    "It's all been delineated," Chladek responded. "It's clear in all of the mapping."

    The CHA will now move ahead on two fronts, he continued. The deal specific to Herkenhoff needs to be approved first, Chladek explained, and after that council members can decide how they want the overall CHA program to work, i.e. what kind of building covenants would be included, etc. Polk County and the Crookston School District would also need to sign off on their share of the tax abatements, Chladek added.