Kevin Ross asks City to pave a portion of 5th Ave. S, where he’s struggling to generate interest in his residential lots

    In recent years, Kevin Ross has made no secret the struggles he’s faced as he’s tried to sell residential housing lots on Crookston’s south end, in his Carman View Estates subdivision. The Crookston City Council has collaborated with him before on a lift station and sewer main to get the subdivision ready for new homes.

    Now, Ross is wondering if the City could pave around a block and a half of 5th Avenue South, which is currently a gravel road. He thinks a nice, paved street would interest more people in potentially buying one of his lots. Paving that stretch of street would directly benefit a handful of his lots, but Ross indicated that he’s open to splitting some of the large lots into smaller, more affordable lots. City council members this week were open to hearing more details, and Ross is expected to come back to them in a couple weeks with an updated map of the area that will likely have more lots.

    Council members and Mayor Wayne Melbye would certainly like to see Ross sell more lots and more new homes be built in Carman View Estates, but they have reservations about spending the estimated $152,000 to pave the stretch of street and then still not have a lot of interest among potential buyers for Ross’ lots.

    City Administrator Shannon Stassen said that CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth has mentioned that CHEDA could potentially partner with the Northwest Minnesota Housing Cooperative, which continues to build homes on the former Lincoln School property and is working with CHEDA to build three homes on Hoven Lane, on building one house and maybe more in Carman View Estates.

    Ross said he spoke with Jeff Fagerstrom from the housing cooperative, “And the first thing he said was that it seems like in order to (sell any lots) you need a finished street, with curb and gutter,” Ross said. “He said it just makes a difference, and he strongly suggested doing that. I don’t think he’s interested in partnering without curb and gutter. But if he gets involved I think he can put something up that’s affordable that would maybe move in this marketplace.”

    The City could potentially hustle to get the project completed this year. This year’s planned improvements on Pirate Drive in the far northeast corner have been postponed because of water and drainage issues, and the estimated $100,000 for that work could be applied to the 5th Avenue South project, Stassen said. But, he added, it’s getting up against the deadline for filing a change order with this year’s street improvement contractor, Davidson Construction.

    There’s also a decent chance, judging by some council members’ voiced hesitations about rushing the project, that it would be done in 2019. There’s also the sentiment that projects like this never get cheaper with passing time, and there are council members especially eager to see more new homes built on the south end.

    “The sooner this gets done the sooner you have some interest (in buying Ross’ lots),” At Large Council Member Bobby Baird said. “I sure wouldn’t want to build on a gravel road.”

    Funding for the project would come out of the City’s Municipal Land and Building Fund, which currently has a balance of a little more than $1 million. The work would be assessed to impacted property owners, once lots are sold and homes are built, at the current formula rate of $35 per front foot. (Both Stassen and Public Works Director Pat Kelly indicated that the council in the near future will have to revisit the current street project funding formula, because it’s getting more cost prohibitive for the City to cover more than 80 percent of street improvement project costs.)

    Council members and Mayor Wayne Melbye say they want the biggest bang for their buck.

    “It’s quite an investment for the City if we don’t get any return on investment on it; then it gets tough to swallow,” Melbye said. “We put in a lift station and we only have a couple houses. Will this result in five houses?”