He'll need it for construction trailer, debris, etc.

    As he continues to clear hurdles on his way toward redeveloping the Fournet Building in downtown Crookston, developer Jeff Evers has realized that he probably needs to purchase or at least lease the narrow, vacant lot to the west of the Fournet, next to the Crookston Masonic Lodge, to bring in a construction trailer, stage the project, and pile debris.

    At Monday night’s Crookston City Council Ways & Means Committee – held in UMC’s Bede Ballroom as part of the Crookston Campus Community Connection (C4) initiative – City Administrator Shannon Stassen presented council members with a trio of options to consider: Sell the lot to Evers, lease it to him, or maintain City ownership of the lot and simply let Evers use it during construction.

    Council members at first seemed inclined to pick the first option and direct staff to negotiate the terms of a sale to Evers. But when Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson said such an approach would be inconsistent with the process when the City looks to sell other lots it owns – such as vacant residential lots that neighboring homeowners look to buy – council members instead decided to keep their options more open involving the lot next to the Fournet.

    In other, similar situations, Erickson noted, the City puts its properties up for bids and the highest bidder wins. To simply negotiate only with Evers and sell the City-owned lot to him would send an inconsistent message to the community, Erickson said. “I’m all for selling the lot; this is just more of a technicality for me,” he said. “I just want to make sure the general public is given every right to buy it.”

    Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee echoed Erickson’s sentiments.

    “It makes 100 percent sense to sell to Jeff, but if we put one property up for bids but not this one, I don’t want it to look like we’re picking and choosing,” Fee said.

    For his part, Evers said he understood the concern. He added that he’d rather buy the narrow, non-buildable lot than lease it, but he was open to either. What he said he wanted to avoid was having to commit more money than necessary on the lot to make sure that he wouldn’t be outbid “by $100 by someone else” and lose the lot.

    Everyone agreed Monday that it was unlikely anyone else, such as the Masonic Lodge, would bid on the lot. City Administrator Shannon Stassen also noted that he’d checked with legal counsel and was advised that the City was within its rights to negotiate a sale of the lot to Evers. He went on to mention that the City in recent years has looked to divest itself of some properties that are of limited benefit but still cost money and time to maintain, such as the lot behind the Fournet Building.

    In the end, the council amended its motion, which was unanimously approved, to move forward on a lot transaction, with the option of selling or leasing it to Evers still to be determined.

TIF district
    The council also approved a resolution to move forward on the process of establishing a Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) Redevelopment District, which is necessary to Evers’ redevelopment plans for the Fournet Building coming to fruition.

    CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth, Stassen, and City Finance Director Angel Weasner will be tasked with the work necessary to establish the TIF District, which was approved by the CHEDA Board of Directors a couple weeks ago. There is a public hearing process involved, and the council will be given an opportunity before all is said and done to weigh in on the establishment of the TIF district.

    Erickson said he hoped that as part of the process, every possible TIF option will be explored so the cheapest and most logical TIF district is utilized. “We’re not too deep in this yet, so let’s make sure we investigate all options and get the cheapest way to go,” he said. “We need to use every resource we have so it’s done right.”