“Myself, I think we should do this.”

    So says At Large Crookston City Council Member Tom Vedbraaten, after hearing the details of the latest proposed partnership between the City and developer Bob Herkenhoff, who’s looking to continue to grow the new residential housing footprint in Crookston’s northeast corner.

    In exchange for the City covering the cost of paving the rest of Eickhof Boulevard toward Fisher Avenue and installing needed utility infrastructure in the area – including a much-needed storm sewer to alleviate drainage issues – Herkenhoff would add 14 residential lots along the extended portion of the paved road and donate to the City two adjacent ponds he’s dug and stocked with fish as part of a 30-acre natural park.

    “It’s a substantial cost,” City Administrator Shannon Stassen says. “He’s proposing a land swap for what would normally be a cost-share. But it’s a beautiful natural space out there, with recreational opportunities and unique features that would kind of set us apart from other communities.”

    Then there’s the fact that Herkenhoff has been a driving force behind new residential housing expansion in the northeast corner of town for the past several years, and all of it the result of him partnering with the City in various ways. Examples include the City’s Barrette Estates Subdivision and multiple phases of Herkenhoff’s Nature’s View Estates, which continues this summer with the City putting in two new cul de sacs for more home lots. Along the way, Herkenhoff has showed that there is a demand in Crookston for larger residential lots on which people can construct larger, more expensive homes.

    Herkenhoff says the proposed new lots that would face his second, newest pond would be priced at around $48,000, with the lots on the other side being priced at around $23,000. They’d range in size from 90 feet wide and 200 feet deep to 110 feet wide and 200 feet deep. “I think they’ll go quickly,” he said.

    Although council members asked several questions of Herkenhoff this week, Vedbraaten was the only council member to voice an opinion on what the council should do in regard to the developer’s latest proposal. Stassen instructed council members to direct continued questions to him and/or Finance Director Angel Weasner, with the idea that the council will likely continue the discussion very soon. Asked about funds available to cover the project cost, Stassen said Weasner would have to “get pretty creative.”

    Possibly complicating matters is a time crunch. Herkenhoff said he wouldn’t be bringing the proposal to the City right now, if not for Polk County’s planned construction project on Fisher Avenue in 2020 involving the addition of turn lanes. If Eickhof Boulevard is going to be paved and extended in a straight line toward an intersection with Fisher Ave., the county and the engineers designing the project need to know, likely by this fall. There’s some synergy there, Herkenoff noted, as Widseth Smith Nolting and its engineer, Rich Clauson, is designing the turn lanes project. WSN and Clauson is also the City’s engineer.

    “I wouldn’t have minded waiting, but with the county coming in, we have to move,” Herkenhoff said. But even if things need to be accelerated, he said a pattern has been established that has people wanting to live in that area, as opposed to the north side of Fisher Ave./Polk County Highway 11, where the City for years has envisioned a large, albeit costly, residential subdivision north and northeast of Crookston Sports Center.

    “You have to be where the people want to move, and I think people want to live (in Nature’s View Estates),” Herkenhoff said. “You have to build where people want to be. I can’t make any promises, but there seems to be interest.”