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News from the week of August 9, 2006


Sites identified for housing

Commission likes northern exposure

By Seth Schmidt

Land on the north and northeast edge of Tracy holds the community’s best potential for new housing development, Tracy Planning Commission members feel.

The commission, acting Monday, recommended that the Tracy Economic Development Authority study the possible acquisition and development of farmland in two areas:

• 53 acres east of Fourth St. East owned by heirs of John Glaser.

• Land owned by John Edwards on the north edge of city limits to allow for the extension of North Third Street.

Robert Gervais, Tracy community development director, presented planning commission members with a list of six potential sites for new housing developments. The other four were: 1) City-owned property south of Swift Lake Park; 2) The former Central Livestock land that the city is considering acquiring for a drainage project; 3) District 417 property between the elementary and high schools, 4) Land south and east of the Eastview Addition.

The planning commission’s consensus was that the Glaser and Edward properties should be considered first because of their access to major roads on the north side of Tracy and their proximity to utilities, city amenities, and newer neighborhoods.

The commission recommended that the EDA gather information about acquisition and development costs for both sites, and hire planners to make recommendations on how the parcels could best be laid out into streets and lots.

Gervais said that he will recommend to the EDA board that an EDA housing fund be used for the planning expenses.

The EDA is scheduled to discuss the planning commission recommendation on August 18. Earlier this summer, the EDA asked the planning commission for direction where any future Tracy housing development should be located.

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Gervais told planning commission members “that if we are going to grow and move forward as a city,” Tracy needs to develop a new housing addition. Gervais said that Tracy has an opportunity to attract prospective homebuyers who work in Marshall. A new development, perhaps with large lots and winding dead-end streets, would be far more attractive than the existing lots that are available in the city. The Eastview Addition, he said, has just one remaining “prime” lot on Sunrise Drive.

Gervais said that he liked the Edwards and Glaser properties because they were visible from major highways and were located on the north side of Tracy, and therefor more convenient for Marshall commuters.

Planning Commission member Bill Chukuske said he felt that city-owned land south of Swift Lake held the most housing. The nearby park and bike path, he said, would be attractive to homeowners, and the city already owns the land.


Offer made on Fifth St., Eastview Apartments

The Tracy Economic Development Authority is planning a special meeting Friday to discuss an offer to buy the Eastview and Fifth Street Apartments.

Zeb Prairie, Tracy, submitted a verbal offer of $664,000 for the two properties last week. The $664,000 offer represents the value that an independent appraiser recently set for the properties. EDA members told Prairie that they could not accept the $664,000 offer, because it is less than an outstanding mortgage and bonds on the real estate. But EDA members indicated that they might make a counter-offer.

A $296,000 mortgage is outstanding on the Eastview Apartments. About $422,000 remains to be paid on city-guaranteed bonds held on the Fifth Street Apartments.

Prairie, who lives in one of the EDA Apartments, told EDA members that he is interested in the properties as an investment. It is his intention, he said, to keep rents “close to where they are now.” Prairie told EDA members that he is confident that he could make Eastview and Fifth St. cash flow.

The two Eastview four-plexes were completed in 1996 and are located on Third Street East. The Fifth St. Apartments also consist of two, four-apartment buildings and were completed in 1998. Each two-bedroom apartment has about 1,100 square feet of space and has a single attached garage. All apartments rent for $510 a month.

The Eastview housing historically has operated at close to a100% occupancy and has enjoyed a positive cash flow. The Fifth St. property has had a higher vacancy rate and has often needed to subsidize operations with cash reserves. In 2005, a city audit showed a $6,531 loss on Fifth St. Apartment operations.

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If a private party buys the Eastview and Fifth St. real estate, property taxes generated will go up significantly.

The EDA, as the owners of the apartments, pay $4,176 annually to Lyon County in “payments in lieu of taxes.” The estimated annual property taxes on the Eastview and Fifth St. properties, if privately owned, total $23,000.


Tracy Elementary plans registration for all students

Registration for all new and returning Tracy Elementary School students begins Monday, August 21.

Children who will be in kindergarten through sixth grade this fall should be registered at the school office from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, August 21-24. The registration can include student health updates, family and emergency contact information, lunch account payments, and information about the school’s online parent access information.

Class lists and student homeroom assignments will be posted Friday, August 25, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

An open house for students and parents is planned Tuesday, August 29, from 1 to 3 p.m. Teacher workshop days are scheduled August 28-30. The first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 5.


No action taken on special use request

The Tracy Planning Commission took no action Monday on a special use permit application sought for a proposed townhouse project near O’Brien Court and the Tracy hospital.

Drake Snell, rural Tracy, requested a special use permit to allow the construction of six townhouse units on a 300 by 128-foot parcel of land on Union St. The project envisions two, three-plexes. Individual apartments would be owner occupied.

Planning commission members Russ Stobb, Eugene Hook, Al Landa, Rhonda Fredericks, and Bill Chukuske opted to delay approval or denial of the application until a Sept. 5 meeting. Commissioners deferred their consideration, in part, because Snell has not yet purchased the property. (The Tracy Economic Development Authority will consider sealed bids on the property August 18). Some commissioners also indicated that they want more information about the appearance of Snell’s proposed dwellings, and the restrictive covenants that exist for the Eastview Addition.

A special use permit is needed for the proposed multi-family townhouse project because the Union Street property is located in an R-1 zone. According to City Administrator Audrey Koopman, city ordinance allows multi-unit townhouses in an R-1 zone only if a special use permit is granted.

A public hearing on Snell’s application attracted no speakers. But a letter expressing opposition to the special use permit was received from Dave and Karen Reese, homeowners at 501 Sunrise Drive. The Reeses wrote that the Eastview lots have been zoned and marketed for single family dwellings, and should remain so. They expressed concerns that the three, 100-foot Union St. lots were too small for Snell’s proposed project.

“…The minimum square footage for a home according to the covenants is 1,100 square feet. You’re talking about squeezing six of these, plus six garages into an area not much bigger than the four-plex (Eastview Apartments) lot. There will be very little room for yards for these townhomes and absolutely no buffer zone between them and the three lots to the south.”

The Reese’s wrote that the special use permit issue “boils down to a matter of trust and creditability. We trusted (city officials) to adhere to the convenants just as all of us who have built in the Sunrise Addition have when we built.”

Commission member Bill Chukuske, who also serves on the Economic Development Authority, said that the Union St. lots have sat idle for years without attracting interest from prospective single-family house builders. He said that the EDA is committed to selling the lots and getting the property developed. He said he didn’t want to see the city erect any “roadblocks” for the proposed townhouse project.

Landa said he would “have a problem” with okaying the townhouses, if the project is counter to Eastview’s restrictive covenants.

Koopman said after the meeting that the Eastview covenants need to be researched further.


Dairy Queen sponsors Children's Miracle network benefit

The Tracy Dairy Queen is participating in a benefit to assist the Children’s Miracle Network and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

The Tracy restaurant, like other participating Dairy Queens, will donate proceeds from the sale of each “Blizzard” sold on Thursday, August 10 to the Children’s Miracle Network. The Children’s Miracle Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children by raising money for children’s hospitals. Money raised in Minnesota will benefit Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Last year, Gillette provided care for nearly 20,000 children in Minnesota, including 50 from Lyon County.

Dairy Queen has raised $59 million from the Children’s Miracle network since 1984.


Registrations begin for SMSU 'Senior College'

Registrations are being taken for Southwest Minnesota State University’s fall term of “Senior College.”

Senior College offers non-credit courses at a nominal cost to people who are at least 50-years old. The six-week term is Sept. 18 through Oct. 27.

A kick-off program for Senior College is planned Thursday, Sept. 7, at 3:00 in Charter Hall 201, Southwest Minnesota State University at Marshall. President David Danahar will speak. Anyone interested in attending Senior College is invited.

Senior College has two, six-week terms each year. Each class is held one day a week for two hours. Members may choose one to four classes for the fee of $90.

Fifteen classes are planned for Fall 2006, with a variety of topics from a class on the history and culture of Mexico to computers and bird watching. A field trip, speakers and a social event are also planned.

The classes have no tests and no grades. All but one class is offered during the day. The evening class is “Perspectives on Peace and War in the Middle East for 2006.” Don Swanjord, Balaton, who has lived, worked and studied in the Middle East, teaches the course. Registration materials can be obtained by calling Betty Roers at 507-537-7363.