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Street plans next step in Rushford motel project

Fri, Aug 29th, 2008
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - Plans to develop 23-acres of land on Rushford's northern border with the Village moved another step forward at last Monday's August 25, 2008 City council meeting. Minus Laura Deering, council members Dahl, Johnson, Benson and Mayor Ladewig voted unanimously to authorize preparation of drawings and cost estimates in anticipation of fall-2008 bidding.

If all goes according to the accelerating plan, street, gutter and drainage structures will enable construction of $1.7-million 21-unit motel with garages, a $1-million 400-seat "banquet center" with parking for 133-vehicles, 8-City-owned public-housing units for additional $1-million, as well as re-relocation of the hardware store to an available lot with highway frontage. Infrastructure to develop the full package would cost the City an estimated $655,000 according to figures prepared by Administrator Block.

The total stated cost to the City, $2.65-million is a ballpark estimate. The council never discussed tax implications for Rushford property owners, nor how the City will manage public housing other than to issue Essential Function Bonds to pay for it.

The plan and many of its subtle terms is the brainchild of Tom Serie, front man for F&L Development. Serie does not intend to own the motel, the banquet center or the housing units, but he is eager to build them, and soon. Assuring council members that construction costs will be lower if the project is built over the coming winter than if it is postponed until next spring, Serie reminded the council, "The smartest thing I did when I started this is tell you, 90-days and I'm outta here. Don't want to threaten anybody, but the clock is ticking."

Pine Meadows addition developer Mike Sexhaur was also present. He promised the council he would dust off his old plans to build single-family homes in the Village adjacent to the proposed 23-acre site purchased last September at a cost of $30,400-per acre. Sexhaur's development has been on hold for a couple of years, in part because of access problems. With the construction of a new road to the proposed motel and public housing units, access to the Sexhaur property will be facilitated. Sexhaur told the council that he would "look at the numbers" and report back in 2-weeks. He also stated that he would consider the feasibility of constructing a 9-plex in Pine Meadows. Serie agreed that private and public sector housing development costs should be compared.

Despite the palpable air of a deal-done, there remain details to bedevil the City. Though few residents attended Monday's meeting and no one spoke against the project, it was clear from the discussion that a number of business-owners and citizens have expressed concern about focusing City investment away from the established downtown retail district and older residential neighborhoods to new commercial and housing development on the fringe.

Addressing what he called "rumors," Block briefed the council on discussions with business and property owners in the downtown area, explaining then that no other area but the 23-acre north side parcel would work for any of the proposed developments. Serie concurred. Council members agreed to urge proponents of downtown development, especially those interested in building a community center in the heart of the business district, to propose an alternative plan. Added Serie, "let's compare numbers."

Other business

• The council approved distributing $72,259.70 in unexpended flood relief donations made directly to the City. RADAR will receive $33,000 and $5,000 in gift cards to be disbursed to meet flood recovery needs. Semcac food shelf will receive $8,000. And the Semcac energy assistance program will receive $20,000. The City will retain a balance of $6,259.70 for ongoing flood relief projects.

• The council agreed that Block should contact Winona Health, Gunderson Lutheran and Mayo about providing medical services to the Rushford community.

• The council voted unanimously to award the phase-one levee certification study to URS Corporation, low-bidder at $274,735.

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