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Rushford Council sells business lot

Fri, May 16th, 2008
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - A decisive step was made in Rushford Hardware's proposed move to north of town when the Rushford City Council voted, albeit reluctantly, to sell owner Greg Norstad's Lot #10 in the Rush Creek Business Park.

Norstad's store in the Norsquare Plaza was damaged in the flood last summer and has been operating in the Darr Building at the junction of highways 16 and 43 for months.

For a new location, Norstad has had his eye on a spot in the industrial park, but faced reluctance from council members who worried about the migration of a downtown commercial business to the industrial park.

In addition, a market analysis was conducted by Yaggy Colby Associates, an engineering firm with a long relationship with the city. The analyses looked closely at factors like market area, traffic and visibility at four potential sites for the business.

Norstad's top choice was not in the top two sites recommended by the group, who rated the store's current temporary location as the best possible location for the future, even with the drawback that it would come in slightly short of the square footage desired by Norstad and would need a variance of city code regarding number of parking spaces.

According to city administrator Windy Block, Norstad still wishes to move his business to the industrial park.

"He's done everything he can do-there's no area downtown to accommodate his plans," Block said.

Council member Laura Deering raised a concern about the families with children currently living in FEMA trailers close to the location.

Deering said she's also just concerned about having "such a blend (industry, commercial and residence) up there and not having anything solid in place for where these people (flood-displaced residents in FEMA trailers) can live."

Deering was alluding to the fact that there is currently not a solid plan for a new trailer park to be located in town.

The property desired by Norstad is currently zoned for industry, meaning he will have to apply for a variance from the city. The purchase price for the land is $20,000 per acre for a 3+ acre parcel. Some of the purchase price can be rebated to the buyer if certain JOBZ requirements are met.

Council person Nancy Benson summed up the group's sentiments before a unanimous vote in favor of Norstad's request: "I hate to see them leave downtown, but I don't think we can stop Mr. Norstad from placing his business where he feels he needs to place it."

Visit from Tim Penny

The meeting opened with a visit from state political figure, and current head of Southeastern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), Tim Penny.

Penny's purpose was to officially offer free of charge an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) program to Rushford, along with Rushford Village and Peterson.

"If businesses don't come back, the town won't come back," Penny said, explaining the Foundation's focus on businesses.

Penny sees the ABCD program as something that will help formalize the Rushford area business recovery from the flood and provide a "new look at the economic future."

"How do we 'brand' this town as it's going forward?" was one of the questions posed by Penny.

Penny explained the ABCD is a 12-month process and requires a local "fiscal host", a role that the Rushford Community Foundation (RCF) has already offered to fill.

Penny assured the group that acting as fiscal host didn't mean that RCF would be in the "driver's seat" because no entity involved with the process will be any "more equal than the others."

Anticipating that some might feel this work has already been done by the Minnesota Design team last month, Penny informed the group that SMIF works "hand in glove" with the Design Team, and even had a copy of the Design Team's report in hand while he spoke.

The group was appreciative, with Mayor Ladewig thanking Penny for SMIF's early initiative after the flood, offering $10,000 grants to all flood-damaged businesses simply to help them "get their doors open."

Flood Recovery Fund

The spreadsheet of projections for doling out flood recovery dollars continues to show an approximately quarter million dollar deficit. However, Block assured the group that this is no cause for alarm.'

D.E.E.D. will hold requests for certain items like relocation costs and some non-profits, according to Block. In addition, Block says some of the projections are undoubtedly high. All of these factors will likely bring the deficit back to zero, said Block.

"Chuck (Pettitpiece) and the (loan) staff don't see the deficit as a problem," Block concluded.

New loans were approved for Henry Becker Commercial Building on main street; Bluffview Mobile Home Park; and the Rushford Area Chamber of Commerce.

Amendments for more funds were approved for the following businesses: Darr Junction Plaza; D & D Carwash; Rushford Foods; and Rushford State Bank.


What to do when you must have your levees certified, but there's no one willing or able to do it?

Without certification of the levees, much of Rushford would be changed to "floodplain" designation, which would create numerous economic hardships for the city and homeowners.

A recent law prohibits the Corps of Engineers from doing the certification as they have in the past. So far, it appears the potential liability is too high for any private firms to be willing to do the job.

Through a letter to Dean Otomo, city engineer, a representative from the URS Corporation proposed to help the city apply for Provisionally Accredited Levees (PAL) which would buy the city two years to "make repairs, complete necessary hydraulic and survey work, and certify the levees."

The council agreed.

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