FL Council seeks extension of TIF district

Council continues to study possible purchase of Northland Mall property

Jennifer Mevissen
Staff Writer

In the city of Forest Lake and its Economic Development Authority’s effort to have TIF District 21 extended for 10 years, the local legislative delegation asked for local government backing on the proposed language.

The Washington County board voted 5-0 on Tuesday to support a resolution that would help Forest Lake’s bid in pursuing redevelopment of the Northland Mall and current city hall sites.

“The message from a couple commissioners is that they’re in strong support,” Mayor Chris Johnson said in a telephone interview on Tuesday following the county board’s meeting in Stillwater.

The consensus of the Forest Lake City Council on Monday night was to gain support – at the request of Rep. Bob Dettmer and Sen. Ray Vandeveer – from both the county and ISD 831 since an extension of TIF District 21 has implications for their tax base. The city has asked to be on this Thursday’s agenda for the school board to take urgent action due to the timeline.

Councilwoman Susan Young said that unless a bill passed committee last Friday, it’s dead.

Johnson explained at Monday’s council meeting that an amendment could be made to the omnibus tax bill which includes TIF legislation for other metro cities.

TIF District 21 was established in 1990 to redevelop several properties in and around downtown Forest Lake. It is currently projected to decertify in 2015. The yearly tax increment generated is around $720,000.

City, PACE

The city and EDA have been collaborating with PACE Development – owners of Northland Mall – to improve the site as an overall public-private partnership.

According to City Administrator Aaron Parrish, they are still waiting for a proposal from Keith Johanneson. Last month, the EDA met in a closed session to review an appraisal done by MW Brown and Associates. The results of that appraisal have not been made public.

The property appraised for $7 million in 2008 with its current condition, but sold for $2.7 million later that year. According to Washington County records, property taxes for Northland Mall in 2011 were approximately $58,235.04.

Recent community engagement activities have indicated a strong desire to revitalize the US-61 corridor. When completed, it could include 38,000 square feet of retail and municipal complex on the current mall site.

Redevelopment of the city hall site at 220 N. Lake Street will allow for the construction of multi-family housing that will enhance the vitality of downtown Forest Lake.

Councilman Michael Freer was apprehensive with the direction the city is taking.

Councilwoman Jackie McNamara said the tax increment finacing goes along with the property, which she believes should be a huge incentive for another developer to come in.

“I like the answers I got, so I could support it,” she assured Freer.

Other News

Public Works Director Mike Tate said the city’s compost site, located at Forestland Nursery, will open this Saturday, March 31.

Weekend hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; it’s closed Sundays. The facility at 20001 Forest Blvd. N (south on US-61) will be open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 21 and receive free finished compost and wood chips while supplies last. The loader runs from 8 a.m. to noon. Materials can be placed into a pick-up or trailer; no truck toppers.

In addition, Tate said the department installed one dock at Lakeside Memorial Park.