Preliminary report portrays 24-slip facility as a money-maker
Details are starting to flow concerning plans for a city-owned marina, and the more the Forest Lake Economic Development Authority hears of it, the more the seven-member board likes it.
The EDA on Monday, June 11 authorized the expenditure of “soft costs” which will bring about a detailed proposal that could be sent out for construction quotes.
“To this point we’ve been spending as little as we can, but to move it forward the next level is going to require the expense of some funds,” said City Administrator Aaron Parrish. “Realistically, to make a final decision you’re going to want all that information, so it’s going to cost you some money to do it.”
The city’s engineering firm, Stantec, originally sought $19,000 for a full study, but the city has taken on some of that work since that request. Therefore, the cost of the next step will be substantially less than $19,000, Parrish said.
Preliminary plans call for a 200-foot dock off of Lakeside Memorial Park leading to a gated area with 24 slips. Of an estimated total project cost of $110,000, the dock is calculated at $75,000, though prices vary significantly.
A loan with 2 percent interest would be paid off in six years with nearly $50,000 of revenue to spare under the “conservative” analysis that Parrish presented.
“It does look feasible when you look at it in a preliminary basis,” he said.
The model assumes half occupancy in the first year increasing to 7/8ths occupancy for the fourth, fifth and sixth. The projected rental rate starts at $1,800 and increases by 2 percent annually.
The facility would be unstaffed. Security cameras and a gate, estimated to cost a combined $15,000, would control access.
EDA member Mark Finnemann views the marina as a positive business venture.
“I like what I see,” he said of the numbers presented. “…It wouldn’t become some sort of a burden.”
No current docks would be require removal, said Parrish, adding that the new dock could also be open to the public from the shore to the gate, which would be placed just in front of the slips.
Lighting and parking issues will be addressed in the final proposal, and rates and location details will be firmed up.
Also, several policy issues will need to be hammered out when the proposal comes back for review, including whether to allow alcohol in the marina and, if so, how to keep it separate from the park. The matter may be on the agenda at the June 25 EDA meeting.
The city has relaxed its sign ordinance during the Broadway Avenue corridor construction but is preparing to resume enforcement around Labor Day.
When it does so, Forest Lake businesses will have a new rule book to follow.
Doug Borglund, community development director, told the EDA he expects the business community to like the results of the ordinance’s seventh overhaul in 11 years.
“I think we’ve answered some questions that have been issues in the past,” he said. “We’ll have to adapt and educate and learn as we go forward, but truly I think that what’s in front of you is a very good document.”
The streamlined document is the result of input from businesses, the EDA, the Forest Lake Business Retention and Expansion Task Force and the city’s planning commission.
One major change is the replacement of a sliding fee scale to a flat fee of $50 for each new permanent sign. Borglund expects revenues to fall short of the total cost of issuing permits, so the city will have to subsidize the process.
The new ordinance would outlaw the use of flying banners, which are popular in town at businesses such as car dealerships and apartment complexes. However, Borglund said most of the changes provide more flexibility to businesses. He felt the revisions position Forest Lake well in comparison to neighboring communities.
“I think the story’s always been that we’re more restrictive,” Borglund said. “We found that even before we made these changes that we were actually a little bit more flexible than many of our neighbors already, but we’ve become even more flexible.”
The EDA lent support to the draft. The city council later on Monday, June 11 also approved the “substance” of the ordinance by a 4-1 vote. Members wished to tweak a few details but voted that night so that businesses could move forward with signage projects.
The council will vote on the final version of the ordinance at its Monday, June 25 meeting. It will also need to amend the 2012 fee schedule to include the new rates.
The city received good news during a city council workshop held between the EDA and regular city council meetings last Monday. A representative from Kern DeWenter Viere presented a rosy report on Forest Lake’s audit for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011.
Audit supervisor Michael Bosl called the city’s bookkeeping clean and concise and said Forest Lake will again qualify for the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
“We don’t see that very often where there’s only a couple findings,” he said.