City takes final steps toward new Eco VillageThe City Council voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday night to approve four items crucial to the progress and success of the St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Eco Village project on Apollo Road.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
The City Council voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday night to approve four items crucial to the progress and success of the St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Eco Village project on Apollo Road.
1) A specific implementation plan that starts with breaking ground this summer on six homes, followed by eight more in 2013 and the last four in 2014. 2) A loan to Habitat for $400,000 from the city’s housing fund, with zero interest if it repays within 10 years. 3) The OK to officially convey five acres of “unknown value” to SCVHFH. 4) A waiver of parkland-dedication fees worth about $14,000.
The local Habitat has been working with River Falls since 2009, when the city tentatively agreed to give the land if Habitat would develop affordable housing on it within five years.
Years ago, the site served as a compost-construction dump and in recent history, a place to pile snow.
Generally speaking, the Eco Village will be a “planned-unit development” of 18 environmentally sustainable homes affordable to low-income families.
With that, Habitat brings improvements to include new infrastructure -- roadway, water, sewer and relocated electrical lines -- as well as a neighborhood center, walking paths, a small park and eco-friendly features like solar energy.
Council Member David Reese asked if the city’s interests were fully protected if Habitat wasn’t able to fulfill its end of the deal, which includes anticipated financial support and in-kind donations from many sources.
Council Member Randy Kusilek asked if everything would revert back to the city should the project not get finished.
The city administrator and attorney assured them: Yes and yes.
SCVHFH Director Jim Farr told the council, “We’re incredibly grateful for the donation of the property and all the other support you’ve shown for this project.”
He presented a summary of fees Habitat is paying compared to the project benefits, including expensive erosion repair and control. Habitat will need to dig out the bad dirt and replace it with good, stable earth.
He said the site will generate property taxes soon and that the sustainable aspect(s) of the project had already gained positive national attention.
Reminding the city that Habitat is a nonprofit builder, the director asked the council to also waive the park and library impact fees of about $17,000 and allow Habitat to make payments on $96,000 worth of water- and sewer-impact fees.
Though Council Member Bob Hughes supported his request, it brought no action.
As one of his last acts as mayor, Don Richards read a proclamation declaring River Falls an ‘aspiring sustainable community,’ with all council members in support but on the condition that the sustainability did not jeopardize the city’s economic vitality.
Richards also received plaques of appreciation for his service and several rounds of applause.
The mayor expressed deep gratitude for all the support through the years, as well as for the people and things he’s come to know doing the job.