City and east Blaine developer come to terms
“At least at the developer, attorney and staff level we’re there,” city manager Gary Tomsic told council members, presenting what was to be the final version of a new East Blaine Developer’s agreement.
three months of listening and tweaking, city council,
at their April 11 meeting, approved changes to the 1996
east Blaine annexation agreement and attached developers’ agreement,
eliminating some conditions for development in the area
and imposing others.
City attorney Jon Sitkin said the new agreement would protect current residents, prepare for future growth while still allowing the developer an economically feasible project.
The developer’s first obligation, Sitkin said, was to participate in a master planning process for the entire east Blaine area looking at everything from utilities to roads. Based on that plan, “the developer will be required to design the infrastructure to serve that whole annexation area and install it with certain limitations – a component of that installation will need to serve their development,” he said. “They aren’t going to have to lay out sewer line everywhere,” but the system they install will need to be designed to accommodate future growth.
The agreement obligates the developer to protect wetlands and aquifer recharge areas, but Sitkin pointed out any project would also be reviewed for environmental compliance as part of the normal planned unit development permitting process, providing several more opportunities for public input.
The city will be obligated to allow the developer to use latecomers fees to recoup the costs of installing roads and utilities from other property owners in the area, with a provision to limit the impact of these fees on those who already have homes in east Blaine.
“We think it addresses the council’s direction to make an accommodation for existing residences as it comes to latecomers fees,” Sitkin said. Despite earlier complaints from Blossom Development attorney Philip Serka that it could hamper their ability to recover costs, the agreement retained a provision exempting any property that had a building permit at the time the agreement was approved from paying the developer a fee if they are obligated by city codes to connect to the sewer system. “If you’re within 200 feet you’ll be required to connect by city law. You will not be required in that circumstance to pay a latecomers fee,” Sitkin said, though the city connection charge still applied. However, any new development would have to pay the developer back a pro-rated share of the cost of bringing sewer to the area, as would anyone who chose to connect to the system. “If you’re outside the 200 feet and you have a septic fail and want to connect to the system, that’s voluntary, you pay the fee,” he said.
Under the agreement the developer can also use local improvement districts (LIDs) to recoup costs of developing infrastructure, but the city is only required to “consider” such a proposal. “We intentionally didn’t want the city to be obligated,” Sitkin said.
Blossom Development principal Ken Hertz thanked the city for its work on the agreement. “It’s been a good cooperative arrangement,” he said. Hertz plans a 650-unit subdivision on 450 acres of the 1,100 acre east Blaine annexation area. The other primary developer in the area, Doug Connelly, has applied to the city for permission to put in a 353 lot subdivision in the 4,200 block of H Street.
City community development director Terry Galvin said the master plan for the east Blaine area would be part of the revised city comprehensive plan, due for completion in October. “We’ll start on it almost immediately,” he said.