City grants one-year extension for east Blaine development project

By Stefanie Donahue

With just a few days remaining before approvals on a 349-unit subdivision planned for east Blaine were set to expire, the Blaine City Council voted in favor of granting project applicants a one-year extension to lure investors and begin construction on the site.

The project goes by the name East Maple Ridge and is located east of Lincoln Park, midway between H Street and the border. Mixed-use, residential and commercial properties are slated to crop up on the land once the project is complete. Project applicants received preliminary plat and planned unit development approvals from the city on July 26, 2010 and were given seven years to begin construction.

Seven years and one recession later, the property still sits untouched and applicants Douglas and Louise Connelly are citing a lack of interest from investors to extend utilities as the primary cause.

“Although this is a beautiful, legacy-quality property, developers normally are never asked to bear such disproportionately large costs of infrastructure outside the boundaries of the plat that they are constructing,” reads a letter the Connellys’ penned to the city last month. “Essentially, the lack of existing sewer lines anywhere nearby means that we are asking [developers] to finance and carry this artificial cost of approximately a million extra dollars, and that even before they can begin the project itself.”

In an attempt to quell the issue and spur development, the city invested an estimated $250,000 in February to install a 1,450-foot sewer line extension through Lincoln Park and along D Street. The line now reaches to Bridges Plat, a development property adjacent to the park.

As a part of the extension, project leads with Bridges Plat also invested 50 percent of the cost to extend 250 feet of the line to the edge of their property. The initiative left city staff hopeful that Bridges Plat will begin construction as early as this year and eventually prompt the extension of utility lines even closer to the East Maple Ridge property.

“Behind all of this, historically, there has been a relatively slow absorption of single-family building lots in Blaine, so they evaluate this and know that they cannot expect to recover their investment quickly,” reads the Connellys’ letter. “On the bright side of things, many of the existing lots that are ready have been absorbed, so consequently, there is finally a growing demand for building lots in Blaine.”

During a regular meeting on July 10, Blaine City Council leveraged the city’s municipal code to grant the one-year extension. Moving forward, the applicants can ask for a final one-year extension for construction to begin on the preliminary plat. If nothing is done by that time, the approvals will expire and applicants will be required to complete the
application process again.

“We are experiencing a surge in overall activity in general, and as a measure of this, we can report that there has been an increase of inquiries about this property,” the Connellys said. “We are increasingly hopeful of an upcoming sale. It would be helpful for anyone who expresses an interest to have the time available in which to do their due diligence and to construct the first phase of the project.”

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