City,developer struggle to find east Blaine solution

Published on Thu, Mar 31, 2005 by eg Olson

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City, developer struggle
to find east Blaine solution

By Meg Olson

As city council closed the month-long public hearing on proposed changes to east Blaine developers’ agreements city manager Gary Tomsic expressed frustration that Blossom Development still wasn’t satisfied.

“This has gone on for three meetings and every meeting is the same thing,” he said to city council members at their March 28 meeting. “It was their request that the agreement be changed and in the process we wanted things clarified too. If the only things to be acted upon are things Blossom Development wants then they should write it and you can act on that.”

Blossom lawyer Phil Serka expressed misgivings about a change to the agreement that would exempt existing homes from paying latecomers fees when they connect to utilities the developer would bring into the area. “We hadn’t asked for that to be changed,” he said of additions to the clauses in the agreement, which had originally obligated the city to allow the developer to use a latecomer fee to recover costs of putting in infrastructure such as roads, power, sewer and water “to the fullest extent possible.”

The amended agreement would still allow such a fee to be charged but only to new development or voluntary connections to the system. Existing homes mandated to connect to the sewer system, for example, when it came within 200 feet of their property line, would be exempt from the fee but not of paying normal city connection costs.

“We have a provision the city will be paid but we don’t have a way to recoup costs,” Serka said. “We don’t want a situation where we build infrastructure for the entire area and have difficulty recovering our investment.”

East Blaine resident Mike Kelly said the agreement was intended to protect more than the developer’s interests. He applauded the city for including language that reflected input from people who live in the area and worried they would wind up paying part of the cost of the new 650-unit development Blossom plans for a large chunk of the east Blaine area. “I as a citizen did propose something in writing and I have as much right to make a proposal as he does,” he said of Serka. “I want to endorse what the city has put forward. It’s moving in the direction of what’s fair for existing property owners.”

Tomsic said the city had a responsibility under the original annexation agreement to protect area residents. “The annexation was not intended to affect any existing property owners in any negative way,” he said. “Some thought they would benefit and that’s why they signed the petition.”

Serka suggested the two parties could work out their differences at a work session after the public hearing had been closed. “Eighty percent of the agreement is acceptable,” he said. Some council members appeared to share Tomsic’s frustration and wanted something more direct. Submit what they want and we act on it,” suggested Bruce Wolf. “Bring it to the next council meeting.” Ken Ely cautioned that council was setting themselves up to cut and paste disparate documents, making agreement unlikely. “This is going to be a mess,” he said. At the recommendation of city attorney Jon Sitkin council agreed to give the lawyers another chance to come up with a single agreement all parties could agree to and present it to council in two weeks.

“Come on boys, let’s get this done,” said mayor John Liebert.