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Baxter City Council: Special hearing convened for Cypress Drive project assessments

A conceptual blueprint of the Cypress corridor project. The project broke ground this summer, primarily with construction of roundabouts at Excelsior Drive and regrading of Highway 210. It's slated to be finished July 2020. Illustration / Short Elliott Hendrickson1 / 2
Scott Hedlund (foreground) gives a presentation on the assessment framework the city of Baxter will apply to properties adjoining the Cypress Drive corridor project. Total project costs are over $17 million and will be funded, in parts, by the city of Baxter, state monies and assessments to property owners. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 2

BAXTER—Property owners along the Cypress corridor project may feel the pinch in coming years and some are opposing the city of Baxter assessments imposed on neighboring parcels.

The Baxter City Council convened a special meeting Wednesday, Oct. 10, on the Cypress corridor project assessments and invited members of the community to come forward and address the issue with a hearing.

Written objections to the assessments were presented and attendees expressed dismay at what they deem high assessments for the project.

Sharon Olsen, who owns property on the corner of south Cypress Drive and Greenwood Road, spoke up during the public hearing.

"First of all, I'm not happy with the high assessments, I'll just let you know," said Olsen, who expressed concerns for how these assessments would be divided out to each owner in the fourplex she currently lives in. "I think I'm in 11 percent, but I'm also in a low-income bracket, as far finances and so forth, which is a big concern."

While preliminary estimates placed total costs at $14,322,302, a final summary of costs presented at the hearing set the price tag at $17,170,974.

In terms of the assessed portions of these costs, Project Manager Scott Hedlund noted, payments will be collected annually with property taxes starting in 2019, for 12 years, at a roughly 5 percent interest rate (though the actual rate will be determined when the bonds are sold in November). Property owners can apply for 2019 deferements by Nov. 15, while the deadline for subsequent deferments will

The city of Baxter's policy for assessments is as follows:

• For new, reconstruction or full depth reclamation project costs, 100 percent of costs will be assessed up to 44 feet of roadwidth. Anything remaining will be picked up by city funds.

• For stormwater draining costs, 60 percent of reconstruction costs will be assessed up to 44 feet of road width. Properties owners will be assessed 100 percent for any new construction up to 44 feet of road width.

• There will be no assessments for trails associated with the project.

• The city will assess a portion of costs for intersection improvements such as roundabouts, turn lanes and traffic signals to properties that benefit from these amenities, which include properties that don't directly abut these improvements.

• For new and reconstructed streets, full-depth reclamation and stormwater project costs there is a 100 percent assessment for interior lots, corner lots, and irregular lots.

Prior to Wednesday's meeting, seven property owners submitted written objections to the assessments stipulated by the city. An eighth, submitted a written objection during the meeting. Three Berrywood Apartment entities presented objections for respective parcels on Berrywood Drive and Cypress Drive; Navillus Land Co. presented objections for three properties on College Road and two parcels with no assigned addresses; Altronics objected to assessments for a property on Industrial Park Road; Ashabee LLC objected to assessments for a parcel on Cypress Drive and a parcel on College Road; and Haylyn LLC presented objections to assessments on two Industrial Road properties. The eighth was YellowHouse LLC, which objected to assessments.

A rundown of the project

Currently, Cypress Drive has two lengths—one to the north and one to the south of Highway 210. Plans are to link those parts across the railroad tracks and put a new signal intersection at the Highway 210 crossing near SuperOne Foods. The signal intersection at Golf Course Drive, initially set up as a temporary intersection decades ago, would be taken down.

Phased over several years, the ultimate goal is to connect Cypress Drive north to Woida Road and then to Wise Road and south to Highland Scenic Drive, also known as Highway 48. This would create a parallel corridor to Highway 371, particularly for local traffic versus people passing through the Baxter strip.

It's expected to improve access to the city's industrial park to the south of Highway 210, shorten local trips, increase options for pedestrians and bicycle riders, and give local traffic an alternative to the bustling Highway 371.

Extending Cypress Drive, now in two disconnected halves on either side of Highway 210, means crossing the railroad tracks not far from the Viking Land Harley-Davidson dealership and creating a new signal light intersection on Highway 210.

Left and right turn lanes would be created at the new Cypress/Highway 210 intersection. Turn lanes would also be added to Industrial Park Road.

Proposed improvements include stormwater ponds near the Paul Bunyan State Trail. Multiple stormwater ponds are planned along Cypress from College Road to Industrial Park Road. Other improvements include sanitary sewer and water main to under- or unserved parcels.

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