Cottage Grove development plan and community center may clashThe city of Cottage Grove may soon be in a desirable development dilemma: follow through on a planned referendum for a taxpayer-supported community center, or approve an advancing private developer’s plan to purchase and remake a prime vacant retail site with a fitness center as its focal point?
The city of Cottage Grove may soon be in a desirable development dilemma: follow through on a planned referendum for a taxpayer-supported community center, or approve an advancing private developer’s plan to purchase and remake a prime vacant retail site with a fitness center as its focal point?
A privately financed option has emerged that could place a long-planned community center on hold, city officials said in recent interviews. That comes as the city and the YMCA are in disagreement over how much Cottage Grove taxpayers would kick in toward the construction of a jointly funded community center, the mayor said.
A private developer’s plan to purchase and redevelop the former site of a Home Depot with a chain fitness center at its core is advancing toward a formal proposal to the city as early as this month, officials said. That is the farthest a redevelopment plan has progressed for the gaping vacancy in one of the city’s primary commercial areas near 80th Street and East Point Douglas Road.
With both the developer — who has not yet purchased the Home Depot property and was not identified by city officials because there is not yet a formal proposal — and YMCA saying they would be reluctant to continue with the city if the other plan moves forward, city leaders may be left to pick one over the other.
“The priority right now, for me ... [is] redeveloping the Home Depot site,” Mayor Myron Bailey said. The developer’s plan would redevelop the vacant commercial site, bring a desired fitness center to the city, save millions in taxpayer dollars and add significantly to the city’s tax base, he said.
City Council members had expected to vote this month on whether or not to put a referendum question on the November ballot asking voters for the OK to raise taxes in order to help construct an estimated 52,000 square-foot, $16 million community center.
With negotiations with the YMCA stalled and a redevelopment plan that would provide similar amenities looking likely to come before the city for approval, Cottage Grove City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said a community center referendum this fall appears unlikely.
Cottage Grove City Council members will meet Wednesday evening with the Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority to discuss a number of issues, among them the future of the community center and redevelopment plans. Schroeder said the hope is council members will provide their preference of which to pursue.
“We have an opportunity to work with a developer to redevelop the Home Depot [property], and however that is redeveloped may impact other plans,” Schroeder said. “But, that doesn’t state with absolute certainty what that impact my be.”
Cottage Grove has been in detailed planning stages of a community center for roughly two years. That includes an in-depth report from a task force set up in 2009 to study the question that recommended moving forward in tandem with the YMCA on a community center project. It would be constructed near the future new Cottage Grove City Hall near Ravine Parkway and Keats Avenue.
A possible community center has garnered public support, too, with a poll conducted late last year showing a large majority of residents questioned in favor of a facility – and even OK with a bump in property taxes to pay for it.
Putting the referendum on hold wouldn’t kill the proposed community center, which has been planned to include a fitness center, pool and meeting spaces, Bailey said. But, the mayor acknowledged that approving the redevelopment of the Home Depot site with a for-profit fitness center as an anchor would substantially change any future community facility.
If the city backs away from the current community center plan, Bailey said he could envision a far smaller facility, with senior and teen centers and other community meeting spaces.
“I don’t think it’s an either/or, by the way,” he said. “I think you could do both. But we’d have to wait for a referendum until spring.”