Chanhassen City Council Moves Forward with TIF District Despite Heavy Protest

“If it’s risky for a developer worth billions, why isn’t it risky for Chanhassen?”

Photo: Alpha News

CHANHASSEN, Minn. – Armed with signs and petitions, residents of Chanhassen poured into Monday’s city council meeting to express their opposition to a tax subsidy for a proposed apartment complex.

The 134-unit, six story building is to be built in the heart of the city’s downtown area on West 78th St., which will also include an attached Aldi’s grocery store.

The meeting lasted over three hours.

Resident Rolland Neve presented approximately 800 signatures to the city council on a petition against the Venue apartment complex/Aldi’s project, which will replace the current 50 year old, one-level Frontier Shopping Center which currently houses about 20 business tenants.

Over 100 residents packed into council chambers, some carrying “Mr. Mayor: Don’t Destroy Chanhassen” signs, to urge council members to vote against the subsidy, a proposed downtown redevelopment tax increment financing district, or TIF. In a TIF district, funds are reallocated from property taxes to encourage investment within a designated district.

Photo: Alpha News

During the open podium session of the meeting, over 20 Chanhassen residents voiced their concerns regarding the planned six-story building including traffic/parking issues, taxes, public safety, subsidization, overcrowding of schools and the building design not fitting into the aesthetics of the city.

“We are within our constitutional rights to speak up and disagree with what we deem wrong, no matter the late hour in which this proposal has progressed,” said resident Lita Cantin.

Despite the outpouring of opposition, the Chanhassen city council voted 3-2 in favor of the TIF and the modifications for the plan. City council members Dan Campion and Elise Ryan were the opposing votes. Mayor Denny Laufenburger and Council Members Jerry McDonald and Bethany Tjornhom voted to support the plan.

In addition to the TIF, the city council voted to adopt a resolution to approve modifications to the redevelopment plan for the Venue/Aldi’s complex and to approve a contract for private redevelopment between the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Chanhassen Frontier, LLC, the applicant/owner of the project. United Properties proposed the development in December 2016 and is seeking the $1.3 million TIF to begin development of the project.

“Why does this TIF vote have to happen so quickly, because it feels very rushed to me,” Ryan said during the meeting.

Prior to the vote, Ryan presented a slide to the council in which she contrasted the proposed timeline and the actual timeline of the project, and said the project was being pushed too quickly.

Because of this, Ryan made a motion that the city council delay the TIF vote until December 11, with a direction to have a completed vision study and include a public comment period. The motion was seconded by Campion, but was eventually defeated, 3-2. McDonald spoke against Ryan’s motion stating he felt Ryan’s information regarding the rushed timeline of the project was “disingenuous.”

After the motion failed, Campion implored the council to vote against the TIF.

“I think there has been a pretty vocal message from the community about their concerns over this,” he said.

“I have been against this project from the onset,” Ryan told the council. “The amount of money being given to United Properties is astonishing. $60,000 from Carver County, $719,000 from the Met Council in a grant and $1.3 million dollars in TIF from the city. That is over $2 million dollars from various entities to lessen the financial impact to United Properties. As I asked before, if it’s risky for a developer worth billions, why isn’t it risky for Chanhassen?”

United Properties is owned by the Pohlad family.

Earlier in the summer, the Chanhassen City Council approved the plans for United Properties to redevelop the Frontier Shopping Center, also by a 3-2 vote, and approved the application for a $715,000 Metropolitan Council Livable Communities Demonstration Account (LCDA) grant. Campion and Ryan cast the dissenting votes.

Ryan Kelley, LCDA program officer told Alpha News that although the city of Chanhassen applied for the grant, they have not yet been awarded it.

“I can not say if this project will be getting a grant.  They have submitted an application for an LCDA grant,” Kelley wrote to Alpha News in an e-mail, “These grants undergo a two-step review process which is currently underway and won’t be complete until early November.”

“This project moved through with lightning speed,” Ryan told the council regarding the project as a whole, “One session, one work session, one planning commission meeting, one city council meeting and the development was approved. Five meetings to approve what will be the centerpiece of our downtown.”

“The city council heard from their constituents but did not respond. They apparently had their minds made up and were not about to listen to any contrary opinion and there was ample contrary opinion,” Neve told Alpha News following the meeting’s conclusion. “I mean it was overwhelming. When you get over 700 petitions in opposition and they don’t take notice of it, it kind of tells you that the city council is not responsive to their constituents and they’re not doing the job for which they were voted in.”

Former Chanhassen City Council Member Vicki Ernst was sharply critical of the current Council.

They (the city council) didn’t listen to the citizens,” Ernst said. “They took a vote based on what they wanted, not what the citizens wanted.”

Donna Azarian