Plan for 60 city-owned acres in progress

By Louis Hoglund

The above map shows the 60-acre parcel on the northwest side of Pelican Rapids. Note that a preliminary plan from a few years ago suggested a commercial strip of land along Highway 108. But the Pelican Rapids City council agreed April 12 to keep the entire proposed development zoned residential.

A strip of land along Highway 108 will be “green space,” with no commercial development. 

That was the decision of the Pelican Rapids City Council, as it continues to work with developer Raymond Reading, who has requested to be the sole developer of 60 acres of city-owned land in northwest Pelican. 

The undeveloped acreage has been closely watched for several years, as a major advancement of housing in Pelican. Reading has proposed buying the 60 acres for only $1, and forging a development plan with the city. 

One potential stumbling block was about 250 feet of Highway 108 frontage. The city’s planning commission, at one time, had envisioned the strip of land as a logical extension of the city’s commercial district—with the traffic count and visibility along 108. 

But Reading asked that the 108 frontage remain undeveloped as “green space,” which would be more attractive to homeowners. His goal is to maintain standards in the new development, which will retain property and home values—which might be impacted if commercial development was allowed at the entance to the development. 

Reading asked that the 108 frontage remain as a residential zone, to protect the future homeowners. He said the development agreement could be written so that the city could revise it at a later date, if the housing proposal didn’t go as planned. 

“I would like to see this go…Housing is the biggest problem Pelican has,” said Councilman Steve Foster, who made a motion to maintain the residential zoning. 

“I’m all in favor of what you’d like to do with this development,” said Foster.

Placing the city’s entire 60 acres of housing land in the hands of one developer has prompted some hesitance with councilmember Kevin Ballard. At the previous meeting, he expressed some caution about the city putting “all its eggs in one basket.”

“Is it all or nothing for you?” asked Ballard, suggesting maybe 30 acres to one developer, 30 to another. 

But Reading insisted that he preferred to be the sole developer. This would enable him to set housing standards and expand the development in a systematic, orderly fashion. 

But, Reading said other builders would be invited and encouraged to build in the new plat—but he would have final approval of the plans. 

“I would welcome more builders,” said Reading. 

Local builder Kelly Funk was later asked about the Reading proposal. As a construction contractor, he said he “did not have an issue with it…As long as everybody knows the covenants and other builders are allowed to come in…I have no issues.”

Reading asked for a commitment from the council, before he advances the project with plats, designs, layouts, and engineering-related costs. 

Reading is experienced in building, residential development, property management, and real estate. He has been involved in numerous developments in Detroit Lakes, Moorhead, and Hawley, his hometown. 

“One street at a time” is Reading’s approach to developing a larger tract, as a means of controlling upfront cost and overhead. A likely objective would be three to five homes a year, said Reading, who views his plan as a “long-term relationship” with the city. 

A few components of the preliminary plan: 

• For each phase of the development, Reading would pay 10 percent down for utility improvements—street, curb-gutter, and water-sewer. The remaining 90 percent would be carried over as special assessments to each lot. 

• He asked that the city cover 50 percent of the stormwater collection system

• Special assessments to be deferred, but begin when each lot is under construction.

• Special assessments be financed over 20 years, at an interest rate of 4 percent or less.

Reading is not asking for tax increment financing or abatement incentives.