The Woodbury City Council on Wednesday examined plans for infrastructure improvements in the south part of the city that will potentially open the door for 600 new housing units a year over the next decade.
The city is considering when it should extend Pioneer Drive south to Dale Road and construct a new trunk sewer line south of Bailey Road near Woodbury Drive.
Several residents who attended the meeting said developers are eager to start building in the city’s Phase 2 growth area and are just waiting for the infrastructure improvements.
Dick Putnam, who owns 120 acres near the proposed sewer line, said he has a purchase agreement in place with a developer and urged the council to move forward with the plans.
“There are a lot of people standing on the sidelines,” he said, adding later, “The demand is there.”
The council directed staff to move forward with studies for the two projects and continue its efforts to acquire land needed for the sewer. (Wednesday’s meeting was a workshop for the council, so no formal action was taken.)
Woodbury Councilman Paul Rebholz said the city is on new ground with this phase of growth. The city has never had to “make that leap of faith” by paying for infrastructure improvements before development occurs, and he wants to city to take a cautious approach.
So does resident Mark Frazer, a nearby landowner who is not looking to have his property developed. He said the city’s projections for growth in the Phase 2 area are not conservative and it’s too soon to start expanding roads south toward Cottage Grove, which would come later in the development process.
One sticking point among the growth-management strategy the city discussed Wednesday was the possibility of extending an existing $400,000 annual levy for the Tamarack interchange. The state Legislature is considering enacting levy limits for cities, and council members agreed that they should hold off on a decision to rededicate those levy dollars for a roads fund.
City Administrator Clint Gridley said there are always inherent risks with new development and it will be a judgment call on when to go forward with certain projects. But the key, he said, is that the city would take on no debt up front.
“The city is in a decent position to take risks,” he said.
Developer Mario Cocchiarella said the city should move quickly on infrastructure projects and development in general because the economy seems to be rebounding and low bids for projects might not last.
Woodbury resident Mark Thornsjo also spoke during Wednesday’s workshop, asking that the city look at higher-density development and pursue avenues for development other than the traditional zoning paradigm.
A formal decision on the growth plan will likely be made at the Feb. 23 council meeting.