BAXTER-More steps were taken to make the White Oak Estates expansion a reality during a Baxter City Council meeting Tuesday, May 21.

During Tuesday's session, Baxter City Council members signed off on a final plat (or demarcations of the property) for the White Oak expansion, to rezone the property from C2, or regional commercial, to a planned unit development property, as well as a final plan for White Oak Estates. These moves, packaged together in a single resolution, were intended to pave the way for the construction of a 20-unit apartment building and two 10-unit townhomes located at 14272, 14236, and 14232 Grand Oaks Drive.

The project includes some new fire lane connections, connections with the Paul Bunyan State Trail, vehicle access points, a parking lot, a playground, a loop driveway, three signs, as well as other amenities for the property.

Community Development Director Josh Doty noted the amount of parking stipulated by city ordinance may be more than White Oak needs, but the developer and city staff were able to formulate a plan giving White Oak Estates some flexibility, while retaining its base market value should the property be sold down the road for less specialized purposes as it is now.

Supported by the St. Cloud nonprofit Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, White Oak Estates is a $6.8 million affordable housing project on 6.6 acres along Grand Oaks Drive. The development is across the street from Sprucewood Townhomes.

To qualify for tax relief status, rentals are made available to low-income residents who make less than 60 percent of the area median income. Families at or below the 60 percent area median income earn between $9.62 and $21.87 per hour. The council voted to approve its tax incremental financing, or TIF, designation during the May 7 meeting.

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is an economic development tool used to help businesses offset the costs of redeveloping a site. Instead of paying higher taxes immediately upon completion of a new building, a business instead will use those tax savings to cover the costs of demolition and new construction. Often, these agreements come tied with stipulations, such as a requirement to offer affordable housing.

In addition, the property has been conceptualized as a safe and accessible facility for people with special needs or mental illness. Representatives of the partnerships have proposed contracting with Nystrom and Associates LLC in Baxter to provide onsite support services.

Council members Zach Tabatt and Todd Holman were not in attendance.

In other business, the council:

Approved a stormwater facilities maintenance agreement with the Brainerd School District for the new Baxter Elementary School.

Approved a stormwater facility maintenance agreement with Sicales Properties, LLC.

Approved a developer agreement with Sicales Properties, LLC. Sicales is tapped to head the construction of the planned Ekomarkt multi-tenant commercial complex for Baxter Village III.

Approved plans for the 2019 south sanitary sewer interceptor improvements project.

Approved a partial pay estimate in the amount of $385,809 to Landwehr Construction Inc. for the 2018 Cypress Drive Improvements Project.

Accepted a pilot study for the biological filtration water treatment plant. The study reveals the effectiveness of natural, environmentally friendly filtration systems to combat high levels of ammonia, arsenic, iron, and other substances endemic to the Baxter watershed.

Approved plans for the 2019 Mapleton Road, Jasperwood Drive and Knollwood Drive area improvements project.

Approved a partial estimate from Holden Electric for the water treatment plant generator improvements project.

Approved a partial pay estimate in the amount of $30,115 to Rice Lake Construction for the water treatment plant filter and media replacement project.

Approved shoreline grating for the construction of a White Sand Lake beach at 1232 Memorywood Drive, which property owner Clint Malikowsky noted in documents amounts to restoring the beach to its prior condition before the previous owner of the property filled and leveled out the yard's turf. The council approved a conditional use permit, which is required in a case like this.

Approved a conditional use permit for the construction of a new Abra motor vehicle repair shop, at 15910 Edgewood Drive, or the old Sears building, which may include a car wash and drive-thru in accordance with plans submitted to the city. The developer-Hy-Tec Construction-indicated in city documents construction will entail extensive renovation, as well as the installation of amenities necessary for car repairs.

Purchased a 20-foot stretch of property to be used as a sewer and water infrastructure easement for the 2019 south interceptor and north Forestview area improvement project, which looks to reconfigure subterranean infrastructure to accommodate Forestview Middle School, the new neighboring Baxter Elementary School, as well as some nearby residential properties. The city paid $1,527 to the Brainerd School District.