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On 4-3 vote, DL planning commission denies TIF for beach condo project

After discussion and a close vote, David Spies was denied tax increment financing for his condominium project on West Shore Drive, where Voyageur Lanes is now located.

He asked for pay-as-you-go financing to help support the 21-unit venture, but ultimately four of the seven Detroit Lakes Development Authority members agreed it wasn't a blighted area and the DLDA should not be financing market-value housing. The condos are projected to sell for around $325,000 each.

One of the criteria to receive a TIF is the property must be redeveloped, not new on an empty lot, and the current condition of the building must be sub-standard. It's estimated to cost $345,000 to improve Spies' property. Cost of the new construction is estimated at $2.2 million.

"This type of development fits that area," Community Development Director Larry Remmen said, adding that he'd rather see the condos go in than commercial.

He said he was under the impression that if Spies didn't get the financing boost from the DLDA, he may not move the bowling alley to another location in the city, hopefully improving another piece of property, possibly on North Washington Avenue.

Spies said that if the property he chooses for the bowling alley qualifies, he would come back and request financing for that project as well. Some DLDA members suggested linking the two projects together -- the condos and the bowling alley -- under one TIF request.

Others disagreed.

DLDA member Dennis Winskowski said it shouldn't be linked because he didn't feel the DLDA should be granting a TIF to market- value property.

Member Mary Beth Gilsdorf agreed, saying she was under the impression that TIFs were more of a last resort.

Member Greg Hildenbrand expressed his concern, saying if the authority didn't approve the TIF for the condos, he was afraid the bowling alley wouldn't get built and that would hurt all of Detroit Lakes.

Those opposed to the TIF said that created an "unfair playing field" and that other developers would be in saying if the DLDA didn't give them a break, they wouldn't build in the city.

Alderman Bruce Imholte, who was in the audience, added that if this project was given special consideration, what about other "blighted" areas around the lake, should they all get DLDA funds to build condos, too?

DLDA members Winskowski, Mark Hagen, Gilsdorf and Jim Anderson voted to deny Spies' request, leaving Tom Klyve, Matt Brenk and Hildenbrand in favor of granting the TIF.

Spies said he would continue to improve the bowling alley and likely come back with a different proposal for the city. He also thanked the DLDA for taking his request into consideration and for holding the vote.

Also at the DLDA meeting, members commented on the lack of information regarding the RDG Planning and Design conference center survey.

RDG consultants sent city staff and DLDA members a draft of the conference center study, and members said they wanted more specifics on what users it would attract and the estimated cost.

"Send them a letter that this is going to need more details than represented," Hagen said to Remmen.

"We're looking at the big picture, but this is 35,000 feet and I was hoping for something closer," Anderson agreed.

Klyve said he'd like to know what other convention centers have been recommended, what was built, and how successful they are.

RDG consultants plan to be in Detroit Lakes for an update sometime this month.