A Stillwater company is proposing to build 12 new houses along a stretch of the St. Croix River north of the St. Croix Falls hydroelectric dam, working with the city, which owns the land. Several local citizens object to the plan after details were shared at a March 31 public meeting. Another discussion is planned at the city’s Plan Commission’s meeting on May 16.
The city of St. Croix Falls purchased the land from Xcel Energy about 20 years ago. Officials have now signed an agreement to sell it to GreenHalo Builds, a developer based in Stillwater. The sale is contingent on approval by the city and other agencies.
“Tucked away on a stretch of exquisite St. Croix riverfront, GreenHalo’s EcoRiver is meant as a secluded haven of second homes built with sustainability in mind,” the company says. “This cabin EcoVillage of 12 homesites features modern Scandinavian design and feel with one-level living options and innovative eco-friendly, net-zero ready custom designs. All home-sites offer 50 feet of rivershore with individual dock options on 9 miles of chartered serene, personal watercraft-free St. Croix.”
GreenHalo is hoping to build a total of 12 cabins or second homes on the site. GreenHalo says it is focused on sustainability, with its houses being more energy efficient than average. Calling the proposed new development “EcoRiver,” the builders promise it will be “built with sustainability in mind,” featuring “innovative eco-friendly, net-zero ready custom designs.” There have been no details yet on how it might reduce impacts on the Wild and Scenic St. Croix River.
The legality and ability to get the proposal approved has also been questioned, although St. Croix Falls says they believe it complies with the law. Because the land is located within an incorporated municipality, development restrictions are different than other parts of the river. But questions have already come up about scenic easements and other possible deed restrictions.
“Our understanding is it’s possible to build on there, but we have to wait for that determination to come in,” city administrator Joel West said at the March 31 meeting. “The development needs to go through the full approval process, get comments from the DNR and the federal government, in addition to approval from city council.”
West also said, based on discussions with the developer, homes might be priced about $500,000. St. Croix 360 contacted GreenHalo for comment and received information already publicly available.
Residents at the meeting had many questions and concerns. The lots would be located along a forested stretch of river bank currently owned by the public. New structures would blemish a beautiful river. The surface would switch from soil and native vegetation to asphalt and grass. It would encroach on a quiet area currently occupied by a mobile home community and small marina. New roads would be built, and new outdoor lighting could be added.
The March 31 meeting attendees was “the first step in 50-step process,” administrator West said. “Nothing is written in stone here.”
He pledged that he and other city staff were taking notes and would convey community concerns to the city council. The proposal is also on the agenda for the city’s Plan Commission meeting on May 16. The meeting is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Croix Falls City Hall, 710 Hwy 35, St. Croix Falls, WI.