Residents resist St. Croix Falls riverside development proposal

Numerous local citizens spoke out at a recent meeting against a plan to sell city land to home builder.

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Skunk cabbage growing in wet soil along the St. Croix River in St. Croix Falls, near the planned EcoRiver development. (hengern1/iNaturalist)

At a meeting in St. Croix Falls on Monday, numerous residents spoke up against a potential development of 12 new homes on the banks of the St. Croix River. Stillwater developer GreenHalo Builds is working to purchase land from St. Croix Falls that the city bought from Xcel Energy in 2016. The company would construct a dozen houses on the property, on 50-foot wide lots. The proposal was first reported two weeks ago by St. Croix 360.

Opponents on Monday successfully convinced the commission not to vote on a recommendation to the city council as planned, with the members voting to table the issue for two more weeks.

“The property that we’re discussing tonight, that is being considered for this proposal, was purchased by the city in 2016,” said mayor Kirk Anderson in an opening statement. “And it was purchased at the time with the express purpose of leveraging the property for future development. And the city has marketed the property consistently since four years ago on the MLS with a realtor.”

The Star Tribune reported that the city purchased the property six years ago for $346,000. The purchase agreement they have signed with GreenHalo would sell the land for $375,000, if zoning is changed and the proposal is approved.

No residents who spoke at the meeting seemed to support the goal of selling and developing the land. They urged officials to consider the wishes of voters.

“Nobody in the neighborhood wants it,” said resident Jerry Kingery.

Speakers pointed out that the development would close off the river, cover sensitive and wet slopes with impermeable surfaces like roofs and driveways, and forever change the shoreline of the Wild and Scenic River.

More information was also shared about zoning changes that would be required to make the proposed development possible. The land would be re-zoned from single family residential to the city’s planned development category. This would allow for twice the number of houses, and other loosened restrictions. The standard residential zoning allows for 100-foot wide lots with a 75-foot setback from the ordinary high water mark of the river. The new zoning would permit 50-foot lots and 50-foot setbacks from the water. Distances between houses would also be cut in half to 10 feet total.

Craig Hansen, superintendent of the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, told the commission that the property is located within the area designated as part of the National Park, though the land remains in city hands.

“We encourage the city of St. Croix Falls to consider the project’s potential impacts to the riverway before a zoning decision is made,” Hansen said.

Wild Rivers Conservancy executive director Deb Ryun referred the commission members to written comments she had submitted, and reconsider for several reasons. She told the commissioners that they need to put the decision on hold until they can do more research.

“Gaylord Nelson’s statue is just down the street,” she said. “I have to wonder how Gaylord would respond or what would he ask you, what is the benefit to this Wild and Scenic River will be? We have a million visitors every year to this National Park, and you’re proposing to close off a piece of this Wild and Scenic River for 12 people.”

She also said the property is very wet, and could easily be flooded in the future. Ryun pointed out the property has a flooding easement, which means Xcel Energy could legally inundate the land by holding water back at the dam just downstream “at any time.”

Resident Adam Kingery also spoke to the city council, as someone who grew up on that specific part of the river, and now lives there with his kids. They fish and enjoy the St. Croix, and he says he wants “them to enjoy the same beauty.”

“It’s a bad idea, the river is all we got in this town,” Kingery said.

The proposal will next be discussed at the St. Croix Falls city council meeting on May 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. The plan commission will continue its discussion and possibly vote on a recommendation at a special meeting on May 31 from 7 to 9 p.m.


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9 responses to “Residents resist St. Croix Falls riverside development proposal”

  1. Mark Hove Avatar
    Mark Hove

    People often want to make money. If you want limits, state them. I prefer a natural riverway. If you must have housing development, then I strongly prefer standard housing setbacks and spacing so many people can enjoy a more natural riparian area.

  2. Lois Brink Avatar
    Lois Brink

    We need to protect the areas around the river and allow the public to enjoy the the scenic view rather than allow it to become private property.

  3. Rhonda Kingery Avatar
    Rhonda Kingery

    This “project” will not only ruin our River water, soil and trees that the wildlife depend on, but is NOT in step with our community. It’s going to disrupt the lives of everyone in this neighborhood and the fixed income elderly and disabled people that live here. There has got to be a better place for this development. Once expensive homes are here the old neighborhood will disappear…along with the shoreline and everyone’s access to it.

  4. Rhonda Kingery Avatar
    Rhonda Kingery

    I didn’t even want sidewalks…I don’t want to turn into STILLWATER. Just road repairs… maybe some water/sewer management..WAY more AFFORDABLE

  5. lisa west Avatar
    lisa west

    This project is in the backyard of 60 + residents that are retired homeowners that ALL do not want this. The park has been here over 50 yrs and did lease the land from the utility company that owned it and maintained it keeping it natural and part of the the rivers scenic parkway. The city had no plan to put in roads until this developer came along and offered to pay for them so they could get their hands on the land for a 6million dollor profitable project. Green halo and the city officials will never sustain any credibility in this town if this goes through by its citizens and neighboring communities.

  6. lisa west Avatar
    lisa west

    This project is in the backyard of 60 + residents that are retired homeowners that ALL do not want this. The park has been here over 50 yrs and did lease the land from the utility company that owned it and maintained it keeping it natural and part of the the rivers scenic parkway. The city had no plan to put in roads until this developer came along and offered to pay for them so they could get their hands on the land for a 6million dollor profitable project. Green halo and the city officials will never sustain any credibility in this town if this goes through by its citizens and neighboring communities.

  7. Penny Van Kampen Avatar
    Penny Van Kampen

    Correction: The lots will be sold at $375,000 each!

    This development will be a Airbnb/short term rental nightmare for the neighbors. Someone with no river current experience is going to drown. Or a drunken party attendee. It’s only a matter at time.

  8. Jerry K. Avatar
    Jerry K.

    Hamilton Street Riverfront Plan

    1. Change laws to squeeze 12 high tax homes directly in front of trailer park filled with elderly fixed income residents.
    2. Privatize once public riverfront for private investors.
    3. Level once protected beautiful natural scenic riverfront view and replace with view of backyards.
    4. Displace/remove existing residents by creating new high taxed property plan to remove middle, fixed income residents from the area.
    5. If plan is over exposed sell idea as beneficial for community. Ignore near unanimous public opposition. Genius!
    Check out the town meeting:
    https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=368797208624678

  9. Nancy Avatar
    Nancy

    Why, I vote for no rezoning. Let it remain natural. Too many of our natural areas get built for the elite.

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Residents resist St. Croix Falls riverside development proposal