Monticello city leaders finally granted municipal consent for the Highway 25 expansion project, but not before coming to agreement with a key property owner.
Council members spent almost an hour in sometimes heated discussion Monday night with Kirk Kjellberg and Marty Kjellberg regarding the four-lane project.
The Highway 25 discussion was a continuation of a Jan. 14 public hearing.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has plans to extend the four-lane section of Highway 25 from where it currently ends near Kjellberg’s manufactured home parks to about one-third of a mile south of the intersection of Highway 25 and 85th Street N.E. and Wright County Road 106.
Two options reviewed
Two options for lane extension and traffic signal installation have received the most city and citizen attention.
Claudia Dumont, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) District 3 project manager, said it was her understanding if the Monticello council passed Option 3 Monday night, that’s the project MnDOT would build, even thought the council wanted a change.
The Kjellberg family has strongly opposed Option 3. That’s because the Highway 25 median at Kjellberg’s would be closed but a right-in, right-out access would be maintained.
Left turn lanes would be added south of Kjellberg’s to provide for a future full intersection that would serve undeveloped properties on both sides of the highway.
According to Dumont, full intersection openings and access control would be exchanged for the closure of field entrances to the same parcels.
Option 4 would extend the four-lane section through County Road 106. The highway would taper back to a two-lane section.
Access at Kjellberg’s would be closed but a new full access intersection would be built to provide service road connections.
Dumont said this option would require property owners on both sides of Highway 25 to dedicate the right of way needed for the frontage road connections, but MnDOT would pay for service road construction.
Access would be provided in exchange for entrances at Kjellberg’s and parcel field entrances.
According to City Engineer Bruce Westby, MnDOT and city staff met on several occasions to discuss design options related to utilities, roads and pathways.
MnDOT and city staff also met with the Kjellbergs on several occasions to discuss their concerns and questions related to this project and to review design options in detail.
Upon reviewing the four design options, staff felt it would be in the best interests of the city, the residents of Kjellberg’s manufactured home parks and the future users of the undeveloped Featherstone and Kjellberg parcels to construct design Option 4.
The owners of the Featherstone parcel, Novak-Fleck, also felt Option 4 provided the greatest benefit and agreed to dedicate the needed right of way to allow MnDOT to construct the service roads on their parcel.
According to Westby, the Kjellbergs objected to dedicating parcel right of way to allow MnDOT to construct service roads to their east and west manufactured home parks.
The council considered approval of municipal consent for design option 3 on Jan. 14, but ended up tabling the item until Monday night to allow staff more time to work with the Kjellbergs to potentially reach an agreement allowing for the construction of design Option 4, rather than Option 3.
In his background memo to council, Westby stated the Monticello Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors reviewed the proposed Highway 25 improvements on Jan. 17 at the request of the Kjellbergs.
Dumont presented the four design options to the chamber board and answered questions.
The board then discussed the project and subsequently issued a Jan. 22 letter in response to the Kjellberg’s concerns.
Following the chamber meeting, city staff met with the Kjellbergs to discuss the possibility of reaching an agreement for the construction of Option 4.
No agreement had been reached prior to Monday night’s council meeting, Westby stated.
List of concerns presented
However, shortly before Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting started, the Kjellbergs presented a list of nine project conditions they wanted the city and MnDOT to meet.
“It’s unfortunate that we got this at 7 p.m. when the deadline was two weeks ago,” said Councilmember Brian Stumpf. Mayor Clint Herbst was also displeased.
Marty Kjellberg replied: “”We’ve been trying to work through the finer points of it, and we’ve narrowed it down to these few points that we further need to discuss to work out the details. We’ve brought on another attorney because our regular attorney is in Hawaii and unavailable. We had to seek other council,” she said.
Kirk Kjellberg told the council: “Kjellberg’s is in a position to sue to block this whole project if we don’t get something that works for us. We’ve been there 50 years and that intersection has been there 50 years. This affects our whole business and a whole lot of people. We are not in a position to get run over on this.”
Herbst wasn’t happy about the late list. “I think you were handed a great gift by MnDOT [with this project],” he said. “I said last time [Jan. 14] we would make a decision tonight. There’s no reason for Kjellberg’s to mistrust the city. We treat you better than we treat other businesses”
Key points reviewed
Councilmember Glen Posusta wasn’t happy with the Kjellbergs’ list either, but after airing his concerns, he suggested that Bret Weiss, president of WSB & Associates, Inc., the city’s consulting engineer, take both parties through the key points.
“That would make sense,” Weiss said. “There may be nothing left [to debate] after we get through this.”
Dumont said MnDOT would not directly charge Kjellberg’s for the any costs expenses associated with the construction of the new Highway 25 intersection.
O’Neill asked Dumont to estimate the cost of the intersection.
She said the intersection construction on both sides of Highway 25 would cost about $375,000.
Remnant right of way will be transferred back to Kjellberg’s.
“When the entrance to the manufactured home park is removed, that property will revert and the ditch slope will remain as MnDOT property,” Dumont said.
Any remaining land remnants that would be returned to Kjellberg’s could be taxed, Herbst said.
Traffic signal comments
The Kjellbergs didn’t want to be assessed for the cost of signal lights on the west side of Highway 25.
During discussion, Herbst stated that would not happen.
Weiss suggested the language for that item be changed to read, “not to exceed half the cost” because typically, half of signal costs are paid by MnDOT.
“Typically, we would pay 50 percent, because north and south would be trunk,” Dumont said. “Twenty-five percent would go to the west and 25 to the east.”
Posusta asked Dumont for a signal light cost estimate. “It varies with the number of lights and lanes,” she said. “In this case, we are building the turn lanes ahead of time, so we are building substantial infrastructure that would not have to go in at a later date. All we would have to put in would be the signal poles and bases, wires and cabinets, so we are probably looking at about $200,000.
Of that amount, $100,000 would be MnDOT’s.” Weiss said WSB had completed a recent signal light project at a higher cost, around $250,000 to $300,000.
“I’d rather say it would be a higher amount,” Weiss said.
Posusta said the Kjellberg’s would likely be responsible for costs around $75,000 in today’s dollars.
Herbst said the Kjellberg’s would probably be “on the hook” for about a quarter of the total signal light cost, and there would be options for possible deferment.
“There are a number of various traffic warrants that need to be met before a traffic signal goes in,” Dumont said. “Those are based on congestion and traffic volumes.”
Kirk Kjellberg said the business wanted a heads up regarding traffic counts because signals still represented a considerable expense.
“If you are talking a quarter of $300,000, that’s still a chunk of dough,” he said.
Dumont said a signal would likely be installed sooner than later and be driven by development.
Kjellberg’s would be charged for fees associated with accessing a regional stormwater retention area once its property near Highway is developed, not before.
The city confirmed it will allow Kjellberg’s to tie into an existing stormwater pipe so that water retention will not be required on the west side berry farm property.
“We don’t want to retain water onsite at the time of development,” Kirk Kjellberg said.
Posusta reiterated stormwater fees would not activate until development started.Restoration of Kjellberg’s Mobile Home Park current access intersection will be done at MnDOT’s expense.
MnDOT and Kjellberg’s will obtain two bids from outside sources, Kjellberg’s will do the work and be compensated by MnDOT. Dumont said that issue would need future investigation as well as resolution.
Installation of future utilities and services, namely sleeves that would provide future access to sewer, water and other services to Kjellberg’s would come at no expense to the Kjellberg’s.
The city and MnDOT would install sleeves in advance so the highway would not be torn up.
“Typically, those types of sleeves are considered a trunk highway expenditure,” Weiss said. “We don’t expect people to bring sewer and water across a major highway.” City council members agreed.
Herbst said he had a problem with Kjellberg’s request regarding future development of the berry farm and new intersection property. In their bulleted list of concerns presented Monday night,
Kirk Kjellberg and Marty Kjellberg wanted the city to allow annexation of the property, rezoning with a combination of commercial and multi-family residential and access to city water.
“We are just trying to pin some of this stuff down,” Kirk said. “If we are going to put in a road so our land can be developed, we are looking at having some kind of understanding with the city that we will be developing this in a very similar fashion to what’s been done with Qwik Trip and Applebee’s on that side. That’s what we are looking for. We are not looking to put an intersection in just to have a park.”
Posusta agreed installation of an intersection on a main corridor such as Highway 25 should occur to foster the types of development Kjellberg mentioned.
Kirk Kjellberg stressed the need for a Highway 25 pedestrian traffic crossing between the east and west mobile home parks.
“That was something we wanted to get nailed down. We’d like a clearly marked area for pedestrian traffic, and hopefully, a warning light that would slow people down.”
Dumont said MnDOT was aware of the pedestrian traffic, but because the area was high-speed, MnDOT could not commit to the installation of a dedicated crosswalk.
“We can put in some type of median curb-cut, but we won’t promote that because of the high vehicle speed,” Dumont said. “We’ll talk to our traffic engineer.”
Kirk Kjellberg replied: “We should at least try to warn the public [this is coming].” Stumpf said any project pedestrian crossing issues were not a city concern.
Herbst asked the Kjellbergs which MnDOT option they preferred. Kirk Kjellberg said Option 4 was their preferred choice. “That’s why we are here,” he added.
“In the long-run, that would be better for you, but I don’t think it will take more than a couple of weeks and people will be used to the new route,” Herbst said.
Westby said Option 3 and Option 4 were essentially the same. The only difference between the two was the addition of service roads and closure of the joint field entrance.
“You could make a motion for Option 3 and make the addition of those items continent upon the ability to achieve a written agreement by Feb. 11.”
Dumont said MnDOT had submitted Option 3 to the city when it seemed Option 4 wasn’t getting any traction.
If the council wanted to purse Option 4, she said it would have to be presented a second time.
“The 90-day clock [that’s running] with this particular option expires Feb. 11,” she said.
Dumont said she and Westby recommended the city approve Option 3 with the improvements shown on Option 4. “That will cover us so we don’t have to start over from scratch.”
Kirk Kjellberg said he was fine with that course of action, as long as all parties involved were talking about the same thing. Herbst then closed the public hearing.
Posusta made a motion to approve a resolution supporting municipal consent for Option 3 with the addition of service roads to Kjellberg’s east and west manufactured home parks and the elimination of the field entrance shown in Option 4.
Councilmember Tom Perrault seconded Posusta’s motion. The council’s final vote was unanimous.
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