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Public to get look at school property housing plans

Landscape architect Adam Regn Arvidson, of Treeline, reviewed redevelopment plans for the old Morris Area Elementary School property during a Morris City Council work session in January.1 / 4
A single-family home that is part of the elementary school property redevelopment plan.2 / 4
A duplex home that is part of the elementary school property redevelopment plan.3 / 4
A multi-occupant dwelling that is part of the elementary school property redevelopment plan.4 / 4

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The public will get the chance to see the plans for the former Morris Area Elementary School property that prompted the Morris City Council to give architects and planners a round of applause last month.

The proposal, which includes a variety of color drawings of housing and landscape designs, will be presented beginning at 7 p.m., March 17, at the ARS Soils Lab in Morris.

Members of the Elementary School Redevelopment Committee, Landscape Architect Adam Regn Arvidson, of Treeline, and representatives of Stahl Architects will give the public an overview of plans that call for affordable housing and landscape features that are ecologically and economically sustainable.

The presentation will also include an overview of the definition of "green" construction and development.

The plan calls for three types of housing -- single family units, estimated to cost about $130,000, as well as town home and multi-person dwellings -- a geo-thermal heating and cooling system throughout the development, new configurations of a 50-foot lot model designed to make create useable exterior space. Depending on how "flex lots" were developed, the site would contain between 75 to 93 housing units, according to Arvidson.

Dovetail Partners, which for several years has been working with the committee on the site, also has offered to pay for the construction of a model housing unit on the property, with the plan that it would sink profits from the sale of the property into more construction on the site.

The development also features various other design elements that create efficiencies while also retaining the flavor of the surrounding urban environment. The development would be modernized but in a way that would age well and accommodate individual tastes, enticing a range of potential residents.

Arvidson and the Stahl team have been working with the redevelopment committee to design the unique urban neighborhood on the 17.5-acre site of the former Morris Area Elementary School, which the city purchased from the Morris Area School District in 2005.

In other city business:

0 The Morris City Council on Tuesday approved the purchase of a new bus for the Morris Transit System.

Through a grant, about 80 percent of the $55,000 cost is paid for by the federal government, with the city being responsible for 20 percent.

The transit system has five buses and the city rotates a new bus in every two years.

0 The city has agreed to work with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to correct potential problems in the city's wastewater discharge ponds. That is, if the problems still exist.

An MPCA audit of city records indicated that the city exceeded limits of several potential pollutants. However, the city took action in 2008 that may have already solved the problems, which included the treatment of algae and pumping the ponds instead of relying on gravity draining.

"We think we've already solved the problem," said City Manager Blaine Hill. "But the way to ensure that is to go through the process."

0 The city approved a utility rate hike of 3 percent for 2009. The council earlier this year approved a measure to allow changes in utility rates by resolution instead of an ordinance change, which requires public hearings and other actions. Because of that, rate changes can be made incrementally and in smaller percentages, Hill said.

City rates for water have not been changed since 2003, and sewer rates haven't been changed since 1997.