RIVER FALLS — A townhome-style apartment development on the city’s west side moved forward Tuesday night, June 9, with unanimous approval by City Council.

Council members approved a general development plan for four townhomes on 7 acres of city land next to DeSanctis Park off West Division Street. The development will be aimed at “young professionals and empty nester markets,” according to a staff report.

The plan calls for a mix of one to three bedroom townhomes with 21 living units per building and 84 units total. Each building would have attached garages and surface parking, as well as a front porch concept facing West Division Street.

The motion approved Tuesday is only the beginning of a multiphase process.

Because the development would exceed the density allowed on the site zoned for single-family residential use, it requires creation of a planned unit development, or PUD. The general development plan was the first step. Next up is a specific implementation plan with architectural and storm water details.

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The PUD process typically calls for a public hearing and recommendation by the city’s Plan Commission; however, the commission is not meeting due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. Instead, City Council held a hearing Tuesday prior to the vote. A handful of residents voiced concerns including the cost of public infrastructure for the development and blocked views of the park.

One sticking point among council members was the potential in the plan to extend Roosevelt Street through the park. An amendment was approved to make clear the extension would only be for emergency vehicles or evacuation.

The city issued a request for proposals in December 2019 to develop multifamily housing on the property. Six proposals were reviewed and a submission from La Crosse-based Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions was recommended to the city administrator and mayor.

The development is projected to be valued at around $17 million, which would bring in at least $210,000 in tax revenue to the city, according to staff.

In other news…

  • City Council on June 9 also held a first reading of an ordinance that would drop the speed limit to 25 mph in both directions on a stretch of South Main Street from Cemetery Road north to the entrance of the UW-River Falls Falcon Center. The 10 mph reduction was requested to lower traffic noise for a 50-unit affordable housing development being built on the site of the former River Falls Motel. Part of the funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which puts restrictions on noise levels at affordable housing developments. The matter will come up again at the council’s June 23 meeting.
  • Council members approved a resolution awarding the sale of $5.74 million in general obligation bonds to purchase and remodel a new police station in the former River Falls Journal building, replace a fire engine and refund an existing state trust fund loan. The council approved the bond sale in April.