The Harmony Economic Development Authority (EDA) once again discussed possible locations for a Dollar General store during its regular meeting last Thursday morning.

The EDA had held a special meeting on Thursday, March 20, to discuss an offer made by The Overland Group, a development firm that leases properties to Dollar General stores, to purchase the Harmony Visitor Center. The EDA members agreed to refuse that offer, but expressed a desire to keep working with the development group to find an appropriate spot.

At last week's meeting, Harmony's economic development director, Chris Giesen, reported focus has shifted back to the first location discussed, which was in the north industrial park.

Initially, this option had been dismissed because access to the store would be difficult. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) determined that the current access from Highway 52 into the park does not meet its safety standards.

However, Giesen reported, EDA chair Chris Skaalen and Mayor Steve Donney had contacted MnDOT and basically told them a store wanted to locate there and the city needed to provide proper access to it.

"MnDOT was not happy," he continued. "But, but going through some steps, we can get access."

Those steps would include adding turning lanes and slowing down traffic further north of the community. Currently speed reduction begins at Harmony Enterprises and Morem's Electric.

When locating at the industrial park was once again presented as an option to The Overland Group, Giesen said the representatives were interested. They expressed a desire to develop a general development plan and get a letter of commitment from the city.

The developer would like an acre of land on the northwest lot of the industrial park. The preliminary offer included $40,000 for the land and up to $20,000 in assessments. However, because that lot still needs to be developed, those assessment costs are yet to be determined. The developer also noted the pond would need to be moved, which would also be its expense.

The EDA members agreed the offer seemed "a bit light."

EDA member Andy Batstone commented he felt the $20,000 cap on assessments was way too low. "That looks like a way to get us to subsidize this thing," he added.

"They want to get moving on this," Giesen said. "They want to construct in 2014 and they want to be in Harmony."

The EDA also discussed the extent of which it would develop this portion of the industrial park, which is platted in the Phase Two part of the plan.

"What do we actually need to build?" asked Donney. "Do we complete Phase Two or just stub in a street?"

City Administrator Jerome Illg interjected the city has never tried to make money on property sales in the industrial park, but stressed the land sales should cover the costs of development. When the first part of the industrial park was developed, grant funds were used, which allowed those lots to sell for a lower dollar figure.

Also, Donney added, "We've been talking about extending Phase Two even before Dollar General."

To provide more retail lots, even if Dollar General opts not to go into the park, Phase Two would have to be developed as most retail businesses want highway frontage.

Kerry Kingsley, another EDA member, questioned whether putting more retail venues in the northern part of town is a good direction for Harmony to go. "I feel this is historic," he added. "If it goes there, that's the way Harmony's going. I just feel there are other options out there."

Donney countered, "This is not historic, it was historic when the car lot and the antique mall went out there."

Giesen said that Harmony's downtown is very unique. Most retail places need larger parking lots and space for inventory. People like the convenience of parking in a lot and entering a store.

"I think the people in Harmony will benefit from having it here," Kingsley added, clarifying that he is not against the store from coming to the community. "I just think it should go somewhere else, closer to Main Street. I'm more in favor of helping them buy something else."

The council agreed to have the city engineer develop a development plan, which was estimated to cost $2,000 to $3,000, to accommodate the store on the industrial park lot. This will allow the city to better determine what the actual development costs will be and subsequently know how they would affect the sale price.