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Byron residents question expansion

By Joshua Lynch

jlynch@postbulletin.com

BYRON -- About 100 Byron residents crowded a city council meeting Wednesday to demand officials reconsider plans for a massive city expansion.

But only eight city residents were allowed to speak against the proposed Town Square project before Mayor Greg Brandt silenced public comments. Brandt chided residents for waiting until the project was on the cusp of approval before voicing opposition.

"This discussion began two years ago," he said. "We've talked about this project at 84 meetings. Where were you before this?"

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Rather than continue hearing comments Wednesday, city leaders said they would schedule a meeting devoted to the Town Square project. Brandt said the meeting will be held sometime before Nov. 13, when the city council is scheduled to approve or deny the development plan.

The Town Square Project would add 950 homes and 200,000 square feet of commercial space to the city, creating a downtown environment on the city's east side.

Benjamin Schmidt, development coordinator for Farr Development of the Twin Cities, the company proposing the project, said the $125 million plan would take more than a decade to complete, but could begin constructiion as early as next year.

Preliminary plans for the 240-acre development would bring an array of retail and service businesses to the city of 4,000, including boutique and discount retailers, restaurants, convenience stores, a movie theater and a hotel.

Hundreds of Byron residents have indicated their opposition to the development. A petition against the Town Square project, bearing nearly 600 signatures, was given to the city council Wednesday by Bret Baumbach.

Those who spoke at Wednesday's meeting said the project would simply be too much growth too quickly for Byron.

"This development will put additional tax burden on the existing citizens and promotes unwanted growth at an accelerated rate," Baumbach said. "It's time that the city council listens to the people of this community."

Byron currently has about 1,200 homes. The Town Square project plus Somerby Golf Community, a separate development creating 620 homes, would more than double the size of the city.

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But Brandt said the Town Square project would address several of Byron's long-term growth goals.

"Do we need a new commercial downtown? Absolutely. Do we need more restaurants? Absolutely," he said. "If we're going to get all this, we need the growth to support it."

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