One homeowner is yet to agree to buyout terms for Richfield Parkway project

Tina Oberfoell holds her daughter’s rat terrier outside her Richfield home. Oberfoell and other homeowners along 17th Avenue across from Cedar Point Commons have been in negotiations with the city of Richfield for the purchase of their homes to make way for the Richfield Parkway Connection project. (Sun Current photo by Andrew Wig)

Tina Oberfoell holds her daughter’s rat terrier outside her Richfield home. Oberfoell and other homeowners along 17th Avenue across from Cedar Point Commons have been in negotiations with the city of Richfield for the purchase of their homes to make way for the Richfield Parkway Connection project. (Sun Current photo by Andrew Wig)

There is one homeowner left standing in the way of a Richfield road project that planners hope to begin this spring.

Of the 12 homes along 17th Avenue across from Cedar Point Commons on the east side of Richfield, 11 homeowners have made at least tentative verbal commitments to sell so that the Richfield Parkway Project may go forward.

Despite an offer to pay off the mortgage on which she is six months behind, Tina Oberfoell is the last holdout, no stranger to the buyout process. Taking a buyout — an offer to pay off the mortgage on which she is six months behind — would make for the third time Oberfoell has moved due to redevelopment.

The 44-year-old single mother of three said in the first case, her family moved away from her early-childhood home near Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis to make room for a K-Mart. Eighteen years ago, Oberfoell moved out of the Old Ford Town Neighborhood, located across Cedar Avenue from Richfield, when that area was annexed for the expansion of the airport. She then she jumped across Cedar Avenue to her current location on 17th Avenue.

The Richfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority on Monday, Jan. 7, approved moving forward a project that will connect Richfield Parkway to Bloomington Avenue, and which for Oberfoell would likely necessitate a move. As part of the agreement that brought the Cedar Point Commons commercial to the area, the connection would add another access point to the center and is also to include a bike path that would connect to Minneapolis bikeways.

Homeowners appeared to largely support the plan, showing little resistance at a neighborhood meeting last spring, but two homeowners have come forward in the last month to express their hesitance to take a buyout.

One homeowner on 17th Avenue, Bernard Hurley, had appeared at a city council meeting in December to voice his displeasure of the acquisition process. While homeowners along the stretch say they have neglected maintenance of their homes over the past 10 years in anticipation of a buyout, Hurley told the council in December that unlike many neighbors, he has kept his residence in shape and sees no reason to move after 60 years at his home. He has since conditionally agreed to a sale.

Neighbors across the street, on the east side of 17th Avenue, were bought-out in 2004 to make room for the Cedar Point Commons shopping center. Some homeowners on the east side thought they would be bought out, too, but further redevelopment of the area was delayed to declining market conditions.

“There were promises made to those residents over there who were hugely impacted by the airports and need relief,” Goettel said at last week’s HRA meeting.

“That was not the fault of anybody’s. That was a financial crisis that put everybody in this, but they’ve been there a long time and I think we need to help these residents out.”

Oberfoell, a paraprofessional in the Richfield School District and a hair stylist, believes she is the second newest resident on a street that has been slated to be wiped clean of its houses since 1996, when Richfield created its Cedar Corridor Redevelopment Plan.

Cedar Point Commons has brought new bustle to the neighborhood and the Richfield Parkway Project is expected to increase traffic further yet, but Oberfoell says she can deal. She has spent her life dealing with airport noise, after all, and claims not to be bothered by it.

City staff and council member have discussed the possibility that the parkway project might technically allow for enough room for homeowners to stay, and Oberfoell hasn’t ruled that option out, although the road would occupy part of what is now her lawn.

“They can take some of my yard,” Oberfoell said.

She likes her big driveway and the neighboring park, and sees improvement in the area.

“East Richfield is becoming a lot better,” said Oberfoell, who wants to stay in the city no matter what. “The cops are doing a pretty good job of cleaning up Richfield. It’s come a long way.”

She has her kids to consider, too. Raising a 17-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy, Oberfoell wants to stick around at least long enough o see them her children through the Richfield school system. She also has a 20-year-old daughter living at home.

She may not stay on 17th Avenue, but Oberfoell plans to stay in Richfield. “I don’t really plan on ever leaving,” she said.

The house needs work, including a new front door, she said, speaking of plans to fix up the house should she somehow remain.

Oberfoell is optimistic she will eventually be presented with satisfactory terms for a buyout, however. “I had a dream about it, but I’m not exactly sure what those numbers were,” she said.

The city council will consider on Jan. 22 whether to move forward in the acquisition process of the 12 homes. Homes on which there is no purchase agreement would be subject to possible condemnation. If negotiations on purchasing the homes lags, construction could begin in 2014 instead, according to a city staff report.

Last week’s HRA vote to move the house-acquisition process forward came in at 3-1, with Commissioner Steve Quam voting against it. Quam cited concerns including a lack of certainty regarding what kind of development would ultimately fill the area to the west of 17th Avenue, where further redevelopment is planned.

“You don’t know what kind of infrastructure you’d need for a new development yet,” Quam said.

“That is true,” confirmed Mike Eastling, Richfield’s director of public works.

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected]

  • McKenzie Novak

    I have to say reading this stuff has gotten a little annoying and frustrating. My fiance and I are the newest home owners on the block (my fiance purchased the house 3.5 years ago). We were offered a very fair offer and are more than anxious to move. The fact that the market is terrible is out of our control. It is what it is. The fact that some people chose to “let their houses go” was their own choice. We are getting married in September and would like to move on with our lives and not be dragged along with this process any more. We are in fact going to be better off by selling and buying a new house and getting an even lower interest rate than 3.5 years ago! Those of us (and it’s definitely the majority) that want to accept our offers and move should be able to! If someone doesn’t want to move let them stay where traffic is going to get even more dangerous than it already is down our block and they can have a chunk of their front yard taken. I find it very interesting that whenever anything has been published about our house project issue it’s always spot lighting the homeowners who are against it or putting up a stink. How about those of us who think this is great and we are in full support of it?! It’s good for us and it will be good for Richfield.

  • Andrew Wig

    McKenzie, just want to let you know that we have covered the other side of the story, too:

  • McKenzie Novak

    Thanks. Let’s hope that the meeting on Tuesday January 22nd isn’t just another push back. That’s all we have been getting since the December 11th meeting when we were supposed to start getting some answers/decisions made.

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