Andover wants the Metropolitan Council to be flexible in allowing the city to grant permission for lower density housing on challenging properties while making up the shortfalls elsewhere.

Andover has a Metropolitan Council mandate of 3 units per acre citywide as part of the 2040 comprehensive plan approved this past December. Although there are pockets of land that will be able to far exceed that density, much of the undeveloped land is destined for more rural development.

To help meet the new mandate, Andover in December 2020 increased its minimum density requirements from 1.75 units per acre to 2.4 units per acre in what is called the Urban Residential Low land use district. The maximum cap for that land use district is 4 units per acre.

Since that approval in December, Andover has heard from property owners who are concerned that the developers they ultimately work with may not be able to meet the minimum criteria for a variety of reasons. This may include poor soils, wetlands, no easy access to municipal sewer or the existence of other state regulatory restrictions that limit development.

In response, the Andover City Council approved a resolution on Feb. 16 that essentially asks the Metropolitan Council to allow developments below 1.75 units per acre in the Urban Residential Low land use district as long as the city approves denser developments elsewhere.

“I don’t think there is anybody in this room that is saying we don’t want the lots,” Community Development Director Joe Janish said. “We want the lots. There’s a lot of advantages to having development in the community, and we certainly want to take advantage of the [sewer] system that’s out there.”

Council Member Ted Butler said this is essentially to allow some development to occur on properties where it would be impossible to meet the 2.4 units per acre minimum density requirement. Due to the fact that most developers want to maximize the profits, he doesn’t anticipate many situations where developers purposely try to develop fewer homes.

An additional protection Andover built in is that a developer must demonstrate they are facing at least three different hardships.

The hardship criteria could include any three of the following: lack of adequate sanitary sewer or water capacity; limited access due to how adjacent properties were developed; challenging environmental conditions such as poor soils, wetlands, topography or hydrology; property being located within the Shoreland District, Scenic River District, Wellhead Protection Area or Drinking Water Supply Management Area; or the characteristics of an infill development conflicting with the surrounding neighborhood.

Mayor Sheri Bukkila supported the resolution but is generally concerned that the city may be forcing a future council’s hand by shifting the responsibility of higher housing densities elsewhere.

“There’s an unfair onus on us to try to plan for a future we can’t predict,” Bukkila said. “It’s really about the council at the time making good decisions.”

Council reviews sketch plan for 22-home development

Tamarack Land Development LLC will be affected by the Metropolitan Council’s decision because it anticipates it can fit no more than 22 homes on a property Andover had slated for a minimum of 27 homes.

Tamarack pointed out that the wetland and floodplains make it challenging to develop more than 22 homes. Other listed challenges for this development included sewer capacity and impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

Council Member Jamie Barthel was moved by an Oak View Middle School student letter requesting the city to do everything in its power to save as many trees as possible.

“I want to say thank you to her for that letter” Barthel said. “And I agree with her. I would love the developer to save as many trees as possible, especially along the borders as a little bit of a buffer.”

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