The Blaine City Council unanimously approved a 258-lot development April 20.
The City Council unanimously approved three motions during the online meeting related to the North Meadows housing development April 20, including rezoning from farm residential to development flex, granting preliminary plat approval to subdivide 174 acres into 258 lots and five outlots and granting a conditional use permit.
The development will be near the intersection of 109th Avenue NE and Lexington Avenue NE at the Austin Street NE alignment.
The project includes a 258-lot development on 174 acres of land. Wellington Management in St. Paul is the developer of the project, and Miami-based Lennar will be the homebuilder.
According to City Planner Lori Johnson, the development will include 72 single-family homes, 54 twin homes, 128 townhomes, three commercial/industrial lots, one common lot for the townhomes and six outlots that will be used for ponding or stormwater purposes and one for trail access, which will include a 13-stall parking lot with a turnaround for public use.
Mayor Tom Ryan and Council Members Wes Hovland and Dick Swanson expressed concerns about placing the public parking on the northern end of the development and suggested moving it to the southern end to avoid traffic through the development and prevent headlights from shining into nearby homes.
“I don’t think this is going to work,” Ryan said. “I think this is something we need to look at.”
Each home will have three trees per lot, and a privacy fence will be added to the south side of the development.
According to Lennar, the villa units will be 1,300-1,900 square feet and cost $345,000 to $385,000; the twin home units will be 1,600-1,620 square feet and cost $315,000 to $330,000; the Colonial Manor townhome units laid out in a back-to-back style will be 1,700-1,800 square feet and cost $265,000 to $295,000, and the Colonial Patriot townhome units in row style will be 1,800-1,900 square feet and cost $285,000 to $317,000.
Johnson said all the lots will require park dedication fees. She estimated the city would receive over $1 million for the 255 residential lots at a rate of $4,449 per unit and $73,114 for the three commercial lots on 8.4 acres at a rate of $8,704 per acre.
According to Johnson, Wellington Management is hoping to build an apartment complex on the east side of Austin Street just across from the townhomes sometime in the future. She said a comprehensive land use plan amendment will be required for the apartment complex and once that request is submitted for review the nearby neighbors will be notified of the project.
All roads in the development will be public except for Austin Street NE and other townhome unit roads.
Johnson said a condition has been added that all units facing the exterior of the townhome portion of the plat should have a masonry product added to the elevations. “These areas will be viewed by other residential homes or the traveling public and it is important to provide a desirable appearance in these areas,” she said. “The townhome development will be required to go through site plan approval before any work can begin on this site.”
Lennar Land Entitlement Manager Josh Metzer said the company strongly objects to this condition.
“The main reason why we’re asking for that to be removed, or at least modified, is due to the cost increase per unit that this would create,” Metzer said. “Unfortunately that cost would have to be passed on to that homeowner.”
According to Metzer, increases in additional cost due to the masonry would range from $2,500 to $4,000.
He also said that due to the number of trees required on the development, a wall of trees will surround the townhomes
“I appreciate that they’re trying to make it as cost effective as possible, ... however, this is a community development, and the community needs to be in mind here,” Council Member Julie Jeppson said.
Metzer pointed out that all the townhomes and single-family homes have stone masonry on the front elevations, but not on the side or rear.
“I think the issue that I’m having with this neighborhood comes to the look of the neighborhood, ... but there’s such a stark contrast to kind of bookending them in between the Sanctuary Preserve and that Flanders Court neighborhood,” said Council Member Jess Robertson, agreeing with Jeppson. “I mean on the west side of that development you have million dollar homes in there, and in the Sanctuary Preserve you have homes that are $650,000. There are some really nice homes in there. The facade, for me, seems a smidge antiquated. It doesn’t fit in there...I think this project is a good project, and I think it’s a good fit for this space. I just want to have it happen in a respectful way that doesn’t drastically affect the current residential areas butting both sides of it.”
City Engineer Dan Schluender said Wellington Management was approached in 2017 to conduct a traffic study on what traffic would look like at the planned intersection at 109th Avenue and Austin Street and a right-in, right-out on Lexington Avenue from 108th Avenue in addition to how other existing intersections will be impacted.
Schluender said the traffic study found turn lanes needed to be added and lengthened at Lexington Avenue and 109th Avenue; signal times needed to be improved at Pheasant Ridge Drive and Lexington Avenue; and signals need to be added at 112th Avenue/Lexington Avenue and Austin Street/109th Avenue as the development progresses.
Council Member Richard Paul expressed concerns about the increase in traffic and asked Schluender if Anoka County plans to expand 109th Avenue.
Schluender said an expansion is planned in Anoka County’s 2040 Comprehensive Traffic Plan. The 109th Avenue expansion would run from Radisson Avenue to Lexington Avenue.
Wellington Management representative Todd Kaufman said residents in the area have expressed interest in having a high-end grocery store, such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Fresh Thyme.
“Over the last year and a half I’ve been reaching out to all of the grocers in the market, out of market and people who said they’ll be coming into the market, and everything that I heard about from all these folks is density,” he said. “We were way below what retailers like to see. So when this North Meadows site presented itself ... we thought this is a way to create some density.”
Kaufman said more grocers are expressing interest in developing in the area with the increase in density.
Robertson said there was some uncertainty if Lennar would be the home builder for the entirety of the project and may be pulling out of the market due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s our intention to still move forward,” Metzer said. “With this particular project, Wellington would be doing the development of the site, so grading, street and utilities. Lennar would be doing the home building. Whether there’s time enough this year to get into the ground and build homes before winter hits, time will tell. Of course there’s a major uncertainty in the market. Lennar is being careful about spending, where ever we can be, but this is one of the projects I believe is still projected to move forward.”
The City Council unanimously approved all three motions for the North Meadows developments. A condition was added to allow an additional 120 days from April 20 for the City Council to get back to the developer if the city wants a public parking lot near the trail access or an outlot.
Another condition was added on having conifer trees on the rear side of lots. Development on the North Meadows project will start later this year.