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Plans to construct a new apartment development in North Branch, which includes 144 market-rate apartments, is moving forward.
During the North Branch City Council meeting Jan. 26, the council approved a comprehensive plan amendment, rezone, preliminary and final plat and a conditional use permit for the proposed Falcon Apartments development. The council also approved a resolution vacating drainage and utility easements relating to Falcon Apartments as well as a resolution approving the development and subdivision agreement between the city and Falcon Apartments.
City Administrator Renae Fry explained Kuepers Inc. has submitted plans for a comprehensive plan amendment, rezone, preliminary and final plat, and conditional use permit for four lots. Each lot will have a 36-unit apartment development with amenities including a pool, pool house, dog park, playground and a large treed promenade named Falcon Apartments.
“This is something really different that I think is going to be a big game-changer for our community,” Mayor Jim Swenson said. “The building looks really beautiful, and I want to comment also on, Council Member (Patrick) Meacham, that they’re not asking for anything, for this community, from any help for it, and that I’m very, very appreciative of you for taking faith in this community that we will be able to support you on this project. So I’m very, very tickled to be in favor of this.”
The property is generally located north of Ecumen, west of the North Branch Outlet Mall, east of Falcon Avenue and south of Fairview/M Health Clinic.
Council Member Kathy Blomquist noted the apartment development will have a large number of two-bedroom apartments, and she is pleased the development will be geared toward families.
Fry explained the Falcon Apartments of North Branch LLLP, the developer, is proposing a comprehensive plan amendment from LU B, business, to LU 3, high-density residential; a rezone request from B3, regional business, to R3, high-density residential; a preliminary plat creating four lots; and a conditional use permit to allow for apartment structures with 17 or more units and plumbing fixtures in an accessory building (the accessory building being the pool house).
City staff listed benefits of Falcon Apartments as follows:
• Per the Chisago County housing study prepared by Maxfield and the city’s comprehensive plan approved by the council in 2018, a need for a variety of housing is in demand in the city and region. The planned development on the plat identifies the anticipated construction of 144 market-rate apartments, a need that has been identified in the Maxfield and other studies.
• The landscape plan includes a good mix of trees. Should another tree disease occur, the variety should protect against
site-clearing tree loss. Trees are also being planted throughout the development and along streets. A total of 177 additional trees are proposed to be planted along with 99 bushes around each building. They are also saving trees along 383rd Street.
• The trail along Falcon Avenue will improve pedestrian and bike traffic safety in the area as required in city code.
• The sidewalk system throughout the development will link north, south, east and west for very well planned pedestrian movements throughout the development.
• The sidewalk along 383rd will also provide good east-west pedestrian movement required by city code.
• Upon final platting, the development will include construction of the new 385th Street and the improvements will be offered to the city in accordance with the development agreement. The new road of 385th Street will allow the newly platted lots to have road and utility access.
• All platted lots within the development will have pedestrian access to Falcon Avenue for non-vehicular traffic movement.
• The developer will pay all park dedication fees as well as construct trails as shown on plans.
• More properties will be constructed on municipal utilities.
• City comprehensive plan modification to a designation of LUR-3 the residential area anticipated density of more than 6 units per acre, the development proposes a density of 16.71 units per acre.
• The rezone modification will allow for apartment use.
• The proposed conditional use permit will allow for buildings with more than 16 residential units.
High-speed internet project update
Fry mentioned footings are being poured for the three new towers that are being constructed to support the city’s network, as part of a project to bring high-speed internet throughout the entire city. She said the project is on track for substantial completion by the end of February.
Fry said Genesis Wireless will be offering three different internet packages for residents, noting the packages do not include equipment lease fees. The lowest level package will be $45 per month; the mid-level package will be $65 per month; and the highest package will be $95 per month.
“The new equipment that we are using that is going on these three towers, 125 feet into the air, the entire plan is set around saturation,” Fry said. “So everyone within the city, if they want to switch from their current provider, they certainly may do so, but in terms of getting families hooked up, we have asked that our partner in this, Genesis Wireless, give priority to those families that currently don’t have high-speed internet and knowing that eventually everybody that wants coverage and wants service will get hooked up.”
Fry noted Genesis Wireless will not be taking subscriptions until the network is up and running, but residents can be put on waiting list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and letting them know they are a North Branch resident and wish to be contacted when they can start taking subscribers.
“The reason we are putting up three towers at different locations around town is to be able to maximize the reach out to all of them and it may reach out into the townships and further out,” Swenson said. “We don’t know how far out that’s going to go out at this time.”
In other action the council:
• Appointed North Branch resident Peter Schaps to the vacant position on the Parks, Trails and Open Spaces Commission due to the resignation of Amanda Darwin, who was elected to the council in November.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Peter in the past and I think he would be an asset to replacing former Commissioner (Amanda) Darwin, new Council Member Darwin,” Council Member Kelly Neider said.