A Fargo-based developer’s plans for a 156-unit apartment complex has received a lukewarm reception from Monticello city council and planning commission members.
The apartments are proposed for part of an 18-acre site enclosed by Chelsea Road to the north, Dundas Road to the south, Cedar Street to the west and Edmonson Avenue to the east. Plans call for the three-building complex to be part of a development that would include commercial businesses in an “L-shaped” configuration along Chelsea Road and Cedar Street.
Preliminary drawings that showed outdoor garages and a lack of green space, or recreational areas, left members of the Monticello City Council and some members of the planning commission less than enthused about the development.
Mark Buchholz, of Dale Buchholz Construction, appeared before the Monticello City Council and Monticello Planning Commission on Monday, June 24 to introduce its plans as it begins the process of seeking approval of a planned united development, or PUD. Buchholz was on hand to address the two governmental boards at the informal meeting, designed only as a vehicle to share plans and gather input on the project.
Stephen Grittman of Northwest Associated Consultants, Inc., the city’s community planning services consultant, presented the project details.
A key component of the Buchholz request, Grittman said, is seeking a zoning change for a little less than half of the parcel from a B-4 zone regional business district to a planned unit development (PUD) as a high to medium residential district to allow for flexibility in the building of the proposed apartment buildings.
“Changing from commercial to residential is a big change,” Grittman said.
The proposed apartments would be built on 8 1/2 acres on the southwest corner of the 18-acre parcel, Grittman said. Specifically, they would be located along Dundas Road and Edmonson Avenue. The commercial development would be part of a second phase along Chelsea Road and Cedar Street.
Dale Buchholtz Construction’s plans call for three apartment buildings, each with 52 units. Each building would feature one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
Preliminary plans called for 134 uncovered parking spots and 262 covered parking spots that would be located in 17 detached garage buildings.
The parking was one aspect of the proposal that resulted in the Buchholz plan receiving a cold shoulder from city officials.
History shows that Monticello favors attached garages or underground parking. The newer Monticello Crossing apartment complex at County Road 18 and School Boulevard features underground parking, as does the 42-unit downtown apartment complex being built by Briggs Companies at West Third Street and Locust Street.
Dale Buchholtz Construction has estimated that adding underground parking would increase rents at the apartments by at least $100 per month.
At least one city council member sees that as a good investment.
“I’m not keen on detached garages,” said City Council member Lloyd Hilgart.
“$100 a month (on an underground garage) is money well spent,” Hilgart said.
Hilgart also noted that there is no green space in the apartment plans.
“That’s something that bothers me,” said Hilgart, noting that there was no kids area, places for grills, or an area that could be used to build a sense of community among the building’s tenants.
Im not sure if this makes sense? Is a word mixed up?
“But this is not for me. I would not vote for it,” he said.
Mayor Brian Stumpf said he wouldn’t vote in favor of the project.
Stumpf appeared concerned that the proposal was coming in ahead of the City’s revisiting of its comprehensive plan- the city’s guide for growth and development over the next 20 years.
Monticello is in the midst of the first phase of rewriting its comprehensive plan, last written in 2008. Sometime in 2020, the process should be complete with new guidelines on land use and economic development.
Stumpf suggested more research be done on the siting of the project because there is no guarantee that the comprehensive plan will show that city leaders and the community will see a 152-unit apartment complex as the right fit for the property which is currently zoned for commercial development.
It was mentioned that the parcel could be one of the last ideal locations for a big-box store.
Mark Buchholz of Dale Buchholz Construction suggested his company might not be willing to wait until a comprehensive plan is completed to embark on the project.
“There’s a verifiable need today, and we’re here willing to build it,” Buchholz said of the apartment complex.
“We’re willing to invest 20-plus million dollars and add to the local tax base,” Buchholz said.
Buchholz said his company has given a lot of thought to the project.
He believes the apartments create prime retail lots for the outlying 10 acres earmarked for commercial development and makes them more. Not sure if this is a word.
“Residential is a big driver of commercial,” Buchholz said.
Buchholz said his company is also committed to building “value-driven” units and defended the lack of underground parking and green space as something that holds down rents.
“Amenities cost money,” Buchholz said.
“This would fill a huge void for people who can’t afford places like Monticello Crossing,” he said.
But those words didn’t swing City Council support for the proposed project.
Councilmember Charlotte Gabler suggested Mark Buchholz and Dale Buchholz Construction go back to the drawing board to make some modifications to the proposal.
“Come back with a new master plan and you could get a better response from us,” Gabler said.
Reach Jeff Hage at firstname.lastname@example.org