U.S. Homes Corporation, doing business as Lennar, has dropped a sketch plan for a 551 unit housing development into the laps of Corcoran City Council members. 

Neighbors of the proposed development are not happy about potential impacts on their neighborhood. A crowd of disgruntled residents filled all of the chairs in the City Council Chambers Thursday, Sept. 28, and left some visitors standing in the doorway. The entire crowd departed after hearing the City Council direct staff to move forward with an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW).

Mayor Ron Thomas, who lives on Old Settlers Road at the edge of the proposed development, said to the audience, “I have as many questions as you do.” An EAW would give him and other city officials information they need to make decisions about the proposed nameless development.

THE PROPOSAL

The proposed development is on a 270-acre site on four properties currently owned by Wessel, Dempsey and McKown. Located at the northwest corner of County Road 116 and Hackamore Road. The zig zag development wraps around neighboring properties.

Corcoran Planning Consultant Kendra Lindahl explained the proposal, the complex features of the site and the complicated approval process that Lennar is required to pursue before the first bulldozer moves dirt.

First, Lennar was asking for City Council feedback on a sketch plan on the proposed development. Council comments were nonbinding for the applicant.

Second, the Minnesota Environmental Review Program requires cities the size of Corcoran to complete an EAW for residential developments with more than 250 homes.

The sketch plan shows 551 detached villa townhomes, single family homes and attached row townhomes. Estimated density is 2.9 housing units per acre. Lennar’s narrative describes a mix of single family homes on 55, 65 and 75-feet wide lots, detached villas on 55 to 65-feet lots, twinhomes and townhomes.

The townhomes would be in the southeast corner of the site. The other types of homes would be scattered throughout the project. Lennar intends to have the townhomes act as a buffer between the single family homes and noise of traffic at the intersection of County Road 116 and Hackamore Road.

Lindahl said Corcoran’s Southeast District Guidelines stress the importance of gateways to the city, “so the site design and building architecture should be carefully considered.”

WETLANDS COMPLICATE LAYOUT

The presence of wetlands on the site complicates decisions about where to put roads and what kind of roads to build. Corcoran’s Comprehensive Plan shows a minor collector street looping through the site to connect County Road 116 to Old Settlers Road. The City Code prohibits homeowners from having direct access to a minor collector street. Wetlands limit other access points. These two problems render much of the site currently owned by Dempsey unbuildable.

In August, Lennar brought the problem before the City Council.

The City Engineer recommended that the City Council allow modification of the comprehensive plan. The minor collector could be shifted to the area west of the property line. Corcoran could acquire right of way soon, while it is available, and wait until the future to build the street. The city should allow Lennar to construct a local looping street and prepare for connecting it to the future collector street in the modified location.

The City Council agreed with the City Engineer. As a result, Lennar’s sketch plan for the development shows the local looping street.

Planning Consultant Lindahl described the next steps involved in Lennar’s approval process. She said the city is the governmental unit responsible for drafting the EAW. The completed EAW will be sent to the Environmental Quality Board for publication and distribution. During the following 30 days, agencies and members of the general public may submit comments. Corcoran residents would be welcome to submit comments.

“An EAW is not a means to approve or deny a project, but is an additional source of information to guide decisions,” Lindahl said. The EAW should identify measures to protect the environment that later can be proposed as conditions of approval of development applications. An environmental impact statement might be warranted.

The completed EAW and public comments will be brought before the City Council for action.

If Lennar decides to pursue the project, the developer would be required to apply for a comprehensive plan amendment to Corcoran’s phasing plan. The northwestern property owned by Dempsey currently is scheduled for development in 2035 to 2040.

Then Lennar would need the city to amend its zoning map of the area to Planned Unit Development. Next steps would be approvals of the preliminary and final plats and the preliminary and final PUD development plans.

RESIDENTS SPEAK UP

Eight residents of the area surrounding the proposed development spoke up about the Lennar proposal. None of them expressed their support.

Trail Lane resident Chuck Grabowski said he represented the neighborhood. He asked why the city had not notified residents of the surrounding area.

“We have animals and kids,” he said. The proposed subdivision “would not be good for the neighborhood. This will completely change our absolutely beautiful rural neighborhood. How are you going to help us understand what is going on?”

City Administrator Brad Martens said the Lennar agenda item was a concept plan. The city did not have enough information about what is being proposed. Neighbors would be notified when Lennar submits a request for approval of a preliminary plat.

Later in the meeting, City Councilor Brian Dejewski said neighboring residents were not notified about the Lennar proposal because it is at the sketch plan stage. “We’ve had a lot of sketch plans that don’t go anywhere.”

He and Martens said they were glad residents were at the meeting so that the City Council, staff and Lennar could get their points of view.

Trail Lane Resident Larry Allar said that if the Lennar development is built, 1,000 cars would be added to the surrounding roads. The developer would “bulldoze everything.” Also, drainage from the area “is very sensitive.” And, “you don’t want townhomes across from expensive homes in neighboring cities. He said Lennar should cut the density of the proposed development by a third.

Elm Street resident De Sicora said, “We need more communication from you guys. We can’t just call you.” She also wondered how all of the residents of the proposed townhomes would get out of the development..”

CITY COUNCIL FEED BACK

City Councilor Alan Schultz said 55-feet wide lots “are below our standards.” The development would need some type of transition from rural to townhomes. He did not like twin homes with garages next to each other.

City Councilor Jon Bottema said, “I implore people to stay in touch with us. I have been in your shoes.”

He added, “We don’t want this to be a through street area with dense traffic.”

Mayor Thomas said, “We can’t dictate what they can do if they follow our rules.” He did not want 66th Street to go through at this point. The right of way would be earmarked for future use as a road.

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