Controversy over the Noble Hill housing development project in southwestern Eden Prairie detonated in 2021.
The reasons for the dispute are familiar to witnesses of other development battles in EP: proximity to treasured natural resources, engineering hurdles, questions over the need for more study, and a dose of Not in My Backyard (NIMBY). (See addl. EPLN reporting on the issue)
But the biggest reason seemed to be the question of whether nearby Fredrick-Miller Spring, a city-owned landmark that attracts people from throughout the metro area and beyond, would be compromised.
Opponents to Noble Hill said yes. The Eden Prairie City Council said no.
And so, unless opponents of the Noble Hill project convince an agency or court otherwise – a chapter of this story yet to be written – the Pulte Homes plan for 50 houses on 28 acres up the river bluffs from the spring seems poised for final council approval on July 13. This would likely lead to construction beginning later this year.
The climax of the months-long debate over Noble Hill was a city council public hearing on May 4. That meeting drew more than 60 speakers and lasted nearly five hours. It resulted in city council approval of the project on a 5-0 vote.
At the meeting, residents from Eden Prairie and beyond – including Belle Plaine, Blaine, Burnsville, Excelsior, Golden Valley, Hopkins, Jordan, Marine on St. Croix, Minneapolis, New Brighton. Rogers, Savage, Shakopee, Shorewood, Victoria, and Wayzata – implored the city to either deny approval or request further study.
They backed that up with a petition containing more than 3,200 signatures.
“The energy here is strong,” said Emmett Dysart during the well-attended public hearing. “You know the right thing to do.”
Others simply asked the council to take more time to either collect data or determine if the land might be purchased and preserved for public use. “I don’t know what the rush is,” said Theresa Shipp. “Why do we have to decide so quickly?”
On May 4, city council members said they’re convinced the spring and Riley Creek will not be damaged by the development. They pointed to the fact that eight acres of the Noble Hill site nearest the creek and spring would be left undeveloped.
“This water will be pure and protected for decades to come,” Mayor Ron Case said at the meeting. The May 4 approval also included the council’s decision to not seek an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW). The EAW is a detailed study further assessing the impacts of the project, including on the freshwater spring.
Opponents have appealed that decision to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, aided by a GoFundMe campaign for legal help that has raised more than $11,600.
At this writing, the outcome of the appeal is uncertain.