Editor’s note: In this commentary, Denise Beusen, a 13-year resident of Heritage Townhomes in Eden Prairie, writes about a proposed development that would neighbor her community.
In recent years, the Metropolitan Council has made increasing housing density in the Twin Cities a priority, driven in part by environmental considerations and a shortage of housing.
Eden Prairie has responded with several infill projects, including, most recently, a proposal for a townhome community at the southeast corner of Dell Road and Pioneer Trail. As reported by Eden Prairie Local News, the proposal was (recommended for approval to the Eden Prairie City Council) by the city Planning Commission despite unanimous opposition from occupants of surrounding neighborhoods.
This opposition is not a simple case of NIMBYism. In fact, residents of nearby neighborhoods are widely supportive of construction of new residences in the space. Their consensus is that the empty buildings on the lots in question are potentially an attractive nuisance, and the land would be better used to accommodate families who need housing.
However, unlike some of the recent local infill projects – for example, new apartment and townhouse projects along Eden Prairie Road, as well as Prairie Bluffs Senior Living – this pending proposal is in the heart of a quiet residential district more than 20 years old. There is no commerce in the area and, by comparison, less traffic. The commission has approved the proposal despite neighbors’ concerns about its impact:
- The density of the development is inconsistent with the adjoining communities and exceeds current zoning regulations; there will be a negative impact on nearby property values.
- The proposed connection of Valley Road to Dell Road will create a bypass to Pioneer Trail via Cedar Forest Drive, by which vehicles can avoid the traffic lights at Dell and Pioneer Trail. This will mean increased traffic through nearby neighborhoods and unsafe conditions on Cedar Forest Drive, where pedestrians routinely walk in the street because there are no sidewalks.
- There is insufficient parking within the new development. There will be no street parking, and there are minimal parking pads. The new Valley Road will inevitably handle overflow parking.
- An inadequate buffer (either vegetative or other) between the existing neighborhood to the south and the new community that would ameliorate the traffic noise, lights, and parking along Valley Road – which will be about 30 feet from the rear of homes in the adjoining Heritage Townhomes community.
- Construction will result in the removal of mature trees that exceed the limit allowed by city regulations. The developer would pay a fine, but dollars do not equate to the lush greenery that imbues a high quality of life on Eden Prairie residents.
- The city planning staff has argued that the new road will enhance access for emergency services. However, no evidence was presented to suggest that the existing communities have experienced problems over the last 20 years. In addition, there’s nothing to support an argument that the development of 42 townhomes needs two egress routes: Heritage Townhomes (to the south) has a single access to Dell Road for 53 townhomes and, in 20 years, has had no issues with access.
The bottom line is that infill projects need to be evaluated judiciously. Increased density is not an innate threat to the quality of life in Eden Prairie, but it needs to be implemented in a manner that preserves that quality and includes the input of those impacted by the project.
The City Council needs to return the proposal for development of the corner of Dell Road and Pioneer Trail to city planning staff for more study and evaluation, with a focus on addressing neighbor’s objections.
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