Neighbors who objected to a 42-townhome plan for southwestern Eden Prairie won on some, but not all, of their challenges Tuesday, Sept. 19, as the city council voted 4-1 to approve the project.
The council attached several conditions to their approval of the Pulte Homes project called Kinsley Townhomes that would be built southeast of the intersection of Pioneer Trail (County Road 1) and Dell Road. But, they decided not to have Pulte Homes extend Valley Road – which now dead-ends in the neighborhood of single-family homes to the east – as part of this project.
City staff wanted Pulte Homes to build, as part of its access to the 6.13-acre townhome site, a city street connecting dead-end Valley Road to Dell Road to the west. They argued that making the connection, planned for decades, would not only serve the new townhomes but also improve traffic circulation and access to Pioneer Trail for the wider neighborhood.
Widespread resident opposition to that road connection, however, moved the city council to go another route Tuesday: Have Pulte Homes build a city street off Dell Road that would serve the townhomes, but not extend it farther east to connect with Valley Road. Still, the council will require the developer to preserve the right-of-way for a potential future road connection, should the city and neighbors have a change of heart later.
Neighbors east and south of Kinsley also won concessions on screening the new townhomes from view, with council members ordering more landscaping on those sides of the project.
However, neighbors left Tuesday’s meeting without a reduction in the number of townhomes to be built. They argued that a smaller project would provide a better transition to existing townhomes to the south and single-family homes to the east.
But, Pulte Homes spokesman Dean Lotter said 42 townhomes are needed to make the project work.
“I think the density of the project is reasonable,” said Council Member Lisa Toomey, and most other council members agreed.
Council Member Mark Freiberg voted “no” on the project, saying he felt the city was allowing Pulte Homes to build units too close to neighbors.
Large numbers attend meetings
The Kinsley project prompted neighbors to nearly fill the city’s Council Chambers both on Tuesday and on Aug. 28, when the advisory body, the Eden Prairie Planning Commission, recommended city approval of the plan with a 4-3 vote.
On the extension of Valley Road west to Dell Road, testifying neighbors did not dispute the city’s long-standing plans to make the connection. But, they argued that the additional access it would provide would be offset by inconvenience to and unsafe traffic in their neighborhood, particularly for the families living in single-family homes between the Pulte parcel and Cedar Forest Road.
Valley Road resident Don Patterson acknowledged that the street’s dead-end for the past several decades has created “an impromptu cul-de-sac.”
“We have gotten very comfortable with the way it is right now,” he added. “We feel this (connection) does create a dangerous shortcut. That has been given short shrift.”
Public Works Director Robert Ellis said a traffic study of the Pulte Homes project showed it would generate an average of 283 vehicle trips per day, most of those toward Dell Road to the west rather than through single-family neighborhoods to the east. At the same time, he said, the Valley Road connection would provide existing residents another route to Pioneer Trail and points beyond.
“Staff believes this is a safe and efficient connection,” he said, acknowledging that making road connections after neighborhoods have been established “are the most difficult roads to be built. It’s a change, and I understand that.”
However, he also offered the alternative of providing street access only for Kinsley, at this time, and asking the developer to reserve road right-of-way for any future connection that would have to be deliberated with resident input. The alternative was embraced by the council.
“In my mind, it’s 55/45,” Mayor Ron Case said about the close call on the road-connection issue. “It’s not worth it. Let’s not build the road.”
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