IGH residents move building but can’t stop CDA housing

There’s strength in numbers, but only so much.

That was the lesson for Inver Grove Heights residents on Cheney Trail July 8.

The residents’ protests forced the Dakota County Community Development Authority to adjust site plans for its upcoming senior housing facility. However, the residents’ request that the building be totally redesigned ultimately fell flat.

Residents complained that the three-story, 66-unit independent living facility would block sightlines and leave large portions of the property, located at the corner of Cheney Trail and Cahill Avenue, open for future development. CDA representatives countered that the broader, shorter building design proposed by residents would be more costly to build and maintain and unnecessary since they’d already reached an agreement with the city not to develop the land further.

The CDA currently operates 26 similar senior housing facilities throughout the county, including the Cahill Commons and Carmen Court buildings in Inver Grove Heights.

The CDA had sought approval of the plans from the Inver Grove Heights City Council at the council’s June 24 meeting, but testimony from residents at that meeting convinced the council to direct the CDA to look for compromises.

The CDA returned to the July 8 meeting with new site plans, which showed the building re-oriented and shifted nearer to Cahill Avenue, putting the facility at least 100 feet from the nearest residential property line and around 200 feet from the nearest home.

Those changes were enough for the council, which approved the necessary zoning change for the multi-unit residential use.

Room for trouble

Residents who attended the July 8 meeting seemed less impressed, however. Joseph Sonday, a 12-year homeowner on Cheney Trail, told the council that the number of buildings that could eventually pop up was more important than the proximity of the first building.

“My property value basically lives and dies based on what goes on this outlot,” Sonday said. “The way it’s laid out, it’s just begging the question, ‘Why wouldn’t you put something on the north end?’”

At the June 24 meeting, the CDA agreed to a written covenant with the city to ban construction of more “principal” structures on the lot, but City Attorney Tim Kuntz acknowledged at the July 8 meeting the city council could waive this stipulation in the future if the CDA had a compelling case for further development.

One of Sonday’s neighbors, Aric Elsner, told the council he believed the only way to guarantee the lot would not be built out further was to require a new design that distributed the structure across the site, rather than the current design that features a tall building tucked into the south end of the lot.

“We just want to make sure this is what it is -- that five years from now they’re not going to come back and say ‘We have 68 (sic) filled and another 200 waiting: let’s amend this and put another one in there,’” Elsner said.

‘Don’t see’ later building coming

Mayor George Tourville said he appreciated the residents’ worries, but did not foresee any circumstance in which the current council would waive the limited-development covenant.

“I understand your concern -- ‘They’re just going to wait a while and come back and build something’ -- but I don’t see it,” Tourville said.

Council members Tom Bartholomew and Rosemary Piekarski Krech added that the CDA had already gone to great lengths to propitiate the city and suffered a delay in their groundbreaking because of it. Given that, the council members said it seemed unfair to send the designs back again for even more extensive revisions.

“You do the best you can to get the best consensus that you can,” Piekarski Krech said. “We could sit here for probably forever and I don’t think we’d find something that would make everyone happy.”

CDA representatives have repeatedly insisted that they have no intent to develop the land further after the facility is constructed. After the council approved the amendment, Kari Gill, deputy executive director of the CDA, said her agency would strive to make the situation palatable for neighbors.

“We will try to work with them and try to work with landscaping, if they want it on their property or if they want it on ours,” Gill said.

Luke Reiter can be reached at lreiter@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Article category: 
Comment Here