The Bluffs at Lake Lucy

The Bluffs at Lake Lucy.

The Chanhassen City Council has approved the final plat for the Bluffs at Lake Lucy, a new residential development that has been years in the making.

The Bluffs is located on hundreds of acres next to Lake Lucy and will be developed into multiple subdivisions with custom homes. Previously, part of the land was owned by Prince before his death.

But while the development has been approved at every stage, Mayor Elise Ryan, councilors and residents have continued to question the number and location of the lots — mainly, how many mature trees will be trimmed or cut down.

Residents who live next to areas under development said they were shocked when Lennar, the primary development company, cut down trees. While it didn’t do anything that wasn’t previously approved by the council, Ryan wanted to ensure that as many trees will be saved or replanted as possible.

“I’m asking the developers to do what’s right by the residents that are there today,” Ryan said.

BACKGROUNDThe development has been marred by controversy since its inception. Lennar initially approached the city council in January 2018 with a proposed development of 198 lots, but several city staff members, including Mayor Elise Ryan, questioned the density and design of the property.

Residents raised concerns about water runoff, tree removal, pedestrian safety and traffic. A March 2019 public meeting session drew a full house, with dozens of residents split between support and criticism.

Ryan and city staff met with Lennar to negotiate, eventually lowering the number of lots to 169 and preserving 100 acres of public parkland adjacent to Lake Ann Park. The council approved the plan later that month, with each subsequent phase going up for approval before the council.

The final plat of Phase 1 was approved in August 2019, though Ryan and Councilor Julia Coleman continued to receive many emails from concerned residents about the number of trees being removed.

This January, the council approved the plat for the Park 2nd Addition, which creates 57 lots, four outlots and right of ways for public streets.

NOW

While Lennar was going to develop the fourth and final plat, the company passed on the purchase this summer. Chan Three Developments is now pursuing the Park 4th Addition, which creates 31 lots and 2 outlots, though they’re bound by the previously approved conditions.

Eight months have passed since the council last discussed the development, but residents still filled the chambers and overflowed into the senior center on Sept. 14 to share their thoughts before the final approval.

Karla Sundem, on Topaz Drive, was one of the residents to request a larger setback between the development and her property — the original plan had a seven and a half foot distance between her house and the new development.

The short distance means that while her trees will be maintained on her property, anything that hangs over can be trimmed by the developers. The closeness also means that construction will likely hit the roots, which would kill the tree.

“We all know what six feet of distance looks like now,” Ryan said to laughter. “It’s very close to be building a garage next to the house.”

Since the council already approved the preliminary plat, they were required to approve the final plat unless it does not comply with ordinances, said community development director Kate Aanenson.

But seconds before the final vote to approve the Bluffs, the council amended the motion to increase the setback to ten feet — something custom home building company Gonyea confirmed was possible on the lots — which passed 4-0. Councilor Julia Coleman was absent.

“We want a buffer between these lots as [residents] do. If we could line every lot with nice, mature trees, we could. We do have to market the lot as 90 feet, but I think if we all work together, we can do as good of a job as we can,” said Gonyea partner Craig Allen.

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