Just how the former Prince property development off of Galpin Boulevard proceeds will put the new Chanhassen City Council and developer Lennar to the test.
How will the council and developer manage to appease the concerns of neighborhoods like Longacres and Majestic Oaks, and still meet the city’s comprehensive plan calling to expand Lake Ann Park and the city trail system?
“We have some big concerns — water, density and tree removal. We’re pro-development, but to have it fit into the surrounding area,” said neighbor Josh Kimber.
“If we don’t come to an agreement, we’ll lose this once in a lifetime opportunity to get the 54 acres (to expand Lake Ann Park),” said Rick Echternacht, a Chanhassen Park and Recreation commissioner.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, in the City Council Chambers, the planning commission will hold a public comment meeting to review the revised Lennar Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposal for the property, which borders Lake Ann and Lake Lucy. The proposal then goes to the City Council on March 11.
At the City Council’s Feb. 11 work session, Joe Jablonksi of Lennar, reviewed changes that reduced the number of homes in the development from 191 to 181, restored the gatehouse at the entrance of the former Prince Rogers Nelson estate, and enhanced landscaping to make the development more unique and creative, as requested by Mayor Elise Ryan.
A proposed density transfer in the PUD would move 40 homes slated for the east side of the site in the concept plan, to the west side of the development. Instead, it would locate parkland on the east side, near the two lakes.
“Every subdivision is a negotiation process,” said Park and Recreation Director Todd Hoffman. “The land will be subdivided in one way or another. With the density transfer, the city is able to incorporate an additional 41 acres of land along with the unbuildable wetland acreage into the Lake Ann park and trail system.
“Lennar could have brought in a development showing lake shore homes,” Hoffman said. “But they came in saying, we understand what your comprehensive plan is.”
Hoffman said that some community feedback is that the city should buy the land instead of granting Lennar density, which he said would cost $7 million to $10 million. “That’s a lot of cash,” Hoffman said.
By approving Lennar’s current design, Lake Ann Park, founded in 1969, would double in size and complete the city trails in that part of the city, Hoffman said. “It increases the experiences people will have next to the lake, it’s near the center of the city and a lot of people will have direct access to the park which is a real benefit.”
Echternacht voted to recommend the PUD when it came before the Park and Recreation Commission. It voted to approve to recommend the PUD with conditions in a unanimous 7-0 vote. When it came before the city’s Planning Commission, there was a tie vote, 3-3, with one member absent, resulting in a failure to deny recommendation of the plan to the council.
“They’re trying to work with the city to have an area for the Lake Ann preserve and lake shore area. We’ve had close to 11 months to finalize this. It’s coming down to the wire. We need to come to a conclusion,” Echternact said.
Current homeowners living in adjacent neighborhoods have expressed several concerns, such as the overall housing density and tree removal, which residents say may exacerbate water runoff issues in Majestic Way homes facing the new development.
Majestic Way resident Josh Kimber started a Facebook page where residents living adjacent to the development and others can weigh in on the development proposal.
“A lot of us knew this land would get developed,” Kimber said in a phone interview earlier this week. “(The developer) is hearing residents, but not listening to the residents. The number of (proposed) houses doesn’t fit in the surrounding area.”
He said development along the southern border will remove the tree canopy, tree cover and water absorption. “We already have a water problem,” Kimber said, and described a neighbor who already had runoff into his own pond. Kimber described water damage in his own home, and is worried the development might worsen the water runoff problem.
Asked how the council should weigh the adjacent neighborhood concerns with the overall benefit to the Lake Ann Park, city trail expansion, and the overall community, Kimber said that the city, knowing of its long-term planning, should have reached out to property owner Prince Rogers Nelson at some time.
“I urge everyone to look at the plan, and to look for the greater good of the park and let council know,” Kimber said.
In a later email, Kimber added, “I would remind residents that the city is not paying a dime for that land and something has to give somewhere and unfortunately, it’s many of the residents in communities off Galpin.”