It was standing room only at the Chanhassen City Council work session on Monday, Feb. 11.
Approximately 20 residents attended to hear the latest update on the Galpin development, also more commonly referred to as the Prince property, as in Prince Rogers Nelson. Nelson, who died in April 2016 didn’t leave a will. Instead his heirs have charged the sale of his 183 acres, prime Chanhassen real estate, to Comerica Bank and Trust.
Since last February, Lennar Homes has worked with the city on a residential development proposal. Several versions of the development have come before the Chanhassen Planning Commission and City Council, along with neighborhood meetings, all to get feedback on Lennar’s vision for the development.
The plans have always included preservation of 54 acres on the east side of the property, bordering Lake Ann, achieved through a density transfer — reducing the number of homes that could have been built next to the lake, and increasing houses on the west side.
Initially, Lennar considered a development of 202 homes. More revisions brought that down to 198 homes, then 191 homes, and now 181 homes.
At a Jan. 28 council work session, after reviewing Lennar’s latest changes, Mayor Elise Ryan said she appreciated the work of Lennar and Comerica and their need to maximize what they get from the property.
“Our responsibility is having an excellent product. How will it make Chan unique, and what does it say about Chanhassen?” Ryan said. “When we talk about design, you have to have some innovative designers. I would challenge you to come back on the 11th. Is there something else that you could incorporate, something you haven’t done in a different community, or in Chanhassen before? I challenge you to bring something back.”
On Feb. 11, Joe Jablonski and Steve Ach of Lennar presented the latest revision with 181 homes, restoring Prince’s iconic gatehouse structure on the property as a nod to the property’s history, as well as a trailhead for the city’s trail system.
The updated plan widens lot sizes on the south end of the development to match the existing ones in the adjoining neighborhood and replacing trees between the development and existing homes.
Ryan referred Lennar to guidelines in the city’s 2040 comp plan. She allowed that throughout the process, the council has received resident feedback. “We know it’s being developed,” Ryan said, “but we want it done in a responsible way.”
Going back to the revised Lennar plan, Ryan said she liked the plans for the guard house, increased lot sizes, and the additional steps to preserve the natural habitat. Still, she pressed for additional conservation, referencing the area as one of the last remnants of the Big Woods.
Ryan said she was also concerned that significant grading in the central area will affect the topography of the property.
“This 50 acres is important to Lake Ann,” Ryan said, “and so is the preservation of the land and the topography. I’m still concerned with the density and want to continue a discussion on it.”
“We’ve always been after that portion of Prince’s property,” Councilor Jerry McDonald said. “Ever since Lake Ann became a city park, it’s been in every council’s plan.”
While McDonald said he was aware that most of the comments have come from those living around the borders of the development, he added, “I think the community as whole supports this. Once it becomes private property, we lose it. This is a one-time opportunity. The proposal is a good one and well thought out.”
Councilor Bethany Tjornhom suggested the city reach out to all residents with information on the proposal and the park land that is involved. “Maybe 50 acres of parkland isn’t important,” Tjornhom said. “But once we make this decision, it’s there forever. It will have lasting impacts on everybody and the people who use Lake Ann Park. I think we should listen to all voices.”
Ryan suggested that since the plan is a new one, it should go back to the Planning Commission. Gerhardt pointed out that Lennar is facing a purchase agreement deadline and that any meeting needs to happen quickly.
After additional discussion, the council agreed to schedule a public hearing at 7 p.m., at the March 5 Planning Commission meeting at City Hall.