A developer’s proposal to add 100 homes and a dock along Spring Lake’s west side has riled up neighbors and fans of Spring Lake, though a developer representative said the reaction was overblown.
Several residents at Monday’s City Council meeting said the idea would irrevocably change the lake’s character and ecosystem and decrease the safety of the quiet residential community.
Many said they worried Spring Lake’s progress in improving water quality could be lost. The lake is on the state’s list of impaired lakes because of excess levels of mercury and phosphorus, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District.
Councilwoman Annette Thompson said she had lived through a time when Spring Lake looked like “pea soup” and shared concerns about water quality and safety.
John Anderson represented Winkler Development Company, the developer, at the meeting and said many were misinformed about the project. A Prior Lake American article last week about it contained several mistakes, failing to mention the proposal doesn’t yet include a definite number of boat slips, for example.
The latest plan is for 100 single-family home lots on 65 acres and the extension of the public trail system along Marschall Road. The development would preserve about half of the land as wetlands, stormwater-treatment basins and other open space.
Anderson said the company would be doing more research on the shoreline of the property before settling on a specific number of boat slips or docking system.
“We’re going to go down into the mud and lake bottom itself and see what kind of lake bottom we have,” Anderson said. “We are going to make sure this works. We don’t want to put a bunch of boat slips in out there and then in they sit high and dry, that’s not good for sales.”
The project is not yet up for city review and approval, but Mayor Kirt Briggs said he and council members had been inundated with “numerous emails, text messages, phone calls, and interactions at Lunds & Byerlys in the frozen food aisle in regards to this project.”
“With the application in there would be a full and complete hearing on the item,” he said.
Jeff Matzke, city planner, previously said it will be months before any city action is taken.
A change.org petition created to protest the plan nonetheless garnered over 1,200 signatures in about three days. The petition was shared with Briggs and the council.
“Ecology, safety, congestion, and tranquility are all diminished by this development,” petition creator Kelly Charles wrote. “It is too drastic of a change and too detrimental to the community for which it would reside.”
Longtime resident Christian Morkeberg said he’d watched for years as water quality projects transformed Spring Lake.
“I sat in on meetings where people said, yes, we can’t do anything. Now 15 years later, guess what? We did something. The lake is much much better than it’s ever been,” Morkeberg said. “So please don’t bring us backwards.”
According to the Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District, Spring Lake has a maximum depth of 34 feet and average depth of 18 feet. The lake has a surface area of 587 acres, making it about half the size of Lower Prior Lake.
In a letter submitted to city staff, the Spring Lake Association said Spring Lake’s open shape and lack of coves means a single boat can disturb the entire surface and possibly stir up the bottom sediment.
“Anybody wanting to preserve the quality of the lake would never cannibalize it that way,” Spring Lake resident Christine Bachman told the council.
The idea that the development would include a small marina of sorts has also raised concerns about potential traffic on Sunset Avenue. The avenue would become the exit and entry point for the subdivision under the proposal.
Bachmann said she walks Sunset all the time with her young children. She said she and her husband were “pretty up in arms” about the development.
“If there are cars parked all in front of our yard, where will we walk? Where will it be safe for my kids?” Bachmann asked.
Several of the council members voiced similar concern for how traffic to the development would be handled, especially during an emergency situation. Members seemed uncomfortable with the idea that ambulances and fire trucks might have only one way to respond to the residents of the new subdivision.