Inver Grove Heights neighbors: ‘Don’t tear us apart’

Residents of an Inver Grove Heights neighborhood have been urging the City Council to choose options for realigning Argenta Trail that don’t uproot 10 homes along the current Argenta, putting up signs in their yards and speaking out at council meetings. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Residents of an Inver Grove Heights neighborhood have been urging the City Council to choose options for realigning Argenta Trail that don’t uproot 10 homes along the current Argenta, putting up signs in their yards and speaking out at council meetings. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Nikki Abbott, whose home houses eight family members, fears she will lose her home and her neighbors. Pictured, she talks about the chickens, horse and ducks that live on her rural-esque property. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Nikki Abbott, whose home houses eight family members, fears she will lose her home and her neighbors. Pictured, she talks about the chickens, horse and ducks that live on her rural-esque property. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Chad and Christine Hagman describe their extensively landscaped yard, used as Chad’s business show space. They considered putting an addition on their already remodeled home, but their plans were put on hold by a project to realign Argenta Trail. Their house could be razed in the process. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Chad and Christine Hagman describe their extensively landscaped yard, used as Chad’s business show space. They considered putting an addition on their already remodeled home, but their plans were put on hold by a project to realign Argenta Trail. Their house could be razed in the process. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
In his backyard, Hagman points to an open field, which is slated for a housing development. Under one option, Hagman’s house would be demolished for the project. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
In his backyard, Hagman points to an open field, which is slated for a housing development. Under one option, Hagman’s house would be demolished for the project. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Looking out from his backyard, Chad Hagman sees traffic from the current Argenta Trail, which could be realigned through his house, or what’s now an open field off his property. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Looking out from his backyard, Chad Hagman sees traffic from the current Argenta Trail, which could be realigned through his house, or what’s now an open field off his property. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

Realigning Argenta Trail could raze 10 houses

Most mornings, Chad Hagman and his family look out their window at the wildlife wandering through their back yard.

Hagman is now facing the fact that his view of deer, wild turkeys and owls may soon be replaced by traffic making its way to Interstate 494, a change he anticipated when he moved to the developing region. What he didn’t anticipate was fighting to save his house from being bulldozed in the process.

On Feb. 23, the Inver Grove Heights City Council is scheduled to consider whether or not Hagman and more than a dozen of his neighbors will lose their homes, in order for the city and Dakota County to rebuild and expand Argenta Trail, accommodating projected growth in the area.

One of the five options in front of the council would wind through an existing neighborhood. Ten houses would be demolished.

The other four options have Argenta going through what’s now an open field surrounded by trees, though at least one house would be affected in any case. A developer owns 40 acres of nearby land, which is slated for a development of possibly 118 single-family homes and would be severed under most of the options.

Hagman and his neighbors have attended council meetings and open houses, read binders full of project plans and urged the city to pull the neighborhood together, rather than tear it apart.

Hagman said his daughter, who is in first grade, keeps asking questions.

Finally, he decided to tell her the truth about why he was going to all these meetings. Hagman remembers explaining, “Well, I’m trying to save our house.”

 “It’s really taking a toll on us,” he concluded.

Growing pains

In the city-county project, the two-lane Argenta Trail would eventually be built out to six lanes from state Highway 55 to Interstate 49. Along with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the entities started designing the project in September.

The residents — most of whom have lived there for decades and recently put thousands in renovations into their houses —  are concerned they will be uprooted in favor of a proposed housing development, called Blackstone Ridge.  

They say the new development forced the issue, and the city appears to be favoring the housing growth over the existing residents.

The home of Denny and Laurie Wolfe would be spared under the plan, but they’re working alongside their neighbors to preserve the community they live in.

“Since the city seems to have their wagon on the developer’s horse, it would seem we’re looking at the worst possible scenario when it comes to retaining our properties,” Denny Wolfe said.

City administrator Joe Lynch says the Argenta Trail realignment and expansion ties into transportation studies the city conducted three and five years ago with four other agencies, including Dakota County and the Metropolitan Council.

“We studied it. There’s going to be demand,” Lynch said, referring to the expansion of Argenta, as well as other existing roads in the city. “There’s already existing transportation problems on the system, and they need to be fixed [as well].”

The city kept residents informed of potential transportation initiatives, he said, by conducting a series of open houses, so the Argenta Trail project shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Lynch says the city is also mindful of the fact that a developer is waiting on details of the Argenta Trail realignment to see how it will affect the development prospects of his property.

The Blackstone development, he explained, would require the city to expand its sewer and water system to new residences. This opportunity for growth, however, is contingent upon the developer’s decision to submit a new lot plan for approval if the road runs through his property.

Asked to weigh in on the issue, owner and developer Jim Deanovic said, “Somebody’s pro is somebody else’s con. You really have to look at what’s best for the city.”
In his estimates, a new housing development that maximizes on a plot undisturbed by the new road would hook up more residents to city utilities and increase the tax base.

“Did it come sooner than desired? It sounds like it did,” Lynch said. “It’s a very tough decision. The city is aware that it impacts people’s lives, their property, but it’s one we can’t continue to push down the road.”

Hanging in suspense

Kyle Van’s renovation plans have been immobilized since he bought the house near his childhood home in September. He said it’s supposed be a “happy, exciting time” where he makes the house his own.

“And I can’t do that,” Van said. “There’s too much uncertainty.”

Nikki Abbott, who has eight family members living in her house, said she could lose everything she loves about her property — her horse, chickens and large garden. But, most importantly, she may lose her neighborhood and “forever home.”

“We are all in limbo, and they’re not giving us a timeline,” Abbott said. “How do [you] move on with your life?”

She said the thought of losing homes in the neighborhood “is a death.”

With tears in her eyes, she added, “It will hurt as much as losing someone.”

Denny Wolfe, who bought his house in 1981, says the need for nearby development and new roads hasn’t come as a surprise. But the planning process has moved along faster than he and his neighbors had anticipated. He wants to make sure council members understand what’s at stake for not only the developer, but longtime residents as well.

“The fact that this neighborhood is getting decimated is my real interest,” he said. “If you consider this little neighborhood here as a big smile on Argenta Trail, most of its teeth are going to be missing when they get done with us.”

Council member Rosemary Piekarski Krech hopes the council can make a final decision on the future of the project at the 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23 meeting at City Hall, 8015 Barbara Ave. But she knows it won’t be easy.

“I think all options are under consideration,” she said. “I have no idea what we’re going to do. It’s one of those things where there’s no good choice, as far as I’m concerned.”

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.
 

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