Inver Grove Heights council denies changes for new apartment complex


submitted graphic • The Inver Grove Heights City Council denied necessary land use changes Jan. 8 that would have paved the way for a 400-unit luxury apartment development at the Argenta Hills Shopping Center, west of Target and other buildings.

Residents come out to voice opposition to plan.

 

After almost two hours of discussion, testimony from residents and deliberation, the Inver Grove Heights City Council voted unanimously Jan. 8 to deny a series of resolutions that would have cleared the way for a 400-unit apartment development at the Argenta Hills Shopping Center.

Because the council denied changing the land use for the area in the city’s comprehensive plan, all other resolutions related to the plan failed, as they did not fit the current land use designation. 

 

The project 

Allan Hunting, city planner, explained to the council the request involved a two-phase, 400-unit apartment complex, with both surface parking and an underground garage. 

Hunting said the plan included trails and other amenities, such as an outdoor pool, community clubroom, full fitness and yoga studios and a movie theater. 

The project was slated to be at the Argenta Hills Shopping Center along Highway 55 near the Target and other retail buildings. 

Hunting said the comprehensive plan would need to be changed from its current land use designation of regional commercial to high-density residential. Along with this change would be a rezoning of the area that would be in line with the land use designation change.

“An apartment building would have more value than a typical big box retail building so it would generate more taxes,” Hunting said, adding city staff thought the plans had merit, and that adding more housing to the area will help existing businesses and generate more business.

David Higgins with McGough Development, the developer of the site, said that commercial uses there had stalled, and that the apartment building, which he termed luxury with rents from $1,000 to $2,500 per month, would expand the housing options in the area.

 

Public opinion

Besides residents who sent emails to the council, several who live in the area of the proposed project came out to speak against it at the meeting. 

Chad Mitchell Peterson said that while he knows it’s unlikely for big box stores to move in at the site, that doesn’t mean all retail options are out.

He said there is already property zoned that could accomodate the project elsewhere, and asked that if the necessary land use changes weren’t outright denied, that they could be pushed out one or two years to see how the new Vikings facility in Eagan and surrounding community develop.

Samantha Fitzgerald said many of her main concerns relate to the size of the project — she said it’s too big and setting itself up to fail.

John Murphy said many residents believe the project is a “market-timed opportunity for the developer and nothing more,” one that neighborhood will be left to deal with when the housing market changes again.

Paul Mandell from the city’s Housing Committee was one of the few voices in favor of the project — both the Housing Committee and the Planning Commission supported it. He said the project is advantageous to the city, even if it’s not for the residents, though he pointed out the committee had wished to see more of a mix of affordable housing in the project.

 

Council votes

Mayor George Tourville said for the developer to move forward, everything depends on the council approving rezoning.

“Without the rezoning, nothing can happen,” he said, adding that while the project would be good for the city’s tax base, he hadn’t heard much from residents who were in favor of it.

Other council members were concerned with making the zoning changes and giving up future possible revenues, and whether housing can bring commercial development, or if it’s the other way around. There were also concerns with the popularity of luxury apartments fading out.

Council member Rosemary Piekarski Krech said she doesn’t see potential residents of the luxury apartments doing their shopping in Inver Grove Heights — they’d all go to Eagan — and she wasn’t only concerned with tax base.

“I’m not going to make a decision solely on finances,” she said. 

After the motion to deny was made, each council member had to state why they were voting that way.

A resolution denying the comprehensive plan will be brought back before the council at the next meeting for the council to adopt. City Attorney Tim Kuntz said the resolution would be a statement of why the council denied the comprehensive plan change. 

 


– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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