Land use change tabled following split on Coon Rapids council

A land use change sought for a five-acre parcel that has been owned by a Coon Rapids family for many decades failed to get enough votes at the Dec. 18 Coon Rapids City Council meeting – even though a rezoning request did.

Tim Tronson sought both a rezoning and comprehensive plan land use change from low-density residential to moderate-density residential for the property at 1354 121st Ave. N.W. at the intersection of 121st with Bluebird Circle.

While the council first adopted the rezoning ordinance 4-2, there was not the necessary five votes to approve the comprehensive land use plan change, so that issue was tabled.

Councilmember Jerry Koch was not at the meeting.

With the council’s Dec. 18 meeting the last of the year, that means the land use change request won’t be back on the agenda until the new year.

And two of the current members will no longer be on the council as they did not seek re-election – Melissa Larson, who opposed the request, and Scott Schulte, who voted yes.

The Coon Rapids Planning Commission had voted unanimously to recommend approval of both the zoning and land use changes.

But six neighboring residents spoke at the commission’s public hearing to express concerns.

They included potential impact on property values, the city does not need any more townhouses, tree removal would increase noise, grading impact on neighboring properties, potential impacts on wildlife and loss of open space.

According to Planner Scott Harlicker, the parcel, which is triangular in shape, fronts on 121st Avenue and has a house and several outbuildings on it, he said.

There is a drainage ditch that borders the east property line and some 1.5 acres are within the 100-year floodplain according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps, Harlicker said.

But he said the exact dimensions of the floodplain won’t be fixed until there is a development plan proposed for the site, he said.

The property is bordered on three sides by townhouses and on one side by single-family homes, Harlicker said.

It has been zoned single-family residential since at least 1976; that’s as far back city maps go, he said.

According to Harlicker, who recommended the zoning and land use change, a moderate density designation “would be consistent with the adjacent townhome developments and would be compatible with adjacent single family homes to the west.”

On behalf of Tronson, architect Carey Lyons wrote a letter to the city requesting the land use change.

In the letter, Lyons wrote that a moderate density land use would meet a stated objective of the comprehensive plan by subdividing larger parcels of land into more typical suburban sized lots.

In addition, the comprehensive plan encourages higher density development along collector streets like 121st, he wrote.

According to Harlicker, the triangular shape of the parcel does not lend itself to being developed efficiently into single-family lots.

“The flexibility of design available with a townhouse development would allow full development of the site that also allows for a buffer with the adjacent single-family homes,” Harlicker wrote in his memo to the council.

A resident on 120th Avenue, whose property abuts the west property line of the Tronson parcel was concerned about the impact on her property which is on a steep hill from grading.

She said she fears the landscaped area on her property would be weakened and lead to washouts.

According to Community Development Director Marc Nevinski, the planning process would ensure that there would be no negative impact on adjacent properties.

Bob Patterson, who lives on 119th and Yellowpine to the east of the Tronson parcel and a pond, said he hoped that if townhomes were built on the site, they would be of the quality of the Nature’s Cove development across 121st Avenue.

Councilmember Denise Klint, who voted no on the land use changes, said she was concerned about the dimensions of the floodplain and that the area could become smaller.

According to Councilmember Scott Schulte, another option, besides traditional townhouses, with the moderate density residential land use would be a single-family detached townhouse through the planned unit development process.

The site was ideal for a nice townhouse development, Schulte said.

Councilmember Paul Johnson agreed, especially the way the site was configured, he said.

Councilmember Bruce Sanders also supported the request and said that in his experience – he is a retired city assessor – land use changes such as this don’t lower values on adjacent properties, but in some cases increase them.

Larson opposed the request because she did not think townhouses would be a great idea and impact neighboring properties, she said.

Single-family homes should be built on the site, Larson said.

But Mayor Tim Howe said moderate density residential was a reasonable use and makes sense for the property.

“This is a gorgeous setting and a very attractive site for development,” he said.

There is no development proposal for the site at present, according to Harlicker.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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