Lot depth variance explored for Andover development

The Andover City Council may be willing to allow a home builder to have variances on lot depths for two-thirds of the lots of an 18-lot single-family home development, but not without some new benefits for the surrounding neighborhood.

TH Construction of Anoka submitted a sketch plan to the city for a new development east side of Prairie Road and north of 140th Lane.

Community Development Director David Carlberg said business owner Tony Hennen attempted to purchase all the land he would need to make the lots conform to the city’s standards and the lots do meet the buildability requirements.

However, the lot depth of 127 feet is three feet short of the 130-foot requirement and the builder would need the council to approve a variance before the platting process got too far down the road, according to Carlberg.

While the council did not vote, it showed some willingness to consider the three-foot lot depth variance on 12 of the 18 lots as long as the city and the Shadowbrook neighborhood to the south got something in return. This would be handled through the city’s planned unit development process.

The council directed Hennen and city staff to consider making the front yard setbacks shorter throughout the development so the new residents rather than existing residents in the Shadowbrook neighborhood would be impacted by the shorter lot depths. There is no neighborhood to the north.

Additional vegetation screening and rules on how fences should look along Prairie Road are some other possible items the council may ask for. A new trail is proposed, but the council wants to make sure a lot of trees are not lost as the trail cuts through to Prairie Road.

“This is a lot of variances,” Councilmember Julie Trude said. “I remember former Councilmember Jacobson would say we don’t want any plans coming to the council with variances in. You work that all out in your design. We would throw this out and start over or say it would have to be a PUD where you are getting some trade-off.”

Carlberg said Hennen tried to purchase the six to seven feet of additional land to meet the lot depth requirements, but could not reach an agreement with a landowner.

“You won’t be able to tell when those lots are built or that they’re three feet short in the back yard,” Carlberg said.

Trude said most of councilmembers live on spacious lots and cannot imagine what it would be like for neighbors to the south if the new homes were three feet closer, especially if they have playgrounds, gardens or gathering areas near the back yard property line with their new neighbor.

The 18 homes are on both sides of a new dead-end street so Mayor Mike Gamache suggested moving the homes three feet closer to the curb of the new street.

“I think we’ve had larger front yards than most cities,” Gamache said. “That’s why I would think to have it fit the neighborhood that’s going to be south of it is you allow the back yard to be the proper size and have the front setbacks be closer. That whole neighborhood lives with that as part of their development.”

Ed Gritton said he and a neighbor own horses and Gritton is concerned that future neighbors will complain about the smell of manure.

Dean Danninger, chairperson of the Andover Planning Commission, said the city does have rules pertaining to manure management and suggested Gritton meet with city staff to review the rules.

Carlberg said the best practice would be to store the manure as far away from these new neighboring properties as possible.

This neighborhood would have to travel through the Shadowbrook neighborhood to get to Prairie Road.

Pixie Stockal said there are a lot of children in the area and was concerned about speeding.

Carlberg said the neighborhood would connect to a future development to the north when that is constructed, but these 18 homes alone does not justify a new street to Prairie Road.

“We understand the concern of more traffic, but the roads have been designed to handle this,” Carlberg said.

Danninger said the people driving through these neighborhoods would typically be those who live there so the residents need to talk to their neighbors if they see them speeding or call the police if there seems to be a habitual problem.

Told Wold wondered about the appearance and asking sales prices and what the property values would be.

Hennen said he has built 300 to 400 homes in Andover the past few years.

“Most of the homes we built are $350,000 to $450,000, so they’re all going to be over $300,000 I’d say,” Hennen said.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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