Blaine hears update on ACCAP housing

Anoka County Community Action Program is asking the city of Blaine to rezone 1.72 acres on the northeast corner of University and 109th avenues so it can build 30 townhome units, replacing 15 single-family homes.

The Blaine Planning Commission May 13 unanimously recommended approval of rezoning this property from its current R-1 single family designation to Development Flex to allow the denser development. The Blaine City Council will vote June 19 on the rezoning and the preliminary plat.

“It’s a tremendous re-investment in this area,” Planning and Community Development Director Bryan Schafer said. “We think it’s a good shot in the arm for this corner and will dress it up.”

ACCAP is providing “work force housing” with this project, according to Schafer. The rental rates for each unit will be between $800 and $1,000 and serve residents whose household income is at 60 percent or less of the median income. Schafer said a family of four with a household income of $49,380 would qualify, for example.

Anoka County purchased nine single-family homes along the east side of University Avenue between 109th and 111th avenues as part of its pending road reconstruction project that will start later this year, but mostly take place in 2015.

ACCAP, an independent non-profit agency, will purchase six of these nine homes from Anoka County. It already had four homes of its own nearest the 109th Avenue intersection that it had leased back to the Rise program. ACCAP is also trying to purchase two other single-family homes between its four homes and the nine homes the county purchased.

The 30 units will be in five different buildings. ACCAP would own the buildings and serve as the landlord.

Jeff Johnson, representing ACCAP at the May 13 planning commission meeting, said ACCAP would pay property taxes on these sites. It essentially serves as the landlord and would do criminal and credit background checks on prospective renters, according to Johnson. April 2015 is the earliest that construction would start, he said.

The council already saw a concept plan at a December 2013 workshop, so it did not have many questions at its June 5 meeting during a required first reading of the rezoning proposal.

Access and screening were the two biggest issues that came up at the May 13 planning commission and June 6 city council meetings.

This development will have two right-in, right-out accesses on 109th Avenue and University Avenue.

Joe Oullette, chairperson of Blaine Planning Commission, wants to see a right turn lane on University Avenue into the development to remove these vehicles from the flow of northbound traffic just north of the 109th Avenue traffic signal.

Councilmember Kathy Kolb is concerned that the 109th Avenue access could cause congestion issues as drives look to quickly get in the left turn lane on 109th Avenue in order to head south on University Avenue.

The garages will be in the back for these new homes. Mayor Tom Ryan said it will be an improvement to reduce the number of driveways along University Avenue.

“I’ll tell you one thing, it will be a noise buffer,” Ryan said of the new buildings that will all be two stories high. “It will buffer a lot of University Avenue noise.”

An 8-foot tall board on board fence would screen this new development from the homes to the east on Fourth Street.

A couple of Fifth Street residents came to the planning commission meeting as well to raise concerns about construction traffic or the project in general.

Scott Hagen, a Fifth Street resident, said there are already enough rental properties in the area and too much traffic. He does not believe the eight-foot tall fence will make a big difference.

“We don’t need it,” Hagen said of ACCAP’s proposed development. “I don’t understand why we have to have it.”

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

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