Lake Elmo approves 300-unit apartment plan, braces for higher-density future

The Lake Elmo City Council approved preliminary plans for a 300-unit apartment complex at its Feb. 19 meeting.

Proposed to sit on a roughly 17-acre site along Hudson Boulevard west of Keats Avenue, the complex, called Spring Apartments by developer Continental 483, would have 15 two-story buildings with 20 units each. There would be attached and detached garages and more than 300 surface parking spaces. 

Lake Elmo Planning Director Ken Roberts said the general concept plan is not meant to be detailed, but “give a high-level overview of the proposal, what [city] staff sees as the opportunities and maybe some of the challenges with the proposal.”

The council passed the concept, but voiced density concerns. 

“The city is in its infancy in dealing with high-density apartments,” said council member Lisa McGinn.

Staff work for the city’s 2040 Comprehensive plan included studies showing the city’s population could double in the next 20 years. On Feb. 5, the council approved the plan for submission to the Metropolitan Council, which needs to approve it. It includes areas for development — the Village Planning Area and South Planning Area — to accommodate projected population growth.

Roberts said the 300-unit Spring Apartments, at 17 units per acre, helps with that goal. 

After noting she is “overall in favor” of the proposal, McGinn said she wants the city to make sure its roads can handle increased traffic, and law enforcement and emergency services can handle extra service calls. 

“When you put that many people in one concentrated area, of all different values and languages and everything else, there is an innate conflict, if you will,” said McGinn. “I don’t care who it is.”

As a way to keep regions of rural Lake Elmo rural, while appeasing Met Council requirements for higher density, council member Dale Dorschner suggested loading extra density in some areas and less in others.

The Met Council has 120 days to approve the 2040 comp plan submitted Feb. 5, which will then be reviewed by the Lake Elmo council for final approval. 

Because potential changes to the comp plan could impact the Continental 483 project, Roberts said the developer may want to hold off on sending its detailed proposal to the city. But, he said, the developer can continue making plans before the Met Council is done with the 2040 comp plan at its own risk.

 

–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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