Mendota Heights looks for new development at the Village

The Mendota Heights City Council is looking to develop city-owned lots in the Village Mendota Heights. 

At its March 19 meeting, the council approved a request for proposal to solicit proposals for the sale and eventual development of the lots.

However, residents who live nearby the Village pushed back, telling the council they were wary of the city’s interest in high-density housing development on the lots.

 

A longtime project

City Administrator Mark McNeill said the lots in question are bounded by Dodd Road, Linden and Maple streets in the Village development. 

The parcels were included in the original planned unit development for the Village, and were intended to be 14 detached townhomes and five small office buildings for a combination of residential and commercial use. 

“Because of the recession of 2008, 2009, the properties went into tax forfeiture, and the city became owners of those again,” McNeill said. 

The city has discussed the development of the lots in the past. McNeill said there have been a variety of negotiations regarding the space, including talks of a medical office building and a five-story apartment building.

In January of this year, the council made it a goal to develop the lots within the next two years.

At a Jan. 29 goal-setting meeting, the council reviewed six possible types of developments that had been submitted as unsolicited proposals. As a result of the meeting, the consensus of the council was for development of multi-family residential, although a mixed-use development would also be considered.

The March 19 request for proposal’s requirements include top-quality architecture design, building materials and landscaping, environmental low-impact development techniques, mixed-use if possible, residential development with no more than 100 living units and a three-story limit in height.

The council had also discussed relocating Maple Street, which McNeill said splits the lots.

McNeill said the lots were appraised a couple years ago and are in the process of being reappraised. The RFP will ask for an offering price, which will be considered but won’t be the city’s only consideration in terms of what it chooses.

 

Resident concerns, 

council flexibility

Speaking during public comment, residents took issue with the number of housing units discussed for the lots, saying that up to 100 units is a big shift from the 14 townhomes in the original planned unit development.

“We did our due diligence,” said Kara Wallace, who bought a home nearby the lots. “We reviewed the city plans and the PUD and the drawings, and they all show them as the townhomes and small offices.”

She said no one could have anticipated the changes being proposed and said it feels as if the “rug is being pulled out from underneath us.”

Resident Joe Kapla referenced the recent city council election and said that while many candidates and current council members ran on maintaining the character of Mendota Heights, he remembers no mention of turning the city into a high-density, urban-dwelling community. He added he welcomes development in line with the original planned unit development for the lots.

Referencing other recent apartment developments in the city, Barb Theisen said they aren’t as close to private homes, which a complex at the parcels in question would be.

“We didn’t buy into this area expecting that,” she said. “It’s a huge variance from what we thought we were buying.”

Hearing the community’s feedback, council members said they weren’t dead set on a high-density housing plan. 

Council member Jay Miller said he wanted confirmation the council would take a look at every proposal, regardless of the type of project, and that each proposal would be given equal measure. 

Mayor Neil Garlock said that if a smaller proposal “knocks their socks off,” they would seriously consider it. Council member Liz Petschel said she would like an RFP that brings in the best applications it can, pointing out she doesn’t know if that should expand to full commercial development.

Council members unanimously approved the RFP, with member Ultan Duggan absent. They approved the RFP with the understanding the city would consider every proposal that may come in. The deadline for proposals was adjusted to April 30 to allow for more time.

 

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

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