Density key question in Mendota Heights comp plan

The Mendota Heights City Council approved the final draft of the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan after discussing it June 4.

Community Development Director Tim Benetti said with the approval city staffers will send the draft plan to all jurisdictions that border Mendota Heights or that have some type of impact in the city, like the school district. Those entities get up to six months to review the plan, Benetti said, and once that is done, the draft will be sent to the Metropolitan Council, which will carry out the final review. 

 

Areas of change

Benetti said the number of units per acre in medium- and high-density residential zoning areas was proposed to increase, though council members took issue with the need to boost the number of units allowed for both zoning districts.

Council member Jay Miller said he doesn’t feel there has been a compelling argument made that would allow for the council to increase density calculations. He said when looking at the 2030 plan in relation to the new one, the city was almost completely built out while putting together that previous plan.

“Between when that plan came out and when we started working on this plan, we have not seen a dramatic change in population,” Miller said. “It is my opinion that we shouldn’t be touching that because there’s not a need to touch it.”

Benetti pointed out that on a project-by-project basis, the city hasn’t followed its set guidelines for the number of units per acre, of six to eight, for properties zoned high density. Some buildings have nearly doubled the ratio.

Council members argued that the ratio should be increased in order to better reflect reality, and the council settled on a new ratio of six to nine units per acre for high density development. The units per acre calculations for low- and medium-density zoning remained unchanged in the new plan.

When it comes to transportation, Benetti said staff added a new policy, which will support park and ride facilities if demand is met or requested by local businesses and/or residents. A statement was included calling for a regional traffic plan to be carried out that includes Mendota Heights, Inver Grove Heights, Eagan, Dakota County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, due to a projected increase of daily trips on Dodd Road and Delaware Avenue.

Benetti said very few, if any, changes were made to chapters relating to parks and trails, housing, economic development, natural resources, critical areas and implementation.

The city Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the final draft, which can be viewed by searching “comprehensive plan” on www.mendota-heights.com.

 

Protecting natural resources

Resident Cindy Johnson commented that the natural resources chapter of the comprehensive plan is a very important section, as Mendota Heights is on the Met Council’s list of cities with the worst lakes. She said in order to protect natural resources, issues like invasive species and water quality need to be addressed.

“These are taking away from the beauty and functioning ecosystem that it used to be,” she said. 

Beth Pearlman said she has heard other residents say it will be expensive to plan for natural resource improvements, but she feels it will be more expensive if things get out of hand and become harder to clean up later.

The council will see the plan again for final revisions and edits after the Met Council has signed off on it.

 

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

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