A final decision on a plan to build houses on Eagan's last 18-hole golf course is taking longer than expected, but the project may have averted one potential obstacle.
The City Council had been expected to vote last week on a proposal by Eden Prairie developer Hunter Emerson to build 177 single-family homes on the 80-acre property.
But that vote has been delayed because Dakota County recently approved changes in a plan for nearby intersections, triggering the need for a new traffic study. It won't be published until later this month, with a public comment period expected to run until March 20, according to Tom Garrison, the city's communications director. As a result, he said, the City Council probably won't consider the housing project until April.
By then, it's possible that one issue which recently prompted the city's Planning Commission to oppose the project will be resolved. The developer is working to improve landscaping on a buffer between the housing project and neighboring Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
Scott Carlston, a Hunter Emerson partner, said he isn't overly concerned about the delay.
"There has never been an exact timeframe," Carlston said. "I don't think we have ever gotten out that far in terms of expectations."
The proposed development has generated considerable controversy since Hunter Emerson announced it last spring. Neighbors protested that the homes would ruin the open space they enjoy, draw more traffic to nearby streets, hurt property values and endanger the environment.
Fans of Parkview also objected to the loss of the 18-hole course, known for its long season and youth golf programs. But Parkview's owners have said the course has not been making money for years, and that housing is the most viable use for the property.
"Sadly, the market forces of this declining industry are overwhelming. Even a banner year last season for extended play weather offered no relief from suffering another loss for 2012, and decline in rounds played," said Rob Zakheim, one of the owners. He declined to say whether the course will be open for business this year pending a decision on the housing development.
The process of changing Parkview's use from open space to residential hit a snag last May when Eagan's Planning Commission recommended denial of a comprehensive guide plan amendment. But the City Council voted unanimously in June to override the commission's recommendation, sending the amendment to the Metropolitan Council, where it was approved.
Last month, the Planning Commission again rejected plans for the housing project, this time largely because of concerns from the county over the buffer between the new homes and Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
Dakota County Parks Director Steve Sullivan told the commission that the proposed 20-foot buffer would be inadequate for that portion of the park, where the county is considering plans for new trails, a disc golf course and a dog park. "There is a visual impact," he said.
Sullivan told the commission the insufficient buffer "devalues the investment that's been made in the public infrastructure of the park."
Carlston, who was at the meeting, said he was surprised by Sullivan's comments.
"There was some misinformation," Carlston said later. Because of a mix-up, the county had not gotten a copy of the developer's latest landscape plan for the buffer before Sullivan spoke at the commission meeting.
"There really has been some progress," Sullivan said of the updated landscape plan he and others at the county have now seen. He said the developers have agreed to further modify the plan, providing an effective buffer between the housing development and the park.
"We're still waiting for the final plan, but we're very encouraged by what we've seen to date. It looks like it will protect that recreational experience for folks that use Lebanon Hills Regional Park," Sullivan said.
He said the county will notify the city that concerns over the buffer have been resolved once it has had a chance to review a final version of the landscape plan.
Susan Feyder • 952-746-3282