The developer of a proposed housing project near a wetlands in Savage hopes the study will clear him to start building next spring.
The developer of a subdivision proposed for a site near sensitive wetlands in Savage has commissioned an environmental assessment, cutting straight to the chase himself rather than waiting for the outcome of a lawsuit filed by neighbors who demanded one.
"We don't anticipate that anything will pop up as part of this process," said Bryan Tucker, the planning manager for Savage. "We feel like a lot of this work has been done already. But certainly it is to the developer's benefit to go ahead and get this done," in hopes of starting next spring.
The University of Minnesota environmental law professor representing the neighbors said she is pleased but watchful.
"We're very happy that they are taking undertaking the process," said Alexandra Klass. "But we want to make sure it's more than just a paperwork exercise. What they need to do is seriously consider the environmental impacts of this project, and take comments from agencies and individuals seriously in deciding whether to go ahead with it in its current form."
A firm called Red Angus is proposing a development called Dan Patch Trail, a short distance from the renowned Savage Fen, an environmentally delicate area. The project is to include 211 single family houses and three 48-unit apartment buildings on 108 acres, south of Hwy. 13, straddling the Savage/Burnsville border.
Neighbors say they fear environmental damage. City officials have said they suspect that neighbors are more worried about losing a patch of woods and open space they've long enjoyed.
Under the law the two cities are responsible for seeing that the assessment is done well. But in actual practice, developers tend to be the ones to commission and pay for them.
The move to undertake the environmental review is an important step, Klass said.
"If they do it right -- which remains to be seen -- this is a much broader review than anything that's been done so far. It allows expert agencies and the public to respond to what it finds, and raise new issues."
The next step will be for the city councils of Savage and Burnsville to give their blessing to the review. That's expected next week.
Then the matter goes to the state's Environmental Quality Board. And a 30-day window opens for agencies concerned with the environment to weigh in on the project.
By around February, Tucker said, the city should be in a position to decide whether further reviews of environmental impacts are needed, or whether the project will get the green light.
"Assuming no adverse findings," he said, "we'd clear the way to go ahead this spring."
David Peterson 612-673-4440
David Peterson email@example.com