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Continued: In Orono, a dispute over developing an aging golf course

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 26, 2013 - 2:53 PM

Meanwhile, Source Land Capital officials have made it clear that they signed a valid contract to purchase the land. It is not for sale, they said, although they have not closed on the purchase.

Hiller said that he and his partners will provide a first-class project. Homes built on the site are likely to have 4,500 to 6,000 square feet of finished space, he said, and cost “$800,000 and up.”

The company held an open house last Thursday evening to answer neighbors’ concerns.

Donna Hager, who has lived along the southern edge of the course for 53 years, said she fears that septics from the development will leak and contaminate her private well and that runoff from the streets, roofs and roads will pollute nearby Forest Lake and Lake Minnetonka.

Mary Sladek, who also lives nearby, was concerned about safety from increased traffic on the nearby roads, and said Orono would be better off leaving the land as open space where residents and future generations could hike, bike, ski and enjoy nature.

Hiller and others tried to assure neighbors that the development would work with the natural beauty and contours of the land and that wetlands and other features would be protected and enhanced by conservation easements.

City Council to decide

Both the citizens and Source Capital are looking to the city for a decision about the future of the land.

Mike Gaffron, Orono’s assistant city administrator, said that the property is zoned as rural residential, but that zoning cannot be acted upon unless the comprehensive plan is amended.

Such plans provide guidance for each parcel in a city and what the city’s long-term expectations are for those properties, he said.

Changes in Orono’s plan have been rare, Gaffron said.

He said Orono is obliged by law to consider a developer’s request to amend the city’s comprehensive plan. “It becomes a legal question, ultimately,” he said. “And there are potential legal consequences if the city was to say no.”

But citizens question why the city cannot use its authority to refuse or at least to slow down the process to explore whether there are alternative uses for the land.

“Orono has a history of taking its time on everything, and I don’t understand why this is moving so fast without enough questions being asked,” said Robyn Johnson, another golf course neighbor.

The City Council has set a meeting to hear from the developer and citizens on Jan. 6, and it is scheduled to make a final decision on Jan. 13.

Source Capital also has purchased another golf course just down the road from Lakeview, the nine-hole Red Oak Golf Course in Minnetrista, also developed and owned by the Wenkstern family.

That sale closed recently, has not generated opposition and plans are to build about 55 homes on 20 acres.

Both golf courses closed shortly before Thanksgiving.

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  • Submitted photo: Opponents of a development proposed for the Lakeview Golf Course in Orono put up this billboard.

  • Submitted photo: Lakeview Golf Course in Orono

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