Medina housing complex shelved amid controversy

  • Article by: EMMA NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 10, 2014 - 3:00 PM

The affordable-housing development would have helped meet a Met Council goal for the city.

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The median house value in Medina is more than $500,000, more than two-and-a-half times the statewide median. This Carlson Custom Homes property in the Meadows development listed for $2.7 million in 2005.

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In the wake of a tense public hearing process, a proposed affordable-housing complex in Medina has quietly been taken off the table.

Plymouth-based Dominium proposed a 32-unit complex for a spot near Hwy. 55. The Medina City Council was set to formally consider the company’s land-use applications at its June 3 meeting, following unanimous approval from the Planning Commission April 8.

But in a brief e-mail hours before the June 3 meeting, Dominium Senior Development Associate Nick Andersen notified Medina city officials of the company’s decision to formally withdraw its land use application.

Dominium did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Medina Mayor Elizabeth Weir said she didn’t find out until the afternoon of June 3 that Dominium had backed out. She attributed the withdrawal to “huge resistance from the community.”

“My sense is there was an unspoken fear out there,” she said.

About seven years ago, the Metropolitan Council set a goal for Medina to have 506 new units of affordable housing by 2020.

Weir said the city already has some affordable housing that’s cropped up, without commotion, in the older part of town. The Metropolitan Council’s goal “feels unrealistic in the context of Medina,” she said.

The Dominium project was intended to be Section 42 housing, with an income limit of $49,780 for a family of four. Section 42 is a government-subsidized program that provides tax credits to developers to build affordable housing, rather than providing rent assistance directly to tenants.

Four of the units were to be set aside as a temporary option for families without permanent housing. Tenants in those units would get assistance from Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, an organization that serves the western suburbs.

Community members have been deeply divided on the development. At public hearings May 28-29, locals expressed everything from support to adamant opposition, often due to concerns about increased crime and diminished property values.

Medina resident Mike McLaughlin said discussion about the development “got really ugly.”

“It’s really unfortunate,” he said. “I thought we were better people than that.”

An affluent community

Medina is a small, affluent community made up mostly of single-family homes. The median value of its housing stock is more than $500,000, compared to less than $200,000 statewide, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. An Edina Realty billboard off Hwy. 55, near the proposed development site, boasts “Homes are selling! 290 within 2 miles.”

As the Dominium proposal gained traction, the city provided multiple studies on its website showing that affordable housing does not tend to diminish surrounding property values — in fact, it can push them up.

The city also provided data on 911 calls in Medina and existing Dominium properties nearby. From 2009-14, the number of calls from Medina properties — including apartments, townhouses, single-family homes and senior housing — tended to be lower than at the Dominium properties.

But McLaughlin, who’s lived in Medina for about 20 years, said he doesn’t think crime and property values were residents’ only concerns.

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