The Maplewood City Council has denied a proposal to build a 71-unit apartment building on a portion of a nature preserve.

The unanimous vote late Tuesday came after months of debate over the fate of Roselawn Park, a 5-acre woodlands in the Parkside neighborhood.

Azure Properties Inc. of Little Canada had wanted to build senior housing on land it owns on the 300 block of Roselawn Avenue, but the project would have involved buying about an acre of the park from the city. Neighbors fought back, defending the park as an urban jewel full of ducks, hawks, falcons, red oaks and walnut trees.

They also said the neighborhood already has too many apartment buildings.

Mayor Will Rossbach said he opposed the project because Azure had changed its original plan, increasing the size of the project.

"I felt in this particular case the developer was doing everything they could to make it more advantageous for them and less for the city," he said before the vote. "I was not willing to go forward and allow them to have all the cards."

City Manager Jim Antonen and two city planners, Tom Eckstrand and Chuck Ahl, had recommended that the City Council deny the application because it conflicted with the city's comprehensive land use plan.

Parkside already has various types of housing, including senior housing, that the land use plan requires, they wrote in a memorandum.

"This neighborhood, therefore, is already meeting the goals of the comprehensive plan by serving people of all stages of the life cycle," they wrote.

They also said that two other nearby senior housing complexes have vacant space.

Had Maplewood sold the city-owned land for about $236,000, the money would have been used to help redevelop the city's 36 parks or for future land acquisitions.

Without a deal to buy the city land, Azure can't build and probably won't make another proposal to the city, property manager Thomas Schuette said Tuesday.

"Likely not at this time," he said. "I think we will pursue other opportunities."

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles