Affordable senior housing plan leads to friction in Inver Grove Heights
- Article by: Liala Helal
- Star Tribune
- July 16, 2013 - 2:24 PM
A welcome relief for the growing population of Dakota County seniors has sparked concern from some Inver Grove Heights residents.
The city last week approved plans for a 66-unit affordable senior housing development by the Dakota County Community Development Agency (CDA), which the organization revised to address neighbors’ concerns.
But neighbors still were unhappy with the way a three-story development would look from their properties.
The council approved the plan in a 5-0 vote. City leaders cited hundreds of Inver Grove Heights residents on senior housing waiting lists and more than a thousand in Dakota County.
“There’s a need in Inver Grove Heights for this type of housing, so this will help,” said Mayor George Tourville. “It’s a huge need. People are living longer, so there are more seniors.”
This is the first new affordable housing for seniors in the city since 2002; there are two other CDA options in Inver Grove Heights. More than 300 households in the city are on the waiting lists, and in Dakota County, there are more than 1,200. This number is expected to grow by the hundreds by 2015, according to Sarah Kidwell, CDA assistant director of administration.
Four owners of single-family homes surrounding the site at the corner of Cheney Trail and Cahill Avenue expressed concern about the housing at a recent City Council meeting. Neighbors at the meeting asked the CDA to reduce the height to two stories and increase the surface area.
But that would cost 20 percent more — a $1.5 million increase, which the CDA says it cannot afford. The total cost of the development is between $7 million and $8 million, according to architects for the project.
Neighbor Aric Elsner told the council recently that although senior housing would be a good use of the property, a three-story building close to the residential neighborhood was “unacceptable.”
Joseph Sonday, the closest neighbor to the property, agreed that a three-story building would be a problem without screening between his property and the development, and he “did not want the view from his home to be residential windows,” according to city documents.
The lot, which has been vacant for 15 years, was supposed to be developed into single-story office space, Elsner said. The property was liquidated when the previous property owner, Rottlund, went into bankruptcy.
The final plan includes revisions to address neighbors’ concerns — moving the building to the west, and moving the parking lot to the east side. The footprint was adjusted so the building ranges from 102 to 120 feet from neighboring property lines. “This allows for a much greater setback to the neighboring parcels and homes,” Kidwell said.
Although representatives from the CDA said there are no plans to expand the development in the future, Inver Grove Heights resident Christopher Riess said the proposed layout, which does not center the building on the property, suggested intent to expand in the future. Neighbors did not want the size of the development to increase.
Inver Grove Heights City Manager Joe Lynch said that this type of housing usually does not cause many problems to neighborhoods; the CDA manages the property well, and senior housing typically does not produce many police calls.
He said the project coincides well with the demographics of the city, and its location near retail and commercial properties is helpful to seniors.
Visitors to the housing complex also will help the city’s economy, Tourville said. A Wal-Mart, a strip mall, a bank and other businesses are east of the property.
“It’s going to add some purchasing power into the neighborhood because they’re active seniors in this housing, so they’ll be going to the store. … Also, their families will be coming so they’ll be going out to eat and so forth,” Tourville said. “It’s a good thing. I think it’s a worthwhile project.”
A 2010 CDA report analyzing demand for affordable senior housing projected that those age 65 and older will grow in numbers by almost 30 percent in Dakota County between 2010 and 2015.
Tourville was hopeful from the start that a compromise between neighbors and the CDA could be reached. The complex will be open to applicants from around Dakota County, but Inver Grove Heights was especially in need of this housing option, he said.
“It’s huge, because we’ve come to the top of the list for cities in Dakota County that need this,” Tourville said.
The CDA has plans to build up to three more senior developments in other cities in Dakota County in the near future, Kidwell said.
Liala Helal • 952-746-3286
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