The latest twist in the sale and closure of St. Anthony's only mobile home park has the city manager pushing for City Council members to reject the plan pitched for its redevelopment.
The high-density plans include 97 units of affordable housing to replace the mobile homes lost from the park's June 30 closure.
But in what is being described as an abrupt turn of events, City Manager Mark Casey is now recommending that the city reject the 712-unit project that's spread over about 17 acres, citing density concerns. The matter will be presented to the council at its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday.
In an Oct. 5 letter to city leaders, Casey says the proposed 41.4 units per acre exceeds what's called for in St. Anthony's most recent comprehensive plan — 25 to 40 units per acre.
That caught the developer off guard.
"Never during the process was there a concern about density," said Traci Tomas, vice president of the Village, the developer that bought Lowry Grove. "I have certainly been misled."
Tomas said the city has previously supported the project and its proposed unit count, as shown in earlier environmental assessment documents. The city, she said, had also indicated it would revise its comprehensive plan to reconcile the density discrepancy. Tomas said the Village would not have bought the property if it had been limited to building 25 units an acre.
"I'm left just contemplating," Tomas said, "did they plan this all along so that I would close the park?"
The project's affordable housing component represents a key part of an earlier settlement agreement that was reached between the Village and those working with displaced Lowry Grove residents.
City officials have previously said that affordable housing would be a critical piece of any development that takes the place of the mobile home park.
But scaling back the density will also reduce the number of affordable units and may jeopardize them altogether, according to Aeon, the nonprofit developer working with the Village on that part of the project.
"The less dense it is, the less resources we will have to make it affordable," said Alan Arthur, Aeon's president. "I find it very discouraging."
Neither Casey nor Mayor Jerry Faust could be reached for comment Monday.
Jack Cann, an attorney representing the Lowry Grove Resident Association, described the city staff's latest recommendation as "a startling and revolting development."
"It's absolutely a total about-face," Cann said. "You can't say anything other than that they are a bunch of hypocrites."
Cann said the city's objections to the project's density arose soon after the parties settled their dispute and announced the affordable housing plan in August.
"I think they designated Lowry Grove for redevelopment specifically to get rid of those low-income households," Cann said. "When there were suddenly practical plans to provide sound, new housing for them on the same site, the city said, 'No way.' "