A proposal to build 15 townhouses on a site smaller than 2 acres is vexing residents in north Bloomington, who say the development is too dense, would hurt the environment and lead to increased traffic and stormwater runoff.
“There’s lots of opposition in the neighborhood,” said Laura Hunt, who lives two blocks away. “It was never a matter of not-in-my-backyard, but ‘Let’s find something that’s appropriate for that acreage.’ ”
The Penn Lake CityHomes development, proposed for two vacant lots on the corner of Penn Avenue S. and W. 86th Street, would offer the first new townhouses in Bloomington since 2005. The $5 million project would be built with no public money.
The attached two-story homes, with three and four bedrooms and two-car garages, would go up in a single-family home neighborhood near Upper and Lower Penn Lake.
“There hasn’t been a lot of townhouse development in recent years,” said Nick Johnson, a Bloomington city planner. “You’ve seen a lot of multifamily developments and some single family, small subdivisions.”
The project still requires City Council approval of four measures, including amendment of the comprehensive plan and a zoning change. Two measures were approved at last week’s meeting while the other two are slated for votes Monday.
Developer Steve Furlong said there’s demand for townhouses across the metro area.
“My primary goal was adding new attainable homeownership opportunities in the city of Bloomington,” said Furlong, the principal of Penn Lake CityHomes.
He said he aims to keep as many homes as possible below $382,950, the state cap for Minnesota Housing’s down payment assistance program.
The Bloomington Planning Commission hasn’t issued a recommendation on the project because most of its motions have resulted in tie votes, but city staffers have recommended approval by the City Council.
Petitions and lawn signs
Hunt organized Save Penn Lake Neighborhood to oppose the project, along with lawn signs and a petition with 600 signatures so far.
Building the townhouses “is just going to clog up Penn,” she said, adding that the intersection is already busy.
Members of the group worry the development would result in more stormwater runoff, since 58% of the project’s surface area would be impervious. Erosion and flooding are already problems with the lakes, she said.
She and others have suggested that four or five twin homes might better suit the site.
“Now I’m going to have a glorified apartment community a few doors down,” wrote Michael Swain in an e-mail to city officials.
Neighbors Tim Claus and Louise Anderson expressed concern for wildlife and the loss of 102 mature trees, according to development plans that also promise the planting of 58 new trees and 159 shrubs.
Johnson acknowledged concerns about density but said the plans exceed city requirements for open space. The project is “on the higher end” of density when compared to other townhouse developments, he said, but wouldn’t be the city’s densest.
The plan also meets several land use goals in the city’s comprehensive plan: encouraging dense development near transit and amenities, promoting a variety of housing types and increasing housing supply.
Furlong must still satisfy conditions laid out by the city, Johnson said, and parts of the project still need the approval of other jurisdictions such as Hennepin County, which must OK plans for access to Penn Avenue, a county road. The Metropolitan Council and Nine Mile Creek Watershed District have a say, and the developer must obtain various city permits.
Furlong said he hopes to break ground on the project in the spring and make the first units available by the end of 2021. He said he understands neighborhood concerns and believes the project’s stormwater plans would actually improve water quality.
“I’m confident that the end result here is going to be a great improvement to the neighborhood,” he said.