A controversial Shakopee affordable housing development will move forward, following a move by the city's planning commission to withdraw a rezoning request for the 46-unit project.

Crews will break ground on the Prairie Pointe apartment complex in spring 2024, nearly four years after the city initially granted developer Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative a special zoning designation that allowed for fewer parking spaces and reduced setbacks at Prairie Pointe. The project prompted objections from some neighbors concerned about density and declining property values, and the city eventually contemplated revoking its zoning decision — making the development's future uncertain.

Shakopee officials said previously they were proposing the site be rezoned because Beacon hadn't held a required neighborhood meeting with residents and the project was taking too long.

Beacon recently held a neighborhood meeting about the Prairie Pointe project, though an email from a Shakopee official in April 2020 said it was acceptable for Beacon to replace that meeting with an online presentation and a place to submit comments due to COVID-19.

"Beacon said they met the letter of the law but I think they agreed they probably didn't meet the spirit of the law. That's why they held that neighborhood meeting," said Michael Kerski, Shakopee's planning director. "That was the only thing we were hanging our hat on."

Dan Gregory, Beacon's spokesperson, said the nonprofit is looking forward to working with city officials to bring affordable housing to the southwestern suburb.

"[Affordable housing is] desperately needed across the entire Twin Cities metro but especially in the suburbs," Gregory said. "If this had been shut down, [Shakopee] would have been that much further behind the eight ball."

Kerski had contended that the apartments could still be built in the previous zoning category if Beacon made a few changes to the project's plans.

But Beacon officials said the rezoning would have forced them to start over in planning the project, wasting almost $1 million in architecture, engineering and legal costs. It would have also required the project to get a variance to meet Shakopee's parking rules, Beacon officials said.

'Families need these homes tonight'

Prairie Pointe will be targeted at people coming out of homelessness, single-parent families and others making 30% or less of the area's median income. The three-story building will contain 46 apartments.

Shakopee officials — along with city residents — had also brought up a situation at a Minneapolis apartment building partly owned by Beacon where a group of armed nonresidents took over the property, leaving needles, old food and human waste throughout.

A Fox 9 video clip about that building's problems was shown at a June Planning Commission meeting after a Shakopee resident suggested it.

Kevin Walker, Beacon's vice president of housing, called the situation at the Minneapolis building "unprecedented" and said Beacon resolved the problem quickly.

Kerski noted that since Prairie Pointe received its approvals from the city, Shakopee has enacted a property maintenance code and rental housing ordinance. The property will be licensed by the city and inspected annually beginning three years after its original occupancy certificate.

"They're going to be held accountable if they don't manage the project correctly, which they clearly understand," Kerski said of Beacon. "They need to keep in touch with this project, not just get it built."

Gregory, Beacon's spokesperson, said the market won't build affordable housing like Prairie Pointe. Beacon is in the final stages of acquiring funding to build it.

Additional funding was needed because of a gap caused by inflation, which caused construction costs to rise, he said.

"Families need these homes tonight, and it takes several years to get them through the pipeline, so it's really great that the city of Shakopee is allowing this project to continue to move forward," Gregory said.