Light rail is still years away from taking riders from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, but Eden Prairie city leaders are already preparing for development along the west metro suburb’s five planned stations.
On Dec. 8, the city’s Planning Commission will discuss a new transit-oriented-development ordinance aimed at encouraging high-density, walkable redevelopment near the Southwest Corridor light-rail line.
The draft ordinance, which is expected to get approval in 2015 after further city meetings and public hearings, is part of the preparations for the 16-mile line, which is expected to open in 2019.
The five cities on the line — which will pass through Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka before ending in Eden Prairie — have established or are working to establish zoning regulations that would encourage transit-oriented development along the 17 stations.
According to the Metropolitan Council, Minneapolis and Hopkins have strong zoning to support transit-oriented development, while Eden Prairie and St. Louis Park are improving their zoning ordinances and Minnetonka and Hopkins are working together to develop coordinated zoning.
Eden Prairie received a $60,000 grant from the Met Council in 2012 — part of more than $37 million the council has awarded in transit-related grants for 51 projects such as station-area planning and transit-oriented-development zoning in St. Louis Park.
Eden Prairie’s grant funded a consultant, HKGi, which has helped the city draft the ordinance, looking at how redevelopment could change within a 10-minute walking distance from each station, and planning zoning districts for mixed-use development, residential and employment office space.
The goal: Create walkable, bike-friendly areas with high-density, mixed-use buildings — a shift for an established, car-oriented suburb like Eden Prairie.
Eden Prairie senior planner Regina Rojas said the ordinance would be a tool for developers, easing the process to get approval for higher-density, mixed-use proposals and outlining things such as building and parking standards.
But light-rail opponents like Donna Azarian, who spoke out against the line before Eden Prairie gave municipal consent last summer, are concerned about the additional costs to taxpayers that redevelopment could bring. She cited additional sidewalks or increased fire and police services that would be needed as the population increases.
“When is enough, enough? Taxpayers have to be upset with it,” Azarian said. “ … It’s not going to be a beautiful little community anymore; it’s going to be more urban.
“It’s going to change the flavor of Eden Prairie. I don’t think they [city leaders] are thinking of the domino effect.”