The latest skirmish in a decades-old battle between Lake Elmo and the Metropolitan Council led to a recommendation Monday to green-light another upscale development in that suburb — but only after warnings, and only on a divided vote.
This time it was a subdivision that is to surround a new golf course, designed by golf legends Annika Sorenstam and the late Arnold Palmer.
And it came just as restiveness has been growing over routine approvals being given to pricey new developments, despite the fact that the communities involved may be a long way from fulfilling Met Council goals for affordable housing.
It’s an age-old fight between the council and a community that cherishes its rural feel.
“We continue to take actions like this, where low-income people, often people of color, won’t be able to live there,” Met Council Member Gail Dorfman said, “and it’s frustrating. The staff will tell us it meets guidelines, but I find it really frustrating.”
Dorfman raised the issue during a meeting of the Met Council’s Community Development Committee, which began initially about a project in Carver County but turned a few minutes later to the Royal Golf Club development in Lake Elmo.
The Royal development passed the committee on a voice vote, with Dorfman and at least one other person dissenting. It now goes to the full council.
The development, just shy of 300 homes, comes as a package with a redesigned golf course that is being described as the last ever designed by Palmer before he died, and the first by the retired Sorenstam.
The two golf legends overhauled the golf course, at the former 3M Co. corporate retreat known as Tartan Park, into a new layout that will open this summer.
Tartan’s 27 holes have been pared to 18. Sorenstam’s front-nine course will be known as “The Queen,” and Palmer’s back nine as “The King.”
Met Council staffers said that Lake Elmo has been put on notice that it is nearing the point of being “right on the line” when it comes to getting such developments approved, without dragging densities down to unacceptable levels to support infrastructure like water and sewer.
Dorfman spoke of having met recently with Latino tenants of an apartment building who saw rents doubled after the building was sold and rehabbed — a common scenario in recent years as city and inner-ring suburban neighborhoods have grown more desirable.
“This too,” she said, referring to the Royal development, “is probably not a development the Latino family being kicked out will ever be able to live in.”