Lino Lakes is rural by design, says Mayor Jeff Reinert. And that rustic feel will be protected, even with 1,235 new homes and senior condos on the drawing board over the next decade, city leaders say.

In the past year, the Lino Lakes City Council has approved establishment of two new neighborhoods, Northpoint and Saddle Club, with a combined 359 new residences, and it soon will consider a third, Watermark, that could include as many as 876 homes built around a man-made lake.

If they're all built over the next decade, 4,000 new people could be added to the bedroom community of 21,000 on Anoka County's ­southern border.

City leaders say the goal is to make sure this new building boom is controlled.

"Lino Lakes will never be a Blaine because of our topography," said City Administrator Jeff Karlson. "You are not going to see houses stacked upon houses in Lino Lakes. Generally, [growth is] slow and steady. I don't think anyone wants to see a rapid, huge amount of growth. The concern is, let's control this."

Housing starts will probably top out at 35 new homes this year, Reinert said via e-mail. That could double to 70 in a year, but anticipated growth will be nothing like that in decades past, he said.

"At our peak back in the '90s, we were adding over 300 homes a year, but that doesn't even come close to some of our neighboring cities that have been as high as 800 to 1,500 homes a year," Reinert said. "In Lino Lakes, we like to develop at a slower pace so we have a chance to get it right. It also gives us a chance to work with the developers so that they understand our desire to have lower densities and a more open feel."

Lino Lakes, population 7,800 in 1990, nearly tripled in size by 2010. Convenience and country charm have long been its selling points.

It sits at the crossroads of Interstates 35E and 35W. It's home to the 5,500-acre Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Preserve, Anoka County's largest green space.

Retirees Roy and Sandi Schwoerer moved from Green Bay, Wis., into their new custom-built house in May. Their home backs up to a natural pond. Their son and his family own a home on its other side.

"It's beautiful," Roy Schwoerer said of his new neighborhood. "We didn't want to live on top of each other."

The mayor and city managers say maintaining that natural beauty and space is a top priority when evaluating new neighborhood concepts.

"These three projects have a tremendous amount of open space," said Lino Lakes Community Development Director Michael Grochala.

The two approved neighborhoods are made up of mostly single-family homes, priced at $400,000 or higher with large lots. The developments all include parks, open space and trails.

• In Saddle Club, 22 acres of the 39-acre site will be set aside as protected open space. The remaining 17 acres near the intersection of Birch St. and Old Birch St. will accommodate 55 single-family homes.

• In Northpointe, there will be 216 new single family homes, 88 senior condos, a 5-acre park and new trails. The development is near the corner of Birch Street and 20th Avenue S.

• The Watermark development near the corner of 35E and Main Street has not been approved, but initial concept plans laid out 876 homes on 372 acres. Nearly 90 acres will include a park, the man-made lake and trails.

Council members have questioned the size of the development, proposed by Mattamy Partnership, as well as some of the lot sizes, City Administrator Karlson said. "There is a little back and forth going on," he said.

Drawn to amenities

Even new arrivals support efforts to protect the rural feel. It's often a main reason they picked Lino Lakes.

The Janssen family moved from a Blaine development into a new Lino Lakes home a year ago. A wall of picture windows overlooking a pond and a stone fireplace compete for attention in their spacious living room.

Their youngest child, eighth-grader David, was already attending a school in the Centennial district, and moving to Lino Lakes put him within biking distance of school, friends and ­baseball.

"We looked at a lot of different areas," said his mom, Shannon Janssen. "We liked this one because of the park across the street and the bike trails that go for miles."

She pointed to her ­ pond view: "It's a beautiful sunset."

Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804