A proposed affordable housing complex in Minnetonka has riled up its potential neighbors, who say the building would not fit with either the look or scale of nearby residences.
The three-story, 54-unit complex has been proposed for city-owned adjacent commercial properties along Shady Oak Road, which serves as a border between Minnetonka and Hopkins. The area is surrounded by neighborhoods that mainly consist of one-story, single-family homes.
“The character of the neighborhood will drastically change [by] having that massive building right there,” said Ellen Cousins, who lives nearby and drives regularly along Shady Oak.
Ron Clark Construction, the developer, has not submitted a formal application, and city officials have yet to make a recommendation on the project. An updated concept plan will be presented during a public meeting Thursday at City Hall.
“We will await comments [Thursday] evening and at a future City Council meeting to then further assess next steps,” said Julie Wischnack, the community development director for the city. “If the project moves forward, a formal application process would then begin.”
Traffic, size concerns
Residents, some of whom have kept their eyes on the properties since the city purchased them years ago, have expressed concerns online and at City Council meetings. Many are critical of the size of the proposed building, saying it would look out of place. And they say more residents would increase traffic congestion, making the streets less safe.
A petition opposing the project has collected more than 200 signatures. Some neighbors have even taken a more active approach, proposing other projects that could be built on the site.
Minnetonka purchased the properties during a reconstruction of Shady Oak Road in 2015. It currently manages a small commercial strip mall on it, which includes a pizza restaurant and a few vacant storefronts.
“It’s quite dilapidated. It’s dated,” Wischnack said of the strip mall, noting that “it’s just too far gone” to remodel.
The city held meetings last year to decide what to build on the property. The concept plan was selected in November and reviewed at Planning Commission and City Council meetings in February.
The proposed complex would have a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that would rent for $800 to $1,200 a month. Wischnack estimates the project would cost between $12 million and $15 million.
Chris Aanestad, who lives on Oak Drive Lane just north of the site, said neighbors would support an affordable housing project if it were smaller.
“We’re not opposed to affordable housing, we’re opposed to the size of the building,” Aanestad said. “The building they’re proposing is twice as long … as what is there now.”
Minnetonka and Hopkins residents shared their views on the project in an online survey created by neighbors. While many were critical of the design of the building, some also said they did not want low-income housing in that area.
A few survey takers were supportive, saying an affordable housing project would increase diversity in Minnetonka, improve the image of the current properties and add more rental units to the area.
Aanestad is more concerned that opinions are not being properly relayed to developers and the City Council.
“There is a big disconnect between the … Minnetonka Planning Commission and the City Council,” Aanestad said.
Wischnack said conversations on the proposal have remained informal and that the city has heard both positive and negative comments about the building plan.
Neighbors “have a right to their opinion,” Wischnack said. “That’s what this project is about.”