Afton’s Cedar Bluff project nearly completeThe developers of Cedar Bluff Homestead gave an update to Afton City Council during its Jan. 17 meeting.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Afton’s first-ever clustered housing development is nearly a reality.
The developers of Cedar Bluff Homestead gave an update to Afton City Council during its Jan. 17 meeting.
“It is there – progress,” said Len Pratt, of Pratt Homes, who is building the homes for Cedar Bluff.
A long history
Cedar Bluff, which was approved back in March of 2010, is Afton's first clustered-housing development. The project called for 25 individual housing lots, with an average lot size of 2 1/2 acres, individual septic systems and a 70-acre conservation easement with the Minnesota Land Trust to preserve open space.
In the spring of 2011, Cedar Bluff Homestead told City Council that a new developer, Cedar Bluff Development, LLC, was going to take over as developer of the project, whereas the former developer, Pratt Homes, will take over as the principal home builder.
At that same time, the new developers informed City Council that they intended to accelerate the improvements by combining phase one and phase two of the project.
Initially, phase one was to be completed by Dec. 31, 2011, and phase two would be completed by Oct. 31, 2012. The entire project was scheduled to be completed by April 2012.
However, since the phases were combined, currently the development is essentially complete.
During last Tuesday’s meeting Pratt requested City Council deem the project in compliance even though the model home, which was slated to be completed by Dec. 31, 2011, isn’t quite finished.
“They’re in substantial compliance,” City Attorney Fritz Knaak said. “I believe you have reasonable assurance that it will in fact be done – they’re ahead of schedule essentially.”
Afton City Council said it would not hold Cedar Bluff Development LLC in default for not completing the model home; however Mayor Pat Snyder raised concerns regarding the planned trails.
Trails or no trails
Snyder questioned when the proposed trails, which were included in the development agreement, would be constructed and whether or not the public would have access.
The city's ordinance states that a developer must either donate a portion of its land for park use or pay $2,000 per property in park dedication fees, which would total $50,000 for Pratt.
“Our ordinance does not allow conservation easement in lieu of park dedication fee or land dedication,” Snyder said.
During the initial agreement in 2006, the fee was waived since Pratt intended to donate a portion of the land for park use — complete with trails, a gazebo, a picnic shelter and a parking lot.
Those structures, minus the trail, have since been removed because the Minnesota Land Trust felt it damaged the integrity of open space preservation.
However, Knaak previously told the council it could not reinstate the park dedication fee as it had previously waived the fee for the development.
At that time, City Council did not take any action on the trail discussion, except agreeing a majority of Afton residents would not use the trails.
During last Tuesday’s meeting, Pratt informed City Council that there were no trails planned since that is the Minnesota Land Trust’s decision to make.
“They’re stipulating the use,” he said. “It is up to them to determine whether it’s in their public interest to have trails.”
Snyder said she was expecting to have public trails based on the development agreement.
“I’m assuming we have public access to any trails that are constructed,” she said.
The development agreement simply states the city would have public access to trails, but only if trails are constructed.
Pratt said it is not up to him whether or not the trails are constructed.
Council member Randy Nelson suggested the city have a discussion with the Minnesota Land Trust and the developer to determine if trails should be constructed.
“We should be happy just to have this in any capacity,” he said. “In my opinion this is the only way we can protect large parcels of property. I don’t think we should hold Mr. Pratt’s feet to the fire because it’s not his decision to make.”
Another concern raised during the Jan. 17 meeting came after City Council learned that the developer had erected a monument sign at the development’s entrance.
Afton’s sign ordinance prohibits monument signs.
“I believe there is a cause for concern,” Knaak said.
Even though the monument is in violation of Afton’s sign ordinances, several council members commended developers for the sign, which was constructed out of recycled limestone.
“I think it looks great,” Council member Bill Palmquist said. “I think it would be a shame to get rid of it.”
Nelson, who was also in support of the sign, indicated that Afton has several monument signs already.
“We have a lot of them around town already,” he said. “I think it’s nice to have those.”
Mayor Pat Snyder said she was not in support of allowing monument signs in Afton.
“I don’t think that’s Afton,” she said. “I think monuments are fine in other communities, but I don’t see them fitting into Afton.”
However, the council agreed to direct Planning Commission to review the city’s sign ordinance, in relation to monuments, to determine whether or not that is something the city wants to allow.
Additionally, City Council agreed to waive enforcement of the sign violation until a decision is reached in regard to the sign ordinance.
“If we have to amend the ordinance for something like that, I think we should,” Nelson said.