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City council may reconsider Commerce Hill project

The city of Woodbury and a local developer may have settled their differences.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, the Woodbury City Council will vote on a recommendation from the city's planning staff to reconsider the Commerce Hill project, a nearly 40-acre proposed development the council denied in June over a number of unresolved issues.

According to state statute, once a city denies a proposed development, the project cannot be re-submitted to the city for one calendar year. But when the city council voted to deny the Woodbury Developers LLC project June 11, it included a condition that would give the city council the option to reconsider the project if it finds sufficient evidence that circumstances have changed, such as gaining proper assurances that the developer will agree to pay improvements for storm water and traffic around the site planned to be located to be north of Tamarack Road, south of Commerce Drive and west of Woodbury Drive.

On Aug. 7, attorneys for Woodbury Developers LLC submitted a letter to the city, "demanding... resolutions of approval of our client's [Woodbury Developers, LLC] applications for preliminary plat approval" and applications for "rezoning, planned unit development, conditional use permit and final site and building plan approval."

The city council responded by voting to approve a resolution that stated findings of fact for the denial of the project.

Since then, the city's attorney Mark Vierling has been working with attorneys for Woodbury Developers LLC in several mediation sessions in an attempt to resolve the outstanding issues with the proposed Commerce Hill project and associated public improvements.

City council members have met several times over the last month to discuss the legal situation in sessions closed to the media.

"(City planning) staff believes substantial progress has been made to resolve these issues but that additional time is needed to finalize the agreement in written form," wrote city planner Melissa Douglas in the report recommending the council reconsider the project application.

The Commerce Hill project has been in the works since 2006, when the JMW Group, which owns the land for the project, came to the city to ask to rezone the property from "places to work" to "places to shop."

The city's commercial comprehensive plan task force recommended the request be approved and the city council approved the property to be rezoned to include 70 percent as places to shop and 30 percent as places to work.

The project plans include a Super Target as well as a bank, office buildings and restaurants.

The city performed an environmental assessment of the site earlier this year, which included an analysis of storm water, parking and traffic issues that became contentious between city planners and the development group.