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New affordable housing coming to CityWalk

Woodbury will soon have a three-story building exclusive to low-income, seniors and disabled residents.

The city's Planning Commission approved "Views at CityWalk" Wednesday, Sept. 5, after a lengthy discussion regarding handicap parking availability.

Views at CityWalk is proposed to be built on a 2.2 acre lot west of Lake View Drive and south of CityWalk Drive.

The developer, CommonBond Communities, is a nonprofit organization with more than 5,000 affordable rental apartments and townhomes throughout 50 cities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Planning Commission approved the application but amended the condition that applies to the number of parking spaces so that 20 percent are designated handicap parking stalls.

City code requires 1.5 parking stalls per unit, which adds up to 68 for the proposed 45-unit apartment building. But that code is flexible based on the needs of each facility, city staff said.

Senior housing development manager Andrew Michaelson said CommonBond intends to market the building to physically handicapped residents and believes that a 1:1 ratio or 45 stalls will be enough.

He said if the need for more parking arises, management would add more.

"It's difficult right now to say this is what the needs for parking stalls are," he said. "We're certainly amendable to that."

Although commissioners applauded the company for bringing the project to the city, especially their efforts to install a storm water pond to capture 3.5 inches of rain, a few were concerned about parking.

"Everything looks good except for the parking plan," Commissioner Irfan Ali said.

Planning Commissioner Kay Hendrickson said in her experience working in disability policy, often times promises are made then broken.

She said it would make more sense for the developer to start out with a higher number of parking stalls designated for people with disability who require larger vehicles.

However, Michaelson said the rental market is influx and management doesn't know what the needs are until the units are leased up.

"To say at any one point this is exactly what we need is difficult to pin down," he said.

Ali suggested that 20 percent, or nine spaces, of the parking stalls would be designed as handicap.

But Commissioner Mark Schulz said that puts stereotypes on the residents who are considered disabled. Some of them may have multiple sclerosis or mental health issues.

"I don't believe inserting language that puts more governance on a private entity is appropriate here," he said, adding that CommonBond has had success with similar plans in other communities. "There are ways that these things are fixed when problems arise."

But Ali and Hendrickson said residents might have to jump through hoops to get their requests taken care of and may even run into legal troubles.

The company is crunched for time because the project is dependent on funds from the Metropolitan Council, City Planner Melissa Douglas said, so there isn't enough time for a completely revised plan.

Planning commissioners approved the application but requested the company provide a plan to add at least nine handicap stalls prior to issuance of a building permit.

Planning Commission Chair Nancy Remakel voted against the measure. She said after touring two other CommonBond facilities she is confident in the organization's mission and felt that parking was adequate with the 1:1 ratio.

The city's 2030 Comprehensive Plan identifies the area as a mixed use parcel. It also states that the city is "committed to meeting its fair share of the region's need for low- and moderate-income housing."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.