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Stonemill Farms residents oppose townhome plan

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Unhappy with plans for the vacant lot in their neighborhood, a group of Woodbury residents have started to sound off on a plan that would bring 42 new townhomes to the community.

About 30 residents of the Stonemill Farms development attended a neighborhood meeting about the proposed townhome development April 19. And many of them shared thoughts about the proposal—and not all thoughts were favorable.

The land in question is located south of Lake Road and west of Settlers Ridge Parkway. Across the street, to the east, Lennar is currently constructing 43 townhomes, similar to the ones that are proposed for the vacant land.

Many of the residents who attended said they had been under the impression that a light commercial development would be constructed at the site. While the land is currently zoned for commercial development, a proposal has come forward to rezone the property for multifamily housing.

The land is owned by Newland Communities, the contractor that built Stonemill Farms. The builder, Lennar Corp., has approached Newland and is in negotiations to purchase the land. In turn, Lennar is proposing 42 two-story, three-bedroom, three-bath, two-car-garage townhomes that would start in the range of $250,000 and up.

The land was zoned as commercial some 20 years ago. The zoning occurred long before the homes that stand there now were built, and before there was any traffic in the area.

However, over the years, no developer has come forward with a proposal to build commercial on the property, Woodbury Senior Planner Eric Searles said. And, he added, traffic counts in the area suggest it would be difficult for a commercial development to thrive at the location.

"In order for it to be a viable commercial site, we would need to see about 10,000 trips on that roadway (Settlers Ridge Parkway)," Searles said. "We have about half of that now."

Stonemill resident Caroline Maddux said many residents from the area would also likely walk to the commercial space, if it were developed.

Maddux, who serves on the neighborhood's homeowners association, was also concerned about the pedestrian traffic that would be generated if the townhomes were to go in, instead. Right now, she said, Stonemill's HOA maintains its private trails, and the city takes care of its trails. However, non-Stonemill residents often use the trails, not knowing that the trails are privately owned. Bringing in more residents from outside the HOA will put additional use on those trails and amenities.

"It's impossible to keep people off of our trails," she said. "But yet, we have to pay to replace the things that get damaged."

Stacy Brodt, an 8-year resident of Stonemill, said she has nothing against townhomes or the people who live in them—that she, too, lived in a townhome when she was younger. But Brodt said she did not expect to be living near townhomes when she moved to Stonemill.

Residents also brought up concerns about the increase in traffic, the impact of more children in the area would have on the schools, and how the townhomes would bring about a decrease in property value for the Stonemill homes.

"I think, overall, it's not what we envisioned when we bought our property," Stonemill resident Terrance Bro said.

A number of residents also reached out to the Woodbury City Council through emails. Councilmembers have received about a dozen emails from Stonemill residents during the past two weeks. Several of the emails this week are from residents who could not attend the neighborhood meeting, but who wanted to share their thoughts on the plan.

All of the emails show the writers were told the land would be commercial, and all are in opposition to the plan to rezone the land from commercial use to townhome construction.

"I hope you will consider leaving the area alone and not allowing Lennar to further pollute with their cookie-cutter townhouses," an email from Amy and John McCaffrey read.

The neighborhood meeting is part of the development process. Meetings like this are held, Searles said, to gather input from the residents who are affected by the potential changes.

"If there are themes coming out of the neighborhood meeting process, I want to be able to memorialize it for the Planning Commission and city council," he said.

One resident questioned whether the input from residents is considered by planning commission or city council members. From the back of the council chambers, Councilmember Paul Rebholz assured the crowd that councilmembers do listen to residents' concerns.

"I wouldn't be here if we weren't listening," he said.

After hearing suggestions of a gas station or ice cream shop or other neighborhood-friendly businesses, Rebholz pointed out that even if the corner were built commercial, there is no guarantee of what type of businesses would come into the space. The same ordinance that allows for the types of neighborhood businesses also allows for less desirable businesses, like an adult book store, Rebholz said. And the state sets those ordinance guidelines, he added.

If the zoning change is made, Lennar plans to start moving ground early this summer. The matter will come before the Woodbury Planning Commission and the Woodbury City Council before that happens, Searles said. Residents will be notified of both of those meetings.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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