LEXINGTON — On the list of resident concerns for the proposed 355-unit apartment complex known as Lexington Lofts: losing the city's small-town feel, large buildings, public safety, traffic and the potential relocation of a city park.
Five residents shared their concerns during a public hearing at the Planning Commission meeting Oct. 8.
Forest Lake developer Norhart is proposing to build luxury apartments that will consist of one four-story building and one five-story building located at the intersection of Restwood Road and Griggs Avenue, behind Northway Shopping Center. The project would be completed in three phases over 3 1/2 years.
Community amenities would include heated underground parking, sky lounge, movie room, game room, fitness center/yoga studio, fenced-in dog run and pet wash station, outdoor lounge, pool and available storage. In-unit amenities would include washer and dryer, private balcony, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, central heat and air, smart home technology and fiber optic gigabit internet.
The project also calls for the relocation of Tot Park to the southeast corner of the site. Norhart President Mike Kaeding said that his company will invest about $84,000 in improvements to the park to nearly double its size.
Norhart is requesting several variances for the project, including:
• 1.67 parking spots per unit, rather than the required two
• Density of 54 units per acre, versus the 20 units per acre maximum
• Height of approximately 67 feet, 22 feet taller than the allowed maximum (four stories)
• Setbacks of 10 feet from the front and 28.5 feet from the rear side, where 35 feet and 30 feet are specified maximums
Bob DeDeyn, who lives on Dunlap Avenue, said, “This is the third huge project that we are going to experience. We are basically doubling the population of our city in two years. I don't see the need for it.” He added, “It looks like a great project, but then I look at the project that is going up where the Lovell building was and that's an eyesore. I look across the street at what Circle Pines has done and that's a reasonable development.”
Joe Hammer, who lives on Dunlap Avenue, said Norhart did a great job on the design of the building, but the size of the building is unwarranted. “I live in an 80-year-old house and I can change my thermostat with my phone, I can turn the lights on and off with voice commands, it doesn't require this kind of a building,” he said. “It's impressive to see all the amenities that they are going to offer, but it is private facility, so all those amenities aren't going to help the current residents of Lexington. It seems like you are going to build a city within a city.”
Hammer also voiced his concerns about relocating Tot Park closer to the road and the fact that longtime residents are moving away. “I've lost count of how many people have moved away since we have started building these buildings. People that have lived here for 25 years, they are all leaving and that's sad,” he said.
Pascal Avenue resident Alex Green said even though the building looks nice, it doesn't belong in Lexington. “This is a fantastic building. I will give Norhart props on that, but this isn't a Lexington building; this is Blaine, Coon Rapids, a bigger city building. These are eyesores,” he said. “If you drive down Lake Drive right now you get that small-town feel, you have a grocery store and O'Reilly Auto Parts. That small-town feel, that's gone with these buildings.”
Alex's wife, Rebecca, said that she was concerned about the police and fire departments being able to handle that many new residents and a building of that size.
Lynnette Wenzel, who lives on Duwayne Avenue, said that she was concerned about traffic. “It looks nice on the screen, but has anything been brought up about the traffic, where the ins and outs are going to be? Because adding all of these apartments there is going to be more and more traffic,” she said.
The Planning Commission ultimately decided 4-1 (Commissioner Mark Vanderbloomer voted no) to recommend five actions to the council.
“Yes,” noted Vanderbloomer, “there have been some changes in population that have occurred, but there have also been some positive changes with that ... By making this recommendation to the council, it in no way approves the project. This is strictly a fact-finding commission. We are working off the comments we have heard today, our own experience, (and) what we have learned about the project from city staff and the developer,” he said.
The recommendations include:
• Rezoning of four lot parcels from R-3 (townhouse and fourplex) to M-1 (mixed medium density)
• Approval of the preliminary plat
• Approval of the planned unit development (PUD)
• Vacation of Gerald Avenue
• Amendment of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan to reflect the rezoning to M-1
City Administrator Bill Petracek said the City Council will take action on the items at its Nov. 7 meeting.
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com