Yes, residents and business owners in Centerville and Lino Lakes have concerns about the biggest project to hit Centerville in the past 20 years. 

But what has really drawn collective ire is the feeling that news about such an enormous project was being kept from them. 

As discussed at the April 28 Centerville City Council meeting, R & R Leasing Inc. (Rehbein Commercial) requested to plat two parcels of land it owns into six lots and a new street. The plat involves 23.73 acres of vacant property on the north side of Main Street between 20th and 21st avenues. Developers have bought three of the six lots; the remaining three will remain vacant for the near future. A Kwik Trip is proposed for a 4.47-acre lot; the NorBella Senior Living facility is proposed for a 4.3-acre lot and the Belleville Apartments are proposed for a 5.3-acre lot. 

Kwik Trip Inc. has proposed a gas station, convenience store and car wash for the middle lot on Main Street. Concerns named in the stopcenterville.com petition started by Lino Lake residents located just to the north in the Watermark Development include the risk of putting longstanding local business owners out of business, increased traffic, and noise and safety concerns due to the traffic increase.

Rachel Development has proposed a 40-unit senior assisted living facility, to be called NorBella Senior Living, on a 2.4-acre lot on 21st Avenue and the new street, which for working purposes is called “New Street A.” A concern stated in the petition noted that the city already has a senior facility, Atlas Villas Memory Care, slated for development off Main Street. 

Apollo Development has proposed a 103-unit market rate, four-story luxury apartment building to be called Belleville Landing on a 5.3-acre lot on the northeast corner of the Rehbein property on 21st Avenue. Concerns outlined in the petition call attention to the risk of more road traffic that would diminish safety for children crossing the street, an unnecessarily large, towering structure and the blight of too many empty units.

“I want to talk about the non-transparency with this (project),” said Jeff Allman, owner of Lakes 1 Stop on 21st  Avenue N.  “There are a ton of city residents that have no idea what is even going on. The city started by sending out packets to a select group (property owners living within 350 feet of the proposed development).” 

Allman said that the city held two Zoom meetings, the second of which had a substantially higher turnout than the first, because people knew about it. Only that second meeting was posted in the newspaper, and the second meeting also had a special login code that some people had trouble with, he said. 

After the April 6 Planning and Zoning Commission Zoom public hearing was infiltrated by porn artists, another meeting was scheduled for April 26 that required a code for access to prevent hackers from disrupting it. Allman said that although the city promised to post information about the project on its website, he couldn't find it.

The Quad Community Press published one official notice of the April 6 public hearing about the proposed development on March 23.

“I believe the residents of Centerville and some of our neighbors in the Lino Lakes Watermark Development were unaware that the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting was the only meeting for input from the public ... as I was!” said Todd Steffen, owner of the Corner Express   on Main Street. “This, along with the meeting ID and password changes from the one listed on the Centerville website, made many people assume that the meeting was closed to the public and they didn't know what to do.”    

“Although committee meetings are public, with agendas and notices available, residents do not take notice if they do not know they need to,” said Lino Lakes resident Andria Mattlin. “The entire city and surrounding cities that this will impact should have been notified and given time to voice their opinions.”

“We are required to notify any resident within 350 feet of the proposed development, regardless of city boundaries,” City Administrator Mark Statz said. “We must take input from anyone, regardless of where they are from.”

Council Member Steve King suggested council table all action pertaining to the four Rehbein property items until more people had a chance to be heard. “How many people know about it?” he wondered. “We followed legalities for notification, but this is so much.”

The city had the option of tabling the items for discussion for another 60 days, or the actions would have been deemed accepted by default, said Statz. The first deadline was due to expire on May 5, and the extension will expire at the end of June.

The council unanimously tabled site plan reviews for all three developments; rezoning action for both NorBella and Belleville; a conditional use permit application for Norbella; and a Comprehensive Plan Amendment for Belleville Landing. 

However, the council did conduct the first reading of Ordinance 113, Second Series Amendments to City Code Chapter 156 and Table 156.A-1, which allows the Kwik Trip to have a car wash. Otherwise, the car wash would not have been allowed. The city can put conditions on its use, but cannot deny the use, Statz said. A second reading is due in two weeks.  

The council also unanimously approved, with eight conditions, the preliminary plat for Rehbein Commercial to subdivide its lot.

Mayor D Love said that citizens did have a chance to speak out, as shown by the robust crowd that attended the April 26 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting — a meeting that lasted until 1 a.m. Tuesday, April 27.

Love also noted that the land at the center of the discussion is not owned by the city, but by a local businessman. The city did not pursue the development, he said. In fact, it would be illegal for the city to forbid a landowner to sell his or her own land, he said.

“The city and citizens are not separate.  If we say we're doing something good for the city – for the population as a whole – we owe commercial enterprise the same swift response and service as someone purchasing a home,” he said.

(8) comments

Jen Larsen

The outrage by this residents of Lino Lakes Lennar development is pretty transparent. This StopCenterville.com, sites concerns for safety, traffic, noise, and strain on schools etc that this 100 unit building will create. Which will be mostly studio and 1 bedroom apartments. If units even have double occupency that's 200 people. However these same residents are not petitioning Lino Lakes to halt the stages of the Lennar Development which is 800 single family homes will likely bring in 3 times that people to the area. The strain on the public works, traffic and schools is going to come from the Lennar development. Not to mention Lino lakes didn't not consult the city of Centerville for input of that huge development is on Centerville roads and schools. That's how it works, if you don't live/vote there, you don't have a say no matter how close you are to the property line. They knew buying that land was for sale for development. If you watched the zoom meetings there is a huge undertone of judgement and prejudice against people that rent apartments. Comments were made on how to prevent apartment residents from using their public paths and streets. A council member spoke against this language live in the meeting. This is a classic case NIMBY (not in my backyard). Centerville has been waiting 20 years for someone to offer to buy and invest in that land. City council should absolutely approve this development. The tax payers and land owner deserve to see the benefits vs another 20 years of a vacant field.

Jordyn Cueva

Hi Jen,

I respect your opinion but I wanted to comment on one thing. When the residents of Watermark purchased their home that land was zoned for low density commercial. Had a Walgreens tried to go in there, Centerville would have no say. The reason the council and public have input is because the land must be rezoned to high density residential. It is fair to say, that those purchasing homes nearby could not have anticipated this. As far as the city of centerville's economic health is concerned, long term a commercial building brings in roughly 3x the amount to the city an apartment complex would. The reason that so few in Centerville knew about this is for the very reason you state, Centerville is looking to put it on the border of Lino Lakes. When they took public input to put up an apartment complex closer to town, there was concern for the proximity to the residential neighborhood and the project did not move forward. Finally to your point, 800 homes are going in in the Watermark neighborhood so realistically, it is not fair to assume with a healthy economy that the open plots nearby would sit for the length of time they did when that area was fields. Just my two cents.

Jen Larsen

I think there is a lot of misconception on how land gets developed. Just because its zoned as something doesn't mean it will stay that way forever. Land is often change to suit the needs at the time. The land that Lennar development sits on was zone agriculture/low density housing and was changed by the City of Lino Lakes to have those houses built. It could be easy to also say the Centerville houses across the street on 20th when they purchase their home had an expectation this would remain the same. I understand people are upset that they would prefer something else in that property but it doesn't change the fact that rezoning happens, frequently. You are correct the the tax rate business is higher than residential. However, that isn't the full story. The apartment complex will yield more taxes to the City of Centerville because the value of the apartment is significantly higher a retail shop that could fit in that space. For comparison purposes apartment would be taxed approximately $287,7000 vs retail space $122,000. Centerville would profit MORE from rezoning for apartment vs a 30,000 sq/ft business. This area was chosen by the developer not the city so there is no motivation that its simply because its near Lino Lakes. It is geographically makes sense, its close to the freeway, has more space around it, Centerville already has existing high density residential abutting, and its near the park and ride. The downtown lot was small and didn't make sense to squeeze in. I understand Lino residents don't want an apartment near them but again this is in Centerville. There is no guarantee that anything better will be placed in this spot even with the Lennar Development. Its been on the market for 20 years. The few retailers that are building in this market are building in Hugo, across the bridge. It has less obstacles of existing structures(this lot is peppered by oddly placed residential housing and industrial buildings). In addition, there will be more business foot traffic in Hugo with the development plans they have its just more of a desirable business location. Lino Lakes residents have every reason to be picky to what goes into those lots but has zero down side leaving it empty. Its unfair to ask the City of Centerville to pass on this economic development in hopes, maybe, something better comes along. It may never happen or it might be significantly worse. But in the mean time Centerville residents will continue to pay higher tax rates because of our small population.

Anonymous Resident

Using the comparison between the Watermark community and the apartment development is comparing apples to oranges. Just like you said, the land was zoned as agricultural/low density housing. That implies it could be developed into low density housing, aka single family homes, which is what it is. I’m sure there were some additional hoops for the townhomes, but that is not the primary housing option in that development. The property proposed for the apartments is zoned as commercial, so it needs to be completely re-zoned to high density residential with a height exception added on due to the height of the complex. Also, unless Centerville came out and said “All residents of Centerville will pay lower taxes if we add in an apartment complex”, I wouldn’t count on it. I think the bigger issue here is how this has been played by the city. Sure, they are only legally required to notify people within 350 ft, which isn’t very many people. If you extend that out to 400-500 ft you are now impacting several communities. They should have taken a more transparent approach and informed the entire city and surrounding areas. It is a big deal. Also their continued theme of “This is what’s best for the city of Centerville”. How do they know that? Did every resident get a poll asking if this is what would be best? Those notified within 350ft aren’t even Centerville residents so that doesn’t make much sense. They need to be transparent about this process. Stop trying to push these meetings and plans under the rug. You have enraged a lot of individuals. Sure, some may technically be Lino Lakes residents, but why should that matter? They live closer to Centerville businesses and communities and have probably brought a lot of business into those businesses. If the goal is to bring people to Centerville, why not attract them to buy property here? Pay property taxes, support local businesses and the surrounding communities. If the goal is to bring people in that are commuting to the Twin Cities everyday using the bus station, they will probably be spending most of their time in the Twin Cities. It’s about what’s best for the tax revenue of the city of Centerville. As mentioned in the council meeting, commercial property generates more tax revenue per square foot than residential, it’s just that you can’t get a commercial building that same size into that lot. Again if you think that just by adding an apartment complex, your taxes will go down, I am not following that logic.

Anonymous Resident

Using the comparison between the Watermark community and the apartment development is comparing apples to oranges. Just like you said, the land was zoned as agricultural/low density housing. That implies it could be developed into low density housing, aka single family homes, which is what it is. I’m sure there were some additional hoops for the townhomes, but that is not the primary housing option in that development. The property proposed for the apartments is zoned as commercial, so it needs to be completely re-zoned to high density residential with a height exception added on due to the height of the complex. Also, unless Centerville came out and said “All residents of Centerville will pay lower taxes if we add in an apartment complex”, I wouldn’t count on it. I think the bigger issue here is how this has been played by the city. Sure, they are only legally required to notify people within 350 ft, which isn’t very many people. If you extend that out to 400-500 ft you are now impacting several communities. They should have taken a more transparent approach and informed the entire city and surrounding areas. It is a big deal. Also their continued theme of “This is what’s best for the city of Centerville”. How do they know that? Did every resident get a poll asking if this is what would be best? Those notified within 350ft aren’t even Centerville residents so that doesn’t make much sense. They need to be transparent about this. Stop trying to push these meetings and plans under the rug. You have enraged a lot of individuals. Sure, some may technically be Lino Lakes residents, but why should that matter? They live closer to Centerville businesses and communities and have probably brought a lot of business into those businesses. If the goal is to bring people to Centerville, why not attract them to buy property here? Pay property taxes, support local businesses and the surrounding communities. If the goal is to bring people in that are commuting to the Twin Cities everyday using the bus station, they will probably be spending most of their time in the Twin Cities. As mentioned in the council meeting, commercial property generates more tax revenue per square foot than residential, it’s just that you can’t get a commercial building that same size into that lot. Again if you think that just by adding an apartment complex, your taxes will go down, I am not following that logic.

Jen Larsen

A common opinion is that Centerville doesn't need another gas station. That the Kwik Trip will put the other gas station small owners out of buisness. That maybe true, but that is the consequence of a free market. Would the city also then need to prevent: bars, liquor stores, daycare, restaurants? All of those businesses types are only blocks away. If the council say no to these projects on pretty common zoning requests, I find it hard to imagine other investors would want to waste their time and money working in Centerville.

Jen Larsen

Anonymous it will not let me reply to your comments. The agriculture/low density zone think large farm land with a farm house. Currently Lino Lakes rezone to moderate/high/mixed density housing to allow Watermark to be built. City can rezone at any time with approval. For the Lannar folks to say they feel duped to change the zoning, this is normal city process when it comes to land development. The same said the land that their homes were on two years ago. If you live next to undeveloped land you take a risk of something you don't desire being built there. Notification was sent out by legal standards. Mailers were sent to residents within 350 ft, it was mentioned in the newspaper, online, and city council meetings etc. If people felt they weren't told is disingenuous, the public was notified adequately. Even this article references the public notification. The issue is not lack of transparency by the City of Centerville, but the fact people do not take the time to inform themselves. I can tell you that IF the people of Centerville didn't know about it, they do now. This was all over social media, flyers were taped to residential doors. This petition was signed by large majority were non-Centerville residents still has less than 800 signatures. It's such as small percentage of actual population of Centerville. I personally feel most of Centerville either is in support or very least indifferent to the proposed development. If there was more support it would have more signatures. From what I read, comments from Centerville was not wanting the Kwik trip worried about the small businesses that are existing. Hardly any pushback for the apartment. I can tell you that in my neighborhood, we were all annoyed by the flyers and would welcome any of these developments. I even verified before I typed this that none of them has signed. The distinction Lino vs Centerville does matter a great deal. Lino residents have no negative consequences letting that land stay empty. You say it's doubtful that taxes would go down, that maybe true. But it might help off set some expenditures that will be needed with all the extra road maintenance and traffic changes from the influx of people due to the developments. Bottom line is the apartment building will generate more tax dollars than a retail store (even at the lower tax rate). The concept of Lino residents spend money in Centerville businesses so they should have a vote. I just don't get that logic. Centerville residents spend money in Lino and again not consulted on the Lennar development that greatly impact our traffic, public works, and increases our schools class sizes. I understand it's not what Lennar wants but we are not given the same voice in return.

Charles Reinhardt

I do agree with Jen. I’ve lived her 19.5 years. I myself ran for Centerville City Council in 2016. Everyone that runs says they want to bring in business. When I read about 700 houses being built in the development north of the bus station I wasn’t thrilled. My main concern was all that good top soil that took hundreds of years to make getting plowed under, and covered with clay, with lawns on top of that. That’s poor planning on the city and builders. If your a gardener you would understand this. If that good soil was used before planting a new lawn you wouldn’t need to water lawn hardly ever. I know people will want to have that green lawn to fit into you new neighbor hood. Think of all the water getting used to grow a lawn sitting on clay. It’s not food it’s a lawn. How wasteful is that? Water Wars are happening in other suburbs. City’s must think way ahead.

The city of Lino Lakes looked out for themselves in breaking up the fire department a few years ago. I would’ve had zero say had I showed up at a Lino Lakes City Council meeting to voice my concern with the above. That’s a fact!

It’s my opinion that our Planning and Zoning is did a great job with this matter.

It then went on to the Centerville City Council. I believe they’re doing a great job as well. This is a difficult matter but decisions must be made.

Its my opinion that the only opinions that matter are from the people with in the City of Centerville.

The City Council cannot cave into people that do not live here.

Perhaps planting many trees planted up on a mound of some sort to a higher elevation could block light, noise, to add privacy. I living wall would be useful here.

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